Length: 2 miles
Just outside Superior in the shadows of the Picketpost Mountain, lies the beautiful Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park. The Arboretum's Main Trail is a relatively easy 2-mile stretch with several optional side trails that can add another mile to the total loop.
Beginning at the Parks gift shop and visitor center, the start of the trail is by far the most developed. The first ¼-mile contains a butterfly/hummingbird garden, a children's exploration area, and greenhouse/education center. (I highly recommend adults takes some time to explore the children's area; the exhibits were both extremely fun and interesting!)
Immediately after these smaller exhibits is the much larger Cactus Garden. Spanning both sides of the trail, the Cactus Garden contains an extensive collection of cacti from both the Southwest and around the world. This area also includes numerous side trails that provide excellent opportunities to enjoy a little seclusion from the somewhat-crowded Main Trail. Eventually, however, the garden gives way to the man-made Ayers Lake, which provides an amazing desert oasis.
After the lake, the trail does become slightly more challenging (but by no means difficult) as it works its way down the cliffs to to the banks of Queen Creek. Following the small Queen Creek, the trail then passes between the steep canyon wall and the lush riparian shores of the creek. After a short distance, a picturesque wooden foot-bridge spans the creek, leading to the High Trail, which apparently leads back up the opposite cliff and provides an alternative path back to the visitor's center. (Unfortunately, this trail was flooded during my visit, so I was unable to explore this segment; however, since my guidebook didn't speak too highly of the High Trail, I was less than disappointed.)
The final ½-mile segment of the Main Trail provides yet another unique portion completely unlike the previous hike! Perhaps the most interesting feature is the Clevenger House, a late-19th century ranch home built directly against the cliffside. The small, vine-covered house, which is open for exploration, provides a fascinating glimpse into Pioneer life. After the Clevenger House, the trail loops back towards the park's entrance passing through a lush forest of palm and date trees; although not native to the Sonoran Desert, these trees look completely at home beside the fast-moving creek.
Finally, the trail ends with a brief excursion into an Australian Outback exhibit (I'm not really sure how the whole Australian theme fits with Southern Arizona, but I guess the climates are somewhat similar.) The main attraction for this exhibit is a sheep-shearing shed, which is perhaps designed to be too stereotypically Australian (heck, they have didgeridoo music playing in the shed!) Unfortunately, the Outback exhibit completes the loop and from here it's merely a short trip back to the visitor center/gift shop.
To view more photos of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, click here.