Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Photo by Kimberly Hosey

Get in touch with nature and spend a day at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.

About an hour’s drive east of Phoenix, this desert-set forest of flora and fauna calls itself a “320 acre classroom” – and fittingly so. The Boyce Thompson Arboretum houses more than 3,000 different desert plants, as well as the animals that call the plants and environment home.

With history walks, photography workshops, home school day tours and more, the opportunities at the arboretum are limited only by your interests.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Photo by Kimberly Hosey

In the Children’s Garden, a well-designed collection of mazes, flowers, mosaics, kids can navigate the maze and pretend to be javelinas, excavate “fossils,” watch butterflies dance among the flowers, become a human sundial and more. It’s all about interacting with the natural world.

Along with photography workshops, educational classes offered throughout the year include everything from gourd art to pomegranate harvesting.

Guided nature walks, meantime, lure your gaze to Plants of the Bible and Edible and Medicinal Plants featuring, among other things, palms, figs and olives.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Photo by Kimberly Hosey

Tree and dragonfly tours are also offered. And visitors can learn more about the inhabitants of the Hummingbird-Butterfly Garden. Then there are special events throughout the year such as Chocolate Tasting and Herb festivals, which make for great day trip getaways.

Captivated by the landscape of Superior, Arizona, William Boyce Thompson, a mine engineer and copper company president, founded the arboretum in 1924 as a desert plant research facility. It is the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state of Arizona covering 392 acres along Queen Creek and beneath Picketpost Mountain.

The arboretum includes a visitors’ center, gift shop, research offices, a picnic area and a 1.5 mile trail that leads visitors through various exhibits and natural areas.

Location: 37615 E. U.S. Highway 60 in Superior, AZ
May-September: Daily from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
October-April: Daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: $12.50 adult, $5 ages 5-12, Free for 5 and under

– Kimberly Hosey / Edited for Phoenix.Org