It is a twenty mile drive south from Why to the Visitors Center for Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The drive takes you through flat desert filled with Saguaro Cacti.
If you followed our blog two years ago during a visit to Arizona, you may remember that the nimble hiker has a love of the unusual forms of a “crested” saguaro. As we drove down Rte. 85 at about sixty miles an hour, a cry suddenly went out from the passenger seat to pull over. We couldn’t stop safely in time so we had to turn around and drive back a bit to check out the reason for the cry.
Aha, a crested saguaro in the distance! We hiked out to it for a closer look.
After checking that one out, we continued south to the visitor center. When we inquired about hiking in the monument, the volunteer told us his favorite hike – Estes Canyon/Bull Pasture. The trailhead is about half way around the Ajo Mountain Loop Road, a 21 mile scenic drive on a maintained dirt road. The road crosses the Diablo Mountains and goes along the base of the Ajo Mountains. Along the way there are dense concentrations of saguaro and organ pipe cacti.
The hike we were going to do is on two trails. The Estes Canyon Trail is a loop of about three miles. The park literature lists it as moderate in difficulty with one section climbing up the side of the mountains. At the highest point of that loop it meets Bull Pasture Trail. This is a half mile trail going steeply up the mountain and is listed as difficult in the park literature. We decided to do both trails.
This hike has an elevation gain of almost a 1,000 feet, so we were pleased to reach Bull Pasture and the great views found there. We have no idea why this spot is called a pasture. There is no grazing area that we could find.
As we looked to the south we could see another point, a bit higher than where we were. OK, time for a bit more climbing.
We followed a series of animal trails to the top of that point. Once there we had a great three sixty degree view of the valleys and mountains around us.
The way back down to Bull Pasture was a bit tricky as we couldn’t find a trail for most of the hike. You watch your step very carefully when going through low cacti!
Once we hiked back down into the bottom of Estes Canyon, it sure looked a long way back up to where we had enjoyed lunch.
Although not extremely long (about 4.5 miles total), the elevation change made this a pretty challenging hike. But we love seeing beautiful vistas, and the top of Bull Pasture was one of the best we have experience.
Next up is a tour of the nearby town of Ajo. More on that later . . .