Get away from it all in the breathtaking Sonoran Desert, a 100,000-square-mile (260,000-square-kilometer) region that spans Arizona, California, and parts of Mexico. Though it’s the hottest of four deserts in North America, its two rainy seasons sustain unique animals and plants, including the only remaining jaguar population in the United States.
Explore the beauty of the Sonoran Desert by foot, vehicle, or hot-air balloon or small plane. Visitors will enjoy views of the mountains that span this region, as well as the local wildlife, including roadrunners, gila monsters, cactus wren, and desert bighorn sheep. Be sure to choose a tour that fits your interests; there are tours available for fans of hiking, off-roading, and Segways.
Things to Know Before You Go
Book your tour in advance. You’ll benefit from a knowledgeable guide while enjoying your perfect desert adventure.
As in any desert environment, be sure to bring enough water with you (drinking water is not available) and dress for the weather.
Be on the lookout for cacti and snakes.
How to Get There
There are several points of entry to the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran Desert National Monument is located about 40 miles (64 kilometers) south of Phoenix and 93 miles (150 kilometers) northwest of Tucson, Arizona. To get there from Phoenix, follow I-10 West. From Tucson, take I-10 West to I-8 West. Parking is available on-site.
When to Get There
There are five “seasons” in the Sonoran Desert: spring from February to April; dry summer in May and June; summer monsoon from July to mid-September; fall from mid-September to November; and winter in December and January. The spring and winter months can be a great time to visit; temperatures remain a bit cooler than the blazing heat of summer.
There are several Native American tribes that have connections to the Sonoran Desert, including Pascua Yaqui, Tohono O’odham, Seri, Cocopah, and the Gila River Indian Community. Some tribes welcome visitors to religious ceremonies or other cultural events; just be respectful and refrain from using your camera or phone during these experiences.