Saguaro National Park


Where? : Located near the city of Tucson in south Arizona, the park has west sections (recommended) and east sections (longer hike and camping).

Google Map Link


What? : The giant saguaro cactus is one of the symbols of the American west desert. These majestic plants, found in relatively small area, are protected by Saguaro National Park.


When? : Summer is hot and winter is the preferred time to visit.


Due note 1: At the west sections, not far from the Red Hill Visitor Center you can find the highly recommended Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, can combine visiting them both at the same day.

Due note 2: The west section is the recommended one.

My thoughts: As someone that live in Phoenix for few years, I know you can see the Saguaro cactus in many other places at southern Arizona but this park has the densest forest of such cactus. I relay like to visit here at the afternoon and sunset, just walk below the huge cactus and impress by the view.


The visit:

The Park has two separate sections that are located on east and west of Tucson, many miles apart. If you need to choose one to half day visit, after seeing them both, I recommend the west section. It may be smaller in size and with shorter hikes but has a lot of denser large cactus “forests” and I think better sunrise/sunset viewing.

There is no campsite within the west park and backpacking or overnight stay is not allowed.


Saguaro National Park West:

Red Hill Visitor Center: The visitor center located at east side of the park on Kenney Road. Except of getting information there is not much to see there (you need to pay here for entering the park).

There are few unpaved roads that are going through the park, make sure you plan your route in advance because some are one way and Golden Gate road is marked for high-clearance vehicles only.

Do the Bajada Scenic Loop Drive, stop at Valley View Overlook Trail and do the short hike to the top of the ridge viewing point. You can also take the right fork (after crossing the dry river and explore the Wild Dog Trail all the way to the end or go back whenever you want.

Signal Hill: You can explore this site that also has rock petroglyph collection.

Desert Discovery Nature Trail: I recommend doing this short, accessible, informative descriptions of the main cacti types.

There are few other trails that climb the mountain ridge at the east.


Saguaro National Park East:

On the east side of Tucson located the large section of the park, it also has here the section of the high Mica Mountain (8,664 f) and much more long hiking options.

You can find here the same landscape and cactus although it looks like in this section, they are less dense and with more other vegetation compare to the west section.

If you are not doing a long hike you can drive the one-way loop, 8 miles Cactus Forest Drive, that will take you into the lower park section.

There are few stopping points on the road, a short unpaved drive will take you to Mica View Picnic Area.

This east park section is much larger than the one in the west and has many more and longer trail option including overnight camping.

If you are not doing one of the long hikes into the mountains you can do the trails crossing the lowest slopes of Tanque Verde Ridge or the Cactus Forest Trail that is going inside the road loop.