Looming like a giant battleship alongside the I-10 “fast road,” 75 miles southeast of Phoenix and 45 miles northwest of Tucson, 3,374-foot Picacho Peak has served as a Sonora Desert landmark for as long as there have been people here. Native Americans, Spanish explorers, American pioneers, you name it—they’ve all used the volcanic peak to keep them on track. Now a state park (520/466-3183, $3 per person or bike, $7 per car), Picacho Peak also played a role in the Civil War; the official westernmost battle of the War Between the States was fought here on April 15, 1862, when a dozen Union soldiers skirmished with 17 Confederate cavalrymen. These days, people come here to enjoy the saguaro cactus and the desert wildflowers (mainly in March, when they’re at their most colorful), or to hike to the summit for a desert panorama (two miles each way, with roughly 1,500-foot elevation gain). The park is open for day use and camping.
Along the freeway at the foot of Picacho Peak, the sprawling Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch ($10 and up) lets you feed the ungainly beasts or purchase a variety of ostrich-derived products. There’s also a petting zoo and the unusual chance to take a tour, riding in the back of a massive 4WD “Monster Truck.”