A Complete Guide to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Cactus garden at Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Superior, Arizona, United States, North America
••• Michael Benanov / Getty Images

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum is an Arizona State Park located southeast of Phoenix, near Superior, Arizona. It is Arizona's largest and oldest botanical garden, dating back to the 1920s. The Boyce Thompson Arboretum became affiliated with the University of Arizona and the Arizona State Park system in 1976.

You will generally be able to tell what kind of plant or tree you are seeing at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, since many of the plants have signs indicating the name of the plant and the origin.

Contact Information

  • Address: 37615 East Highway 60, Superior, AZ 85273
  • Website: Boyce Thompson Arboretum online
  • Phone: (520) 689-2723 (we recommend calling or checking online to verify hours and days as it's a long drive out from Phoenix, just in case)

Dates and Times

The arboretum is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

It is open from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. from May through September, and from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. October through April. Make sure to arrive at least one hour before closing or you will not be admitted entrance.

We recommend visiting for at least two hours if you are staying on the Main Trail, and longer if you intend to see everything.


The fee for admission as of February 2018 is $12.50 for adults, $5 for ages 5 to 12; children under age five are admitted free.

Education is a very high priority at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. School groups, including homeschoolers, may arrange for guided tours at significantly reduced admission prices.

Things to See

  • Cactus Garden: Walk the winding paths of the three-acre Cactus Garden to discover how diverse and colorful desert cactus plants really are
  • Chihuahua Trail: A favorite trail to wander when finished walking the Main Trail at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum
  • Herb Garden: Use your sense of smell as you walk around to guess which herbs are which. You'll find herbs used in cooking, medicine, cosmetics, and more. Signs will explain what they all are.
  • Heritage Rose Garden
  • Ayer Lake
  • Eucalyptus Forest
  • Magma Ridge Riparian Area
  • Demonstration Garden: Less natural, but very colorful. Its purpose is to give gardeners ideas about how to use desert plants at their own homes, including basic landscape design, water use, and plant selection.
  • Picnic Area: Bring your own snacks, relax, let the kids expend some energy, and get a bit of shade on a hot, sunny day
  • Arboretum Store: Before you leave the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, stop and check on the various desert plants that are for sale here

Park Rules

  • Stay on the trails
  • Pets are welcome on leashes that are no more than 6 feet long and need to be cleaned up after
  • Watch after your children.
  • No smoking, except in designated areas. The trails are not designated areas.
  • Don't pick anything or take anything
  • Don't damage or harm anything


  • Don't litter
  • Carry water. If you didn't bring any, you can purchase some at a very reasonable cost in the gift shop at the entrance.
  • There's a nominal charge for a trail map. You don't really need one, since there are maps posted along the way, but the trail map sold at the gift shop has additional information about the exhibits and trails.
  • The Main Trail is about 1.5 miles, some of it not necessarily for those that have unsure footing.
  • Not all of the trails are totally handicapped accessible
  • Wear comfortable walking or running shoes
  • Wear sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses
  • As the season starts to warm up it will be hot out there in the desert. 85°F will feel awfully warm. There are various shady places to stop and take a break. On warm days, get to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum as early as possible.
  • Don't forget your camera
  • When wildflowers are in bloom, the Boyce Thompson Arboretum is even more beautiful. April is probably the peak month for wildflowers when there has been enough winter rain.


Guided tours are free with admission to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Tours are led by volunteer guides, who interpret the plants, animals and natural history of the Arboretum. There are also many special events throughout the year. Lizards, birds, dragonflies, butterflies abound.

Each season brings a new reason for a guided tour.