Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Quick Facts

Saguaro National Park

Arizona

(520) 733-5153

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

Enormous cacti, silhouetted by the setting sun, is the universal symbol of the American West. And yet, these majestic plants are only found in a small portion of the United States. Saguaro National Park protects some of the most impressive forests of these sub-tropical giants, on the edge of the modern City of Tucson.

Saguaro National Park has two districts, separated by the City of Tucson. The Tucson Mountain District or Saguaro West, and the Rincon Mountain District or Saguaro East, are approximately 30 miles and 1 hour driving time apart. While similar in terms of plants and animals, subtle differences make both areas worthy of a visit.

This unique desert is home to the most recognizable cactus in the world, the majestic saguaro. Visitors of all ages are fascinated and enchanted by these desert giants, especially their many interesting and complex interrelationships with other desert life. Saguaro cacti provide their sweet fruits to hungry desert animals. They also provide homes to a variety of birds, such as the Harris? hawk, Gila woodpecker and the tiny elf owl. Yet, the saguaro requires other desert plants for its very survival. During the first few years of a very long life, a young saguaro needs the shade and protection of a nurse plant such as the palo verde tree. With an average life span of 150 years, a mature saguaro may grow to a height of 50 feet and weigh over 10 tons.

While most visitors to Saguaro National Park choose a leisurely drive on one of the scenic loop drives, those eager for an escape from the rigors of city life often opt to explore the park on one of the many trails. With over 150 miles of hiking trails, ranging from flat and easy strolls in the Sonoran Desert to steep and rugged hikes into the Rincon Mountains, visitors of every ability have a place to get out of the car and explore.

Some highlights of the two separate sections of the park include:

Tucson Mountain District A short hike on the Valley View Overlook Trail to view the Avra Valley and distant mountain ranges. A fabulous orientation program offering a Native American perspective on the saguaro cactus, shown daily at the Red Hills Visitor Center. A trip to Signal Hill Picnic Area, which offers visitors the chance to view hundreds of ancient petroglyphs.

Rincon Mountain District A scenic auto/bike tour around the Cactus Forest Loop Drive offering incredible views of the Rincon Mountains. A one mile loop hike along the Freeman Homestead Trail to learn about homesteading in the desert as well as modern Tucson. For those with a taste for adventure, as well as a couple of extra days, we recommend a trip into the Saguaro Wilderness Area to visit Manning Cabin, which was built in 1905 by Levi Manning, one time mayor of Tucson.

Map of Saguaro

Latitude, Longitude: 32.187236, -110.666656

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Activities

  • Bird Watching

    Arizona is a bird-watcher's paradise. Saguaro National Park contains many species that can be seen few other places in the United States, such as vermilion flycatchers and whiskered screech owls. The diversity of habitats in the park ranges from lowland desert up to pine forests. These diverse ecosystems support a surprising array of bird life. Common desert birds include greater roadrunners, Gila woodpeckers, and Gambel's quail. Northern goshawks, yellow-eyed juncos, and Mexican jays can be found in the park's higher elevations.

  • Bicycling

    Tucson is known as one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the United States. This is largely due to the climate, particularly in the winter. If you plan on bicycling during the summer, it is best to get an early start and avoid the mid-day heat. Always carry plenty of water regardless of the time of year.

    Saguaro National Park offers visitors the chance to view native plants and animals while surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the Sonoran Desert. A popular way to enjoy the park is to bike around one of the scenic loop drives. The Cactus Forest Loop Drive in the Rincon Mountain District (east) is an 8-mile paved loop. The Bajada Loop Drive in the Tucson Mountain District (west) is a 6-mile gravel loop.

    Trail riding is permitted only on the 2.5 mile (4.0 km) multi-use portion of the Cactus Forest Trail, which is circled by the Cactus Forest Loop Drive. The trail may be ridden in either direction, but you may not ride against traffic on the one-way portion of the Cactus Forest Loop Drive if you exit the trail on the north end.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro National Park East): The Cactus Forest Scenic Loop Drive is a paved, combination one- and two-way road. The Loop Drive features several trailheads, scenic vistas, and pullouts in a total of 8 miles (12.9 km). A guide to the natural and cultural history of the Cactus Forest Loop Drive is available for $2 at the visitor center. Trailers longer than 35 feet or any vehicle wider than 8 feet are not permitted on the winding Cactus Forest Drive.

    Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro National Park West): The Scenic Bajada Loop Drive is a popular way of exploring the district's foothills. This unpaved, combination one- and two-way graded dirt road offers scenic pullouts, picnic areas, and hiking trailheads in a 6 mile (9.7 km) loop. High clearance or four-wheel drive is not needed to drive the loop. A guide to the natural and cultural history of the Bajada Loop Drive is available for $1 at the Red Hills Visitor Center. Trailers longer than 35 feet or any vehicle wider than 8 feet are not permitted on the Bajada Loop Drive.

  • Camping

    Camping is allowed at six designated campgrounds within the Saguaro Wilderness Area. These campgrounds are located throughout the wilderness area and a permit is required for all overnight stays. Douglas Spring, Grass Shack, Juniper Basin, Happy Valley Saddle and Spud Rock Spring Campgrounds each have a total of three campsites. Manning Camp Campground has six campsites.

  • Hiking

    Saguaro National Park's two districts offer more than 165 miles (264 km) of hiking trails. A hike at Saguaro National Park can be a stroll on a short interpretive nature trail or a day-long wilderness trek. Both districts of Saguaro National Park offer a variety of hiking trails.

    Looking for adventure? An extended hike into the rugged wilderness brings wonderful opportunities as well as challenges for the adventurous hiker. An overnight trip into Saguaro's wilderness can take you from 3,000' elevation to over 8,000' in about 15 miles. Hikes may be started from any of five trailheads ranging from the easy-to-access Douglas Spring Trailhead at the east end of Speedway Boulevard to the more remote Italian Spring Trailhead accessed through Reddington Pass on the adjacent Coronado National Forest.

  • Horseback Riding

    There are several trails open to horses. Contact the park for details.

  • Picnicking

    There are several picnic areas throughout the park.

    A trip to Signal Hill Picnic Area, which offers visitors the chance to view hundreds of ancient petroglyphs.

  • Wildlife Watching

    Saguaro National Park contains a great variety of unusual animals, some of which can only be found in southern Arizona. Roadrunners, horned lizards, Gila monsters, kangaroo rats, and collared peccaries are all seen regularly by visitors. Although Saguaro national park lies on the edge of the Sonoran Desert, Mica Mountain in the Rincon Mountain District reaches more then 8600' in height. This altitude allows for cooler temperatures and pine trees, as well as mammals such as black bears and white-tailed deer. The park is also home to species more commonly associated with the tropics, such as coati. Precious, often hidden desert waters contain aquatic leopard frogs and mud turtles.

Seasonality/Weather

Tucson is known for its mild winters and hot summers. Tucson has two rainy seasons, the summer rainy season, which generally runs from July through August and the winter rainy season, which generally runs from December through January. Because of the temperate winter climate, the heaviest visitation generally comes between November and April.

Winters in the Tucson area are delightful with mild warm days averaging 65 degrees F. (19 degrees C.) and cool nights averaging 40 degrees F.(5 degrees C.). Summers can be extremely hot with daytime temperatures exceeding 105 degrees F.(41 degrees C.) in the shade, and evening lows averaging 72 degrees F. (22 degrees C.). Always wear a hat and use sunscreen while hiking. Drink plenty of water, it is recommend at least one gallon of water per person, per day.

Park Partners

Friends of Saguaro National Park

In 1996, a small group of park volunteers founded a non-profit organization called the Friends of Saguaro National Park. Their mission was, and still is, to assist the National Park Service with funding of special projects that would otherwise, in most instances, remain unfunded. Over the past 10 years, the Friends of Saguaro have raised over $500,000 that fully or partially funded many projects with Saguaro National Park.

(520) 733-8610

Directions

Driving

The Rincon Mountain District may be reached from the City of Tucson by traveling east on Broadway or Speedway to Freeman Road; Take Freeman Road south (right) to Old Spanish Trail (4 miles [6.5 km] from Speedway, 3 miles [5 km] from Broadway). Turn left onto Old Spanish Trail heading south. Look for signs to the Park entrance. The Park entrance is approximately .25 miles [.4 km] from Freeman Road.

The Tucson Mountain District may be reached from Tucson by traveling west on Speedway Boulevard. At the junction with Camino de Oeste, Speedway Boulevard will change names to Gates Pass Road. From this junction, continue to drive west on Gates Pass Road until you reach the "T" intersection with Kinney Road (4 miles [6.5 km]). Turn right on Kinney Road and drive three miles [5 km] north to the Park entrance. The entrance is on the right side of Kinney Road.

Flying

Major airlines serve Tucson, Arizona.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(520) 733-5153

Links