Arizona’s natural, diverse landscape has garnered international acclaims and attention, yet many scenic parks continue to fly under the mainstream radar. One such spot – the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument near Ajo and Why – is getting a much-deserved shout out by Country.
The magazine’s 2013 June/July issue is showcasing the Top 10 Hidden Gems of Our National Park System, and Organ Pipe has been declared one of the most breathtaking, off-the-beaten-path parks in America.
“First off, the park hosts the outlandish organ pipe cacti, which can grow 100 arms and live for a century,” said Country Senior Editor John Burlingham. “This and other unique features were brought to light by three of our favorite scenic photographers and led us to consider this isolated national monument. Their stunning pictures of exotic cacti, spring wildflowers and red-tinged mountain ranges, along with tales of bighorn sheep, javelina, coyotes and roadrunners, were enough to put Organ Pipe in our Top 10 Hidden Gems.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in 1937 in an effort to preserve a representative area of the Sonoran Desert. The region, once utilized as a Hohokam trade route and inhabited by the Tohono O’Odham, attracted miners in the 19th century and ranchers in the 20th century.
In 1976, the United Nations designated the Monument as an International Biosphere Reserve, and in 1977, Congress declared the vast majority of the Monument as a wilderness area.
Today, Organ Pipe is a destination for hiking, camping, scenic drives, star gazing and photography.
This hidden gem ranks 195th in attendance of some 400 areas nationwide administered by the National Park Service.
If You Go:
- Directions: Take Highway 85 through Ajo and Why. The Monument entrance is four miles from Why. The Kris Eggle Visitor Center is 22 miles south of Why.
- Hours: Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It’s closed Thanksgiving and Christmas, but the park remains open.
- Fees: Individuals, $4; Vehicles $8 (good for seven days)
- More info: (520) 387-6849, National Park Service