I’ll admit, I had no idea what to expect when I agreed to go to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum with my husband. He had been wanting to visit for awhile so we put it on the calendar and went.
It was actually a really cool experience and is definitely family friendly (kids under 5 are free). Plus, as a bonus, you can even bring your (well-behaved) dog with you! Only one of our dogs lives for car rides, so we brought Chalupa Batman along for the journey that day while Vixie was content sleeping at home. (We always ask her if she wants to go on a car ride and as soon as we try to get her into the garage, she glares at us and then runs the opposite direction! It’s kind of funny, actually.) They love dogs here so much that there are even dog bowls placed by every human water fountain, so everyone stays hydrated!
Chalupa was so excited because there were so many beautiful plants, flowers, trees, cacti, and trails for him to follow and sniff. We spent nearly three hours there just wandering and taking photos of the beautiful sights.
The history behind the arboretum is an interesting read. The man behind the name of the arboretum, Colonel William Boyce Thompson, has quite the life story. After several business ventures, he built a picket house near the town of Superior after obtaining a permit from the Forest Service to do so. The Forest Service owned the land all around but he had his eye on it for himself. He bought a piece of land in Northern Arizona that the Forest Service wanted and they essentially made a swap after that. With the swap, he became owner to 400 acres- part of it now known as the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. He tapped Franklin Crider, University of Arizona, to establish the arboretum and UofA is still involved with it to this day.
The arboretum has several features that are fun and educational for children, including a children’s garden. In the children’s garden, there is a small “javelina” maze that they can work their way through, a rainbow garden, a human sun dial, and more. The rainbow garden uses the familiar ‘ROY G BV’ as a learning tool and has flowers made up of each color of the rainbow, in order from left to right.
In addition to educational areas for children that double as eye-pleasers is an herb garden, bean/legume garden, hummingbird & butterfly sanctuary, rose garden, cacti garden, an area with boojum trees and so much more! There are fun facts spread throughout the gardens such as “What legume gave us the blue in blue jeans?” followed by a scientific explanation and the answer, which is: indigo leaves are fermented for a few days and then lime paste is mixed in. (Blue wild indigo is a native, perennial, deep rooted warm season legume which reproduces by seed or rhizomes.) Legumes can also make essential oils, fibers in ropes & textiles, woods used in fuel for charcoal, etc… Learn something new every day as I was taught when I was young! I learned enough here for at least a month’s worth.
Another garden, the cacti garden, was especially intriguing (go figure I’d like this one!) – there were types of cactus I have never seen or heard of before in addition to ones that were insanely gigantic. Some even had white fur. There was an agave plant that was taller than me, literally. I’m not the tallest person in the world but I’m no shorty, either. I’m 5’4″ and this thing had a foot on me. I had no idea they could get that large. There was also a HUGE prickly pear cactus that was like 10 feet long and this group of barrel cacti that were also gigantic:
As we continued to walk through the arboretum, the views of Arizona beauty did not disappoint. We took a loop around the main trail which is probably a couple of miles. The loop will eventually take you to most, if not all, of the various gardens as it leads you through different types of flora and fauna. In the background is an always present mountain formation that is vibrant and alive with color making it a perfect backdrop.
I can’t choose a favorite section because it was all magnificent, hence why you’re getting a ton of pictures in this post! =) The colors from all of the nature were just so pretty.
They have a calendar of events and host badge events for the Girl Scouts. The day we were there, a group of Girl Scouts was arriving to work on earning a badge. There are also guided nature walks, dragonfly walks, camera classes, and numerous other events on a monthly basis that you could show up and join. They are current on the website. Also, if you’re in the area and reading this today, May 6th happens to be a free admission day- so hurry up and go if you’ve got nothing else planned (get there by 2pm as they close in the early afternoon).
If you go, pack a picnic! You can bring your food in and either head to the picnic area to eat or find a cozy spot somewhere along the
beaten well-maintained path to sit and eat. There are a ton of benches throughout to sit and enjoy a wonderful view. In fact, one bench was dedicated to a couple who fell in love at the sight of the bench and Leonard & Ethel Prichard were married for 63 years. How romantic! We saw several couples who had found a quiet area of their choosing and enjoyed a bite to eat while taking in the scenery.
Check the website before you go because they have summer hours that differ from the rest of the year. It’s $10 per adult, $5 for kids ages 5-12, and free for kids under 5. If you have a state park pass, then there’s no fee. Let me know if you go and what your favorite part is! Here are a couple more photos to leave you with:
Have a good weekend!