“You had to be there to get it.” It’s something we hear often when something unique and special has happened. Certain places hold this same value. Sometimes experiencing something is the only way to fully understand what makes that place so special to those who have lived there for their entire lives, or even those who just passed through and felt a special connection.

The Sonoran Desert is one of those places where you can feel an attachment the moment you walk into it.

Why is that?

Well, there’s a variety of different parts of the landscape and culture that contribute to this being a one-of-a-kind place. While we believe you need to experience this first hand, we can still try to convey the importance and uniqueness of this place. 

What makes the Sonoran Desert special?

Saguaro Cacti

When people talk about the unique properties of the Sonoran desert, they most likely will start by mentioning the Saguaro cactus. The Sonoran desert is the only place to find this majestic cactus that can grow to be 70 feet tall at a ripe age of 150 years. 

The Saguaro cactus provides a habitat for birds like the Cactus Wren and provides food for other unique desert dwellers, like tortoises. So, this cactus is not only unique, but it helps provide to the other unique aspects of the desert. 

These cacti alone are reason enough to get out and explore the area. A Sonoran Desert hiking tour with a local guide is a great way to get first-hand experience. 

While it can be extremely tempting, we strongly advise you to stay away from the cacti and suggest you don’t even think about bringing one home. Those who try and move a cactus without the proper licensing can find themselves with a $10,000 bill. That’s an expensive house plant from the Arizona desert. 

It has a plethora of biomes

The Sonoran Desert stretches across Arizona, Southern California, and Northern Baja. This location makes for a wide variety of weather and plants that can survive. The desert fills itself with many other biomes such as tundra, coniferous forests, grassland, tropical forests, and of course, deserts. 

You may think that a desert is only defined by sandy expanses with little to no water and cacti. Well, you’re not entirely wrong, but the Sonoran Desert is bigger than just that. This space is vast and is home to an equally huge number of different forms of life. 


With its plethora of biomes and places for various animals to live, the Sonoran Desert becomes the most biodiverse desert in North America. In simple terms, it has a crazy number of plant and animal species that live in it. 

Sonoran Desert wildlife makes up a massive family tree. This desert is home to over 350 bird species, 100 reptile species, 60 mammals, and 20 amphibians. This is partially due to its wide expanse, proximity to the ocean, and variety of different habitats. 

Not only does this desert support a ton of fauna, but the Sonoran desert flora is also impressive. There are over 3,000 different species of plants that call this place home. In a desert that barely ever sees rain, the desert works in an astounding unison to help everyone out. 

Record Highs

Highest temperatures? Check.

Highest level of biodiversity? Check.

Highest level of rainfall in a North American desert? Check.

The Sonoran desert hits highs in all kinds of ways. It’s the second-largest desert in North America but has the highest temperatures, levels of biodiversity, and rainfall. The desert gets 10 to 12 inches of rain per year and can reach up to 118 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Even though the Sonoran Desert covers about 100,000 square miles in the Southwest, only two mountains are found. Mount Catalina and Mount Kofa hold the records for highest peaks… in the Sonoran Desert.