Arizona’s Wild Burro Trail is a gateway into the Tortolita Mountains

Trekking in the Tortolitas, northwest of Tucson, Arizona, is a journey into national park-quality desert country — where some 600 species of plants create a comely, prickly, colorful landscape.

Palo verde, ironwood and mesquite trees thrive alongside cacti, including chollas, barrels and grand stands of saguaros.

The range boasts a large population of crested saguaros — those with unusual flourishes of growth atop the trunk.

Hikers venturing into the range can expect some fascinating wildlife as well — anything from birds, lizards and snakes to rabbits, coyotes, javelinas, bobcats and deer.

Petroglyphs, or rock carvings, in the Tortolitas date to a period between AD 1100 and 1450. Ancient Indians, known today as the Hohokam, pecked geometric designs and figures of animals and people onto rock surfaces — and their work endures today.

Elsewhere in the Tortolitas, hikers will pass the ruins of one-time ranch buildings. One now roofless, stone-walled structure basks in silence and desert sunshine along a winsome stretch of the Wild Burro Trail.

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