Visit to Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Arizona

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When Anne and I were camping at Lost Dutchman State Park this past January, several folks online strongly suggested we visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum. They figured it would be right up our alley. A nice hike through nature with abundant photography opportunities. Boy were they right!

We made the short 30 mile trip over from Lost Dutchman one sunny Friday afternoon. The drive takes you out of the city and into the Tonto National Forest lands east of Phoenix, AZ. You climb in elevation as you head into the foothills. The rugged desert scenery is spectacular, especially as you pass by Picket Post Mountain approaching the little town of Superior.

Lost Dutchman SP to Boyce Thompson Arboretum trip map
Trip Map –

What is the Boyce Thompson Arboretum?

Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is the place to discover the intricate beauty and many faces of Arizona. Encompassing 323 acres, the Arboretum is Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden. Featured are plants from the world’s deserts, towering trees, captivating cacti, sheer mountain cliffs, a streamside forest, panoramic vistas, many natural habitats with varied wildlife, a desert lake, a hidden canyon, specialty gardens and more. The Arboretum was founded in the 1920s by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson. In 1917, Col. Thompson served as co-leader of a Red Cross mercy mission to Russia, where he came to understand the importance of plants as the ultimate source of a large portion of mankind’s food, clothing, and shelter. It was then that he determined to use his great wealth to improve the use of plant resources. The Arboretum is one of his legacies. –

Exploring the Arboretum

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park is located a short distance off of Arizona highway 60. It has a large parking lot including numerous long RV sized spaces. 

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Sat View

You enter through a small visitor center area with a gift shop and pay the entrance fee.  Arboretum Entrance Fee Adult (13+): $12.50 Child (5-12): $5.00 Age 4 and under: free. Leashed dogs are welcome! Next, you grab yourself a map of the property and start wandering around. 🙂

Boyce Thompson Arboretum Map

The Arboretum grounds are split into several different sections showing off the variety of plant life found in arid climates and deserts around the world. We barely got into the place, and Anne was hunkered down snapping photos. All around the park are small signs providing information on the plants such as name and where they grow in the world.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

The place is chock full of bird life and other animals. We loved the hummingbirds and bright red cardinals.


My favorite area was the Cactus and Succulents Garden, Wow! What a variety of cactus! They have strange looking examples from all over the world as well as those more familiar to us in the southwest.

Most of the park trails are relatively level, but there is a section that winds it’s way past the Picket Post house and into a canyon. It’s a little steep in spots but offers gorgeous vistas, water features, and unusual rock formations.

Construction of the Picket Post House began in 1923 and took 14 months to complete. Colonel William Boyce Thompson founded the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and donated his house and the surrounding property to the Arboretum in 1928.  The Colonel passed away on June 27, 1930. –

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

We had a blast strolling the grounds of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. It reminded me so much of Butchart Gardens back home on Vancouver Island but with a desert twist.

We plan to return next winter for a longer, more complete visit. Maybe pack a lunch and explore the reams of nooks and crannies inside this fantastic Arizona state park!

Photo Gallery from our Boyce Thompson Visit Jan 2018

Visiting Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park east of Phoenix Arizona. Touring the beautiful cactus gardens and desert landscapes Love Your RV blog -

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