Tucked in the hills about an hour east of downtown Phoenix is an unassuming little place called Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. It offers great hiking, a variety of desert plants from around the world, and great birding — especially hummingbirds. Entry is $10 per adult. If you live in the area or plan to visit more than once in a year, you should definitely look into the annual membership. You get a full-year membership for two plus two guest passes and gift shop discounts for just $50. That’s a great deal!
The park map details several short hiking loops — over two miles of trails. Some of the trails are handicapped accessible and there are lots of benches and a few pagodas where you can take a break from the heat if needed. I was just reading, actually, about the value of sitting quietly and being present to what’s around you. The benches at Boyce are a perfect opportunity to practice being present!
The trails showcase desert plants from different desert areas around the world: Sonoran, African, Asian, South American, Mediterranean, and Australian. Signs identify the plants and flowers from the different areas.
There are also informative tiles posted around the park showing some of the more common birds seen in the area, and over 200 bird species have been seen in the park! Bird walks are often scheduled on the weekends. In just a few hours, we identified 14 species (and a few others too quick for us!).
If you’re from the West and never get to see Northern Cardinals, this place is a likely spot to see one in the spring. We’ve been there three times in three different years and we’ve seen them every time! They especially like it down in the large picnic area above the creek. If they’re around, you’ll hear their distinctive whistle. They’re not shy, or very well camouflaged with their bright red feathers, so you’re sure to see them flitting through the trees or even checking the picnic tables for any stray crumbs. That sitting quietly and being present you practiced on the benches? That would work great for spotting Cardinals, too!
We were not only lucky to see Cardinals, but several birds nesting! We saw three tiny hummingbird nests, all occupied, a Cactus Wren in its nest (yes, it was in a cactus!), and two Blue-grey Gnatcatchers building their nest. Bird nerdvana!
Locals can also purchase desert plants for their own gardens at the park entrance, and no entrance fee is required. This park is one of our favorite places in the Phoenix area. If you like hiking and birding, this is a spot we’d highly recommend!
Here’s another blog post about this great spot from a Phoenix area desert gardener and conservation photographer that you might enjoy, too!
Photo collages in this post were made online at Fotor Photo Collages. It was really easy to use!
Enjoy your week or your weekend!