Saguaro cacti in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona
© Jack Dykinga/Minden Picture
Sky island views
Though it’s December, it isn’t cold and snowy everywhere in North America. Here, near Tucson, Arizona, the Sonoran Desert stays warm year-round. In this photo, we’re looking at a 'sky island'—an isolated, high-elevation woodland surrounded by radically different lowland environments. In this case, the desert land at the base of the mountain is peppered with saguaros—a stately cactus recognized for its long arms. The snow-capped Santa Catalina Mountains in the distance are part of the Madrean Sky Islands and are home to Mount Lemmon Sky Valley, which is the southernmost ski destination in the U.S. The ski area covers the slopes of Mount Lemmon, which reaches 9,150 feet at the summit and gets about 180 inches of snow annually.