When a national monument is named for a very special cactus that only grows in a small corner of Arizona and Mexico, you know the scenery is going to be good.
We briefly visited this national monument during our previous stay in Ajo. It was a short day trip where we checked out the visitor center and drove the 21-mile scenic drive. That was our first time seeing such a large concentration of Organ Pipe cactus and right away we vowed to return for a longer stay. Since that time we know of several friends who have stayed at the campground inside the park. Everyone reported nice sites, good sunset views, and a strong Verizon signal. Sounds perfect!
Like most campgrounds inside national parks, this one offers the perfect mix of rustic and convenience. We had a concrete parking pad, a generously sized yard with some natural desert landscaping, easy access to a water spigot, and bathrooms with solar showers (pro tip: don’t wait until after dinner to take a shower because it will be cold). Plus it had an extra special feature — a no generator section!
Of course, a no generator section inside a campground is kind of like a no smoking section inside a restaurant. There is always going to be some spillover noise. We were two rows from the generator area and for the most part, could only hear a faint generator hum during the two (very short) periods of generator hours each day. But then, during the last two days of our stay, someone showed up with one of those el cheapo, so loud you can probably hear it in space, kind of generators and polluted the campground with their noise several times a day. There’s always one in every bunch.
Our week-long stay flew by. We filled the afternoons with desert hikes and bike rides around the campground and down to the visitor center. Many of the trails near the campground travel to abandoned mines. On two separate afternoons, we hiked to both the Victoria and Baker mines. Not much is left of either, but the views along the trails were pretty awesome.
We also had the pleasure of meeting fellow Airstreamers, Vermonters, and blog readers Kathy and Jay. When we pulled into our site they happened to be parked in the spot across the street! I neglected to take any photos but we enjoyed a nice happy hour one evening where we discussed all things Airstream and Vermont related. Hope to run into you again Kathy and Jay!
On our last day in the area, we decided to take ourselves on an adventure — a hiking adventure of course! Most of the trails in the park are on the short side (under 5 miles) but when I was doing research on the Bull Pasture trail I came across a few mentions of a trail to the top of Mount Ajo. The specific comment that caught my eye said, “Why hike all the way out here and not climb to the top of Ajo Mountain?” I guess I took that as a personal challenge because immediately I was typing “Mount Ajo hike” into Google. Sure enough, I found several accounts of an unmaintained trail that travels from the end of the Bull Pasture trail to the top of the mountain.
At 4,800 feet tall, Mount Ajo is the tallest peak in the area. With a total distance of 9 miles and an elevation gain of 2,500 feet, it was reported to be a challenging yet rewarding hike. That’s our favorite kind!
While it’s not a popular trail by any means (we only saw three other people) and it’s not on any official maps, it was well trodden and easy to follow. It was also extremely steep in a few sections. Loose gravel made the steep sections difficult on both the up and down journey, but after we made it past that challenge, the last few miles were pleasant enough with amazing views from the top of the ridge.
It appears you were there the same time as Love Your RV. Both of your blogs just make me so impatient to go visit Organ Pipe! The photos are beautiful. (love your “Resist” flag!)
I don’t know Love Your RV but looked them up and I do remember seeing their blue truck! Organ Pipe is a really special place.
This is still one of our very favorite parks. (In the winter, of course.) How fun to spend a week there! We loved the beautiful Bull Pasture hike, but it never crossed my mind to tackle Mt. Ajo. Sounds all good except for the generator offender…there needs to be a mandatory etiquette course for RVers, haha!
It was great to spend a whole week there. We’re already planning to go back next winter. The Bull Pasture hike was really great on its own and if I hadn’t read those comments about Mt. Ajo I would have never thought to go farther! The generator thing seems to happen in every campground. You would think I could let it go by now, but I still find it super annoying!
We found the best time to shower is just after lunch. The early morning crowd has long since left and the evening crowd has yet to show up (I’m assuming the “solar” showers are still the same as two years ago). There really was only sufficient hot water for a handful of quick showers. Did you meet the Park Superintendent Brent Range? He’s a really great guy who is largely responsible for reopening the internal roads and trails in the park. All the staff we met here were superb.
Yup, the best shower I took was around 2pm. We did not meet the superintendent but he sounds great. I agree that all the staff we did meet were awesome! Of course, I feel that way about pretty much everyone who works for the NPS. We love our national parks :)
On the east trail in the park at marker 9 is a very beautiful crested organ pipe cactus. Also a few miles north of the entrance to the information center is a great crested saguaro cactus. Leaving the park information it is before you go around a rocky bend on the east side of the road. Ask the Ranger about two more in the park.