Arizona’s White Tank Mountains: A Lesson in Native Cacti

While hiking along the Waterfall Trail and later the Black Rock long loop in Arizona’s White Tank Mountain Regional Park, for whatever reason, I really took notice of the native cacti.  Maybe it was the sheer abundance of different species, some that I may have seen before, but never really thought twice about.  Another possible reason is that we were on full-cactus-alert for the first part of the hike as Bergen was off and running on his own.  Also many were just quite a spectacle to look at and appreciate.

It was after this hike that I not only became better at identifying types of cacti, but  I came away with a favorite type of cactus species.  There certainly may be other types of cactus lurking around White Tank Mountain Regional Park, but we came away with being able to identify four common species.

Saguaro Cactus White Tank Mountains

Saguaro Cactus

The Saguaro to me is the stereotypical cactus.  It’s the cactus that I think of when someone brings up the subject.  Beautiful, fragrant flowers bloom from this cactus, and it just so happens that they are the Arizona State flower.  Interestingly enough, the number of branches on a Saguaro do not correspond with the it’s age.

Barrel Cactus White Tank Mountains

Barrel Cactus

Tucked away amongst the ocotillo plants, is the Barrel cactus.  I’ve definitely seen larger barrel cacti on other Arizona hikes, but I’m always struck by the visible hints of red that show through.  What also stands out to me is that they are just one singular structure as opposed to so many of the cacti that have branches and various pieces sticking out every which way.

Hedgehog Cactus White Tank Mountains

Hedgehog Cactus

The hedgehog cacti was a newer one to me in terms of identification.  It’s true, the long wispy spikes do remind me of a hedgehog (as well as a porcupine!). Many feel that the hedgehog produces some of the most spectacular flowers.  I have yet to see this in person, but maybe I should plan trip in the later spring months to see for myself!

Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus White Tank Mountains

Teddy Bear Cholla Cactus

The Teddy Bear Cholla comes away as my absolute favorite cactus.  The’re something about the thick, straw-colored spines that make me just want to give it a squeeze, though I know that would definitely NOT be a wise thing to do!  From my research, and clearly from the photo, these cacti seem to exist in groves, which I think really adds to their appeal.

Thankfully on this hike (unlike our visit to the Desert Botanical Gardens), we came away with zero cactus-spine related incidents.  We were left only with a new appreciate for this beautiful and fascinating species!

Info to Know: 

  • The White Tank Mountain Regional Park is located about 30 miles Northeast of Phoenix in Waddell, AZ.
    • 20304 W. White Tank Mountain Road
      Waddell, AZ 85355
    • Park Hours: Sun-Thu: 6 am – 8 pm, Fri-Sat: 6 am – 10 pm
    • Park Entry Fee: $6/vehicle for day use
  • Strollers: While it wouldn’t be my first choice for transporting little ones, it is possible and doable on the Waterfall Trail & Black Rock Long Loop.  We saw a family navigating with a regular stroller just fine.
  • We really didn’t need water or snacks for such a short hike given the weather conditions, but on a regular hot, sunny Arizona day, you’ll want plenty of water to keep you hydrated.

Do you have a favorite type of cactus? Share your thoughts and feel free to add more to our list!

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Teddy Bear Cholla (up close) White Tank Mountain Regional Park

This post is linked-up with R We There Yet Mom?’s Friday Daydreamin’!

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12 thoughts on “Arizona’s White Tank Mountains: A Lesson in Native Cacti

  1. Pingback: A Rare Waterfall Viewing in Arizona’s White Tank Mountains | Wild Tales of...

    • Oh no! Guess I didn’t think of them that way 🙂 don’t they just look so soft and cuddly? 😉 White Tank Regional Park is about 30 miles northwest (mostly just west) of Phoenix near the town of Waddell.

  2. I had no idea that Saguaro was the state flower of Arizona. I’m unfamiliar with the rest of the cactii in your pictures. My Texas neighborhood has prickly pear all over it. I was surprised to find cactus in someone’s yard here in Malaysia. It’s such a rainy place, and I always think of cactus just being in drier climates.

    • Wow, cactus in Malaysia. I wouldn’t have thought that either! We don’t see prickly pear in this hike, but I think it can be found in the park. We did see in many beautiful shades at the botanical garden the next day!

  3. I am fascinated with cacti and succulents. Maybe because they’re the types of plants I haven’t killed yet 🙂 These pictures are great and a wonderful lesson. I really like that Teddy Bear Cholla too. I love seeing cacti flowers i bloom. I didn’t know about the interesting tidbit on the Saguaro too.

    • I’m with you in the gardening–though it’s hard to mess things up here in the PNW, I still love our little succulent “garden” that we keep inside. I too love seeing the flowers in bloom, which we were just a little too early for on this hike. We did see some at the Desert Botanical Gardens–gorgeous! Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pingback: Family’s Top 10 for a Springtime Visit to Phoenix’ Desert Botanical Garden | Wild Tales of...

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