Located near Superior, Arizona (an hour east of Phoenix and 90 minutes north of Tucson) the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park offers a chance for all ages to enjoy a day outdoors exploring unique desert plants from all over the world.
The natural beauty of the Arboretum changes with the seasons. In spring the flowers are in bloom, but fall offers the jewel-tone colors of the Chinese Pistachio leaves. Enjoy hummingbirds, dragonflies, butterflies and lizards in summer. Come bird watching in winter when many migrating birds visit the Arboretum. The cacti bloom almost year round, with only a brief break November to January.
William Boyce Thompson was a multi-millionaire who gained his fortune from stock market investments and copper mines in Arizona. He created the Boyce Thompson Arboretum for people to learn about and enjoy desert plants. It opened to the public in 1929 and became part of the University of Arizona in 1965. The Arboretum became an Arizona State Park in 1976. The Arboretum is located near Picketpost Mountain (elevation 4,375 feet). It is Arizona’s oldest botanical garden.
The Main Trail is 1.5 miles and is partly accessible to wheelchairs. The best gardens to explore with someone in a wheelchair are: the Demonstration Garden, Hummingbird-Butterfly Garden and Children’s Garden. Except for the high trail, most areas will be accessible to all. The trail loops all over the property and passes Ayer Lake and the former winter home of Boyce Thompson, then climbs above the creek, with interesting desert plants to enjoy every step of the way.
Guided tours are free with admission. Trail maps are available for $1 in the gift shop. Exploring on your own is also fun and you will find lots of unexpected surprises such as caves in the hillsides, hidden trails and stepping stones across the creek.
The Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park has nearly 14,000 plants from many different plant families. There are over 104 plants in the Mint Family, 602 plants in the Lily Family and 1,286 plants in the Agave/Century Plant family. The Arboretum is also home to the biggest Red Gum Eucalyptus tree in the United States. It was planted in 1926 it is over 140 feet tall.
There are many different gardens in the Arboretum. They include: Taylor Legume, Cactus and Succulent, Chihuahuan Desert, South American Desert, Herb, Eucalyptus Forest and Australian gardens. The Demonstration Garden gives gardeners ideas about how to use desert plants in their own yards. You can get information about landscape design, choosing plants and conserving water.
Of Interest to Kids
In the Children’s Garden there are four areas with plants to touch, see, smell and hear. You can also be a human sundial and play in a garden maze. Kids can learn more about nature with a free writing project kit available at the admission booth or gift shop. In the summer the Arboretum offers a free tour called “Learn Your Lizards”. There is also a cool suspension bridge across Queen Creek. The greenhouses have all sorts of weird and interesting cacti and succulents on display. More than 300 species of animals, birds and reptiles live on the grounds of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park.
General Park Information
The park is open from 8-5 September through April. Summer hours are 6 – 3 June through August. The Arboretum is open every day but Christmas. Pets on a leash are welcome in the park. There is not a restaurant on the grounds, but there is a picnic area and barbecue grills. Snacks, drinks and sandwiches can be purchased. Be sure to bring along sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, binoculars and your camera.
If you see a plant you’d like to have for your own garden, the Arboretum sells some plants in the Visitor’s Center. More plants are sold at fundraisers twice a year. If you visit from out-of -state, they will pack the plants and provide USDA documentation so you can take them anywhere in the US.
The Arboretum is located at 37615 US Highway 60, Superior, AZ 85273. For more information visit their website at: http://www.arboretum.ag.arizona.edu.