Hiking Alamo Canyon Trail in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Introduction

Before heading into the main area of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument we spend a few days just north of the park at a BLM 14 day free camping area known as Gunsite Wash. From here we did a quick scouting trip into the park and checked out the visitor center to get a feel for the different attractions. The ranger pointed out a spot we might want to visit as it was close to the north entrance called Alamo Canyon Trail. We decided to check this little hike out first and then move the RV into the heart of Organ Pipe to visit the other attractions.

Alamo canyon map

Hiking Alamo Canyon Trail

Alamo Canyon Trail is an easy 2 mile round trip hike into a lush desert canyon with reddish-brown craggy rock hillsides all around. At the end of a one mile, flat hike is an old ranch house. Back a hundred years ago some people tried to make a go of ranching in this harsh land, the ranch house, some corrals and grinding stones are remnants of their attempt.

Alamo Canyon in Organ PipeNational Monument 4

The drive into the trailhead off Hwy 85 is around 3 miles of graded, narrow gravel road with just enough room for two vehicles to squeeze by each other. Along the way, we passed some border patrol dudes with trucks and ATVs and gave a friendly wave. Three-quarters the way in I spotted a flashing blue light. What the heck? Something blue really stands out on this landscape, I noticed that about our Big Blue truck. Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be a rescue station for lost hikers or maybe Mexican illegals wanting to give it up after a 60-mile trek across the Sonoran desert.

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At the end of the three miles, we were at the trailhead. Located here is a small parking area, vault toilet and a really cool looking primitive camp area. The half dozen or so campsites were situated in such a gorgeous location I half thought of dragging our Cougar trailer up here, but the road is just a little too narrow. If you have a truck camper, van or small trailer I highly recommend this dry camping spot the scenery is amazing and the surroundings very tranquil.

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The hike starts with a small decent and then you follow a wash up into the canyon, as you progress the cactus get thicker and thicker. The hillsides are littered with large Organ Pipe cactus, giant Saguaro, Chollas, and Prickly Pear. Some of the shrubbery was starting to bud and flower and the calls from abundant bird-life were in the air. With the bright blue sky, reddish brown rocks and lush green cactus the scenery is a feast for our eyes. I think the only place I’ve seen desert colors this intense was in Sedona, AZ.

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After the short distance, which took quite a while with us stopping every 50 yards or so to take photos, we came upon the little brick ranch house. When I say little I mean little! The house was one room and maybe ten by twelve feet. Funny thing to me was it had two doors?! There was some old metal debris scattered about and no roof. I spent a little time trying to imagine what life would be like out here. Where would the satellite dish go?

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Video Highlights of Our Afternoon at Alamo Canyon

The sun was setting fast so we hurried back and found a nice spot just off Hwy 85 and walked a bit into the desert to photograph the cactus and hills at twilight as they lit up a rusty red color. All around you could hear the birds finishing up their day and we enjoyed a peaceful end to our day in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

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Stay tuned for more from Organ Pipe as we explore the heart of it soon with a trip around Ajo Mountain Drive and a hike out to the Weeping Springs.

Alamo Canyon Trail Photo Gallery

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