Thing to Do

Drive the Ajo Mountain Loop

A rocky canyon filled with boulders and bright green Sonoran desert vegetation
This scenic loop takes you up into the surprisingly lush, green canyons of the Ajo Mountains.

Photo/K Ceballos

It’s no surprise that the Ajo Mountain Drive is the most popular scenic drive in the monument. In two hours, it takes you through an excellent overview of the monument's landscape, bringing visitors through desert washes and up into the Ajo Mountains. For those wanting some good views and photographs of cacti, the drive provides ample opportunities to see large stands of our namesake cacti, the organ pipe cacti, as well as saguaros, cholla, and barrel cacti.


The Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21-mile (34 km) graded, one-way dirt road. The drive takes approximately 2 hours, and has been designed so that a passenger car, driven with caution, may be taken over it safely. Trailers, buses and RVs over 25 ft (8 m) are prohibited on the drive. After the first mile, the drive becomes a one-way road, so be prepared to finish the entire 21 mile loop! 

A free Ajo Mountain Drive guide can be picked up at the visitor center. Numbered stops located along the drive correspond to pages in the guide. You can also follow along with the audio tour/written guide on the NPS App or download a PDF version of the guide here.

There are four picnic sites provided on the drive. Stops #6 has a shaded picnic area and Estes Canyon after stop #11 has a ramada and backcountry restrooms. The Ajo Mountain Drive also provides access to the trailheads for the Arch Canyon, Old Pima County Road, and Estes Canyon/Bull Pasture trails.
 
  

Some Reminders


Water is not available anywhere along the drive so carry plenty with you. Fires and camping are not allowed on the drive. Pets are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry. They must be leashed at all times. Please do leave pets unattended. Do not cross washes when flooded. Do not pick up hitchhikers. Report any suspicious activity to park staff immediately. Do not contact any suspicious persons. If you see them in distress, contact a ranger for help.
Details
Without stops, the drive itself takes approximately 2 hours to complete. Make sure to allow yourself time to experience the picnic areas, scenic views, and hikes available on this drive. 
The Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21-mile (34 km) graded, one-way dirt road. The drive takes approximately 2 hours, and has been designed so that a passenger car, driven with caution, may be taken over it safely. Trailers, buses and RVs over 25 ft (8 m) are prohibited on the drive. After the first mile, the drive becomes a one-way road, so be prepared to finish the entire 21 mile loop! 

A free Ajo Mountain Drive guide can be picked up at the visitor center. Numbered stops located along the drive correspond to pages in the guide. 

There are four picnic sites provided on the drive. Stops #6 has a shaded picnic area and Estes Canyon after stop #11 has a ramada and backcountry restrooms. The Ajo Mountain Drive also provides access to the trailheads for the Arch Canyon, Old Pima County Road, and Estes Canyon/Bull Pasture trails.
All ages
Pets are not allowed on the trails or in the backcountry and are only allowed on the Ajo Mountain Drive road itself. They must be leashed at all times. Please do not leave pets unattended in cars. 

Entrance fee required for day use. Please pay in person at the Kris Eggle Visitor Center, or at one of the self-registration stations at the beginning of the Ajo Mountain Drive. 

  • Vehicles: $25 (Good for 7 days)
    This fee includes all occupants of a vehicle.

  • Motorcycle: $20 (Good for 7 days)

  • Individuals: $15 (Good for 7 days)
    This fee applies to bicycles and walk-ins (per person)

The entrance to the Ajo Mountain Drive is off of Arizona Highway 85, directly across the highway from the turn off for the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. The entrance to the drive on Highway 85 is about 22 miles south of Why, marked with a sign, and located on the eastern side of the Highway. 

Continue on the two-way dirt road from 1 mile before the one-way loop begins. 
While Ajo Mountain Drive can be experienced all year round, please be aware that in the summer temperatures can reach upwards of 110 degrees Fahrenheit and plan your activities accordingly. 
The Ajo Mountain Drive is a great place to experience the sunrise or sunset in the Sonoran Desert. Because of its distance from developed areas, the Ajo Mountain Drive is also a good spot for stargazing, though we do advise visitors to take necessary precautions when spending time after dark in the park and be aware of desert safety issues. 
Accessibility Information
Please note that the trails and picnic areas along this scenic drive are not ADA accessible as the terrain is unpaved and uneven in some sections of the trail. 

Hikers of many different abilities have hiked routes along Ajo Mountain Drive in the past. If you are curious about accessibility for your needs please contact the park.

While pets are not allowed on trails along the scenic drive, service animals are allowed. 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Last updated: August 30, 2021