Last Updated on December 22, 2022

As you travel across the United States, one of the most scenic places you can visit is the magnificent Sonoran Desert, the largest hot desert in the country, which stretches along California, Arizona and the border with Mexico. The Sonora Desert is an enchanting desert destination to discover breathtaking landscapes, ancient cultures and irresistible flavors.

The Sonoran Desert is one of the hottest in North America: the temperatures here record an average of 52 degrees Celsius. But the peculiarity of this area is that, being very close to the Pacific Ocean, it also has two rainy seasons and it is one of the rainiest deserts in America. In the rainy periods the temperatures drop and the drought, which characterizes this desert in the remaining months of the year, subsides.

View of the Sonoran Desert
View of the Sonoran Desert with the iconic Saguaro cactus.

Best things to do in the Sonoran Desert

Saguaro National Park

Within the desert lies a decidedly vast protected natural area. The Saguaro National Park is a must-see destination, which is easily reached through a road trip. In the park, you can find many examples of the iconic Saguaro cactus, the plant symbol of this desert. In addition, there are of course many other species belonging to the same family of cacti.

To fully enjoy a day in the the park, you can choose to take one of the beautiful trails that are in the area. Some excursions have a total duration of one day and represent a unique opportunity to enter the most suggestive areas of the desert zone.

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Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve

The Scottsdale McDowell Sonoran Preserve is a desert conservation area near Scottsdale, and a great spot for hiking with several trails for all levels of difficulty. Some of the harder trails will give you a unique opportunity to enjoy some wonderful rock formations and landmarks such as Tom’s Thumb. Other activities you can do include mountain biking, rock climbing and horseback riding.

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Ride a Hot Air Balloon in Phoenix

One of the most exciting activities you can do in the Sonora Desert is to fly aboard a hot air balloon and enjoy the view. Several tours depart from the desert in Phoenix and there is even a Hot Air Balloon Festival that is held every year.

Whether you decide to leave at sunrise and enjoy breakfast while up in the sky, or fly at night to see the sunset over the desert, this is an activity that will surely be memorable.

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Museums of Yuma

Yuma is a small town located in the middle of the desert and the main metropolitan center of the area. It offers numerous museums, such as the Castle Dome Mines Museum & Ghost Town, Quechuan Indian Museum and the Arizona Historical Society Sanguinetti House Museum & Garden.

Natural parks include the Mittry Lake Wildlife Area. A must-see is the Territorial Prison State Historic Park, an old prison from the 1800s with photographs and artifacts belonging to prisoners.

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Experience the Far West in Tombstone

The village of Tombstone, founded in the late 1800s, represents the most classic icon of the Wild West. It is a remote location in the desert that, over the centuries, has attracted thousands of adventurers. In fact, the source of the town’s wealth was the silver mines that contributed to the growth of the center. Within a decade, over a hundred saloons, schools, churches, newspapers, a swimming pool and a red light district sprang up.

Today, however, Tombstone has nearly 1,500 inhabitants who are mainly involved in the tourist activity that the city offers. There are many things to see and preserved to perfection, such as Main Street, the Schieffelin Hall (now a town hall), the post office, the old cemetery, the Tombstone Courthouse, not to mention the many saloons.

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