Our favorite hike during our week long stay at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument was the Estes Canyon-Bull Pasture Loop. The trail provides classic Sonoran Desert views while climbing into the stunning Ajo Mountains. The last stretch of trail was quite the strenuous climb, but we we were rewarded with stunning 360 degree views of this remote area along the US-Mexican border.
The Estes Canyon and Bull Pasture trails can be hiked individually or combined for a spectacular lollipop route. They share a trailhead which is located at mile 11 along the Ajo Mountain Drive. The Ajo Mountain Drive is a 21 mile, one-way dirt scenic loop and it will take about 40-50 minutes to drive from the visitor center to the trailhead.
We chose to start our hike along the Estes Canyon Trail with our return route bringing us back on the Bull Pasture Trail. Estes Canyon is a moderate trail that crosses several washes, but remains relatively flat. It provides ample opportunities to hear and view the birds, wildlife and wildflowers of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and the Sonoran Desert. The trail provides spectacular views up into the Ajo Mountains.
After a mile of easy hiking, the Estes Canyon Trail trail climbs to meet the Bull Pasture Trail. From this junction, left continues to climb up to Bull Pasture and right returns to the trailhead. We continued left toward Bull Pasture. Past the junction, the trail is quite strenuous with steep switchbacks. The trail is often exposed to drop-offs on one side.
After half a mile of strenuous climbing, we reached a viewpoint where we were rewarded with 360 degree views of the Ajo Mountains (including Mount Ajo at 4,808′ elevation) and down to Estes Canyon. We also had far-reaching views to the southwest into Mexico.
The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument website gives conflicting data for this hike. One location says the full lollipop route is 3.6 miles. Another location says it is 4.1 miles. Our recording for the day showed 3.9 miles with a starting elevation of 2,360 feet climbing to 3,274 feet. Most of the elevation gain was in that final half mile to the viewpoint. Those not wanting to make the strenuous climb could skip the viewpoint and still enjoy a lovely loop trail.
The Adventure Continues
Be sure to join us on our next adventure as we wrap up our Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument area explorations with a trip to colorful Ajo. And don’t forget to check out our Amazon RV and Adventure Gear recommendations. We only post products that we use and that meet the Evans Outdoor Adventures seal of approval. By accessing Amazon through our links and making any purchase (even things as simple as toothpaste!), you get Amazon’s every day low pricing and they share a little with us. This helps us maintain this website and is much appreciated!