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  1. Default Best route from Las Vegas to Tucson??

    I'm flying to Phoenix on April 25 and planned most of our 15 day roadtrip - now I just need a bit of help planning the last 3 days.

    After 3 days in Las Vegas our aim is to spend our last full day seeing the Organ Pipe Cactus and Saguro National Park near Tucson. It's a long drive, so I guess we'll split it up with two stop overs.
    The Eastern part of Arizona is already covered at this point, so I'm in doubt whether we should travel via central or western Arizona, and which route has the best sights. Any suggestions will be appreciated as we are leaving soon:)



  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default Op

    Organ Pipe is a couple hours from Tucson, so its not the easiest place in the world to do as a daytrip.

    As a straightforward route, I'd take US-93 from Vegas to the Phoenix Area. If you're going to Organ Pipe first, then I would cut down AZ-85 from I-10 through Gila Bend. If you are going here, you should look at continuing into Mexico to Puerto Penasco (aka Rocky Point) on the North end of the Gulf of California. This could be challenging/impossible if you are traveling in a Rental Car, however.

    I will also note that Organ Pipe has had some problems with crime, as drug runners and human smugglers use this remote area to cross between Mexico and the US. I'm not saying you shouldn't go there, but it is something you might not otherwise thing about.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Some photos from Organ Pipe

    Quote Originally Posted by Henrik View Post
    our last full day seeing the Organ Pipe Cactus
    Here is a link to a field report about Organ Pipe.


  4. Default Comments

    I did Organ Pipe and Saguaro last spring on a road trip -- LA area to Tucson area to Saguaro and back to LA in 3 days.

    Recommendations and comments..

    a) Check the weather. It was pretty hot when we were there in April last year, so we cut back on a lot of the hiking and did more via car.

    b) Good quality car, and willingness to drive a bit off pavement (still on roads, but rocky gravel-type roads will probably be encountered)

    I'd recommend at least a day in Tucson, if you're coming from Phoenix, using the time to visit Saguaro National Park (we just visited the western half of the park). We stayed a bit north of the city, and avoided downtown pretty much -- had a very nice day in the western half of the park. I strongly recommend visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Musuem, which is right off Kinney Road, which takes you up to the visitors center on the western half of the park. Figure 2-3 hours minimum there -- they have an excellent raptors show with several large native flying birds. From there we went over to the Bajada Loop Drive (which is a dirt road) -- and did a bit of sightseeing, a little bit of hiking, and looking at Petroglyphs. Then back to the hotel and the pool, and an excellent dinner of mexican food.

    It was about 3 hours from Tucson to Organ Pipe National Monument, driving past Kitt Peak (we didn't drive up the mountain to visit there). As noted before, expect significant Border Patrol activity around Organ Pipe. The Tucson zone is the most active for illegal immigrants and smugglers, and we saw numerous BP vehicles and personnel. In the air, on horseback, and in their vehicles. Most were stopped, watching something -- but in the space of a day, we went through 3 BP checkpoints along the different roads.

    At Organ Pipe we took the Ajo Mountain Drive loop - which is about 12 miles of dirt road. This takes you back into some interesting scenery -- a couple of natural arches, and some very nice desert scenry. Plan on going slow on this road, and at least an hour to complete. There's a nice visitors center, and several picknice areas around -- but not a lot of infrastructure. We enjoyed the drive and the visit, and had lunch in the small picnic area next to the visitor's center.

    We also stopped and looked at the old mine pit at Ajo -- huge!!!

    Some of the sections of the roads around here don't have a lot of services -- bring a cell phone (pretty good coverage), and keep the car with a good supply of gas, just in case.

    From Organ Pipe we headed back to LA -- a longish day's drive, but very doable via Yuma and San Diego.

    And... just be prepared for the Border Patrol. I'm used to driving through the freeway check points on I-5 and I-15, which are pretty laid back. But at least one check point we went through was real SERIOUS. Young fit men stopping the car between Ajo and Gila Bend. Then only one comes up to the car to talk to us, while the others hang back and watch -- guns holstered, but hands not far from them, and paying attention all the time to what we were doing. Not the usual unarmed guy glancing in the car and waving us past.

  5. Default

    Many thanks for the quick replies!

    The border control at Organ Pipe doesn't put me off (won't tell my wife:), but it seems it can be hard making both Organ Pipe and Saguaro in one day. I would definately like to do the Ajo Mountain Drive loop - we are renting a 4x4 so non paved roads isn't a problem.

    Considering we can spend two days travelling from Las Vegas to Tucson, what scenic drives/sights would you recommend on the way?
    I'm considering either passing Lake Havasu or taking US-93 via Kingman - nothing captured my attention in Lonely Planet, so I'm not really sure which route to take

    Thanks again:)


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 1998
    Las Vegas, Nevada

    Default Travels with Thurman

    Another section of this site you ought to review is Travels with Thurman since some of his field reports will provide you with many more options for exploring this section of the Arizona desert. Scroll down through the titles and you will find a bunch of options.


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