5 Reasons to visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum

As an Arizona transplant, I have been eager to visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum located in Superior, AZ. Approximately one hour east of central Phoenix, this fun day trip is not to be missed! There is something here for all ages; whether it is an easy stroll through the butterfly garden or a hike along the high trail. Here are 5 reasons to visit Boyce Thompson Arboretum while you are in the Valley of the Sun.

1.The trees, the wonderful trees!

One of the things I miss the most about the midwest is being surrounded by tall trees. There are many wonderful mature trees to enjoy at the arboretum, and while I’m certainly no botanist, even I can appreciate the towering palms and giant eucalyptus trees. You’ll discover and appreciate a variety of trees as you walk along the trail. They provide plenty of shade along the path which is an added bonus – especially in the summer. Don’t miss your opportunity to pack a lunch and picnic beneath the trees, as the arboretum offers picnic tables and grills for your use!


Come on, doesn’t this look amazing?



2. Butterflies, and birds, and lizards oh my!

You can never be too sure what will cross your path as you walk through the desert exhibits. However, you can be sure to see loads of lizards, scurrying squirrels, singsongy birds, and beautiful butterflies! The best way to observe is to find a place on the trail where you can sit quietly and see what crosses your path – like the colorful lizard below! Expert at the “I Spy” game? Keep your eyes peeled for the animals and insects that blend in with the landscape, like the green lynx spider I saw quietly sitting on a flower as I was tracking butterflies in the Hummingbird and Butterfly Garden.

Haggisandhamburgers Greater Earless Lizard

Greater Earless Lizard (poor guy deserves a much cooler name)


Swallowtail Butterfly

Haggisandhamburgers Green Lynx Spider

Green Lynx Spider – can you see her spiny legs?

3. Cool cacti cactuses (whatever plural form you want to use)

You can expect to see over 300 species of cacti and succulents – you’re in the desert, duh! Looking to add succulents to your collection at home? The arboretum sells succulents and flowers near the visitor center and gift shop. Observe cactuses along the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and South American exhibits. The true treasure trove for cactus lovers is the Cactus and Succulents Garden along the main trail. Fair warning, if you see a Teddy Bear Cholla cactus, don’t give it a hug.



Succulents for sale at the Visitor Center


4. Step it up on the High Trail

The main trail is an easy stroll, but for those that want to kick it up a notch explore the High Trail. While the main trail provides an accessible 1.5 mile loop of the gardens, there are also several shoot off trails. The .45 mile High Trail will take you through the upper Sonoran natural area and provides great views to see the arboretum from above.



5. You never know what will be around the corner

Perhaps the best part about visiting the arboretum is that you never know what you will stumble upon next. Whether it is a tree tunnel, a wool shed scene, or suspension bridge there is plenty to see to occupy the most quizzical children, adults, and four-legged friends (the garden is dog friendly)! 

wood shedDover’s Wool Shed



Cross the Suspension Bridge to access the High Trail

There are little surprises around each corner regardless of whether this is your first visit or you are a regular member. I found plenty to view in September and look forward to returning in the winter and spring to see what has changed!


  • Check the hours of operation, as they change for the summer and winter season
  • Bring plenty of water to enjoy the grounds for a couple hours
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat (especially important during summer months)

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