Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park

Hiking doesn't have to be hard -- Easy Hikes in Arizona

January 24, 2011, 10:30 am


How easy: The trail - with a name that means "beautiful view" or "lovely vista" in Spanish - begins in Oro Valley and offers several short-hike options on connecting trail segments.

It's easy to put together out-and-back hikes totaling a mile or so, or link segments into loops of two or more miles. Elevation gains are 300 feet or less on most of the loops.

Sights to see: Diverse desert vegetation and big views of craggy Pusch Ridge make this an exceptionally scenic hike for so little effort.

Arranging a hike that ends around sunset means you'll be strolling home in golden light. Joe and Amanda Preto enjoyed that gilded beauty one day recently when they hiked down the trail following an ascent of a nearby peak.

Get there: Take North Oracle Road to Linda Vista Boulevard in Oro Valley. Turn east on Linda Vista and drive 0.2 of a mile to a trailhead and parking area on the right.


How easy: The lower 1.1-mile section of the Esperero Trail in Sabino Canyon winds through mostly flat desert terrain with some moderately steep grades near the end of the section.

An upper section of the Esperero Trail continues beyond the 1.1-mile point, marked by a junction with the Rattlesnake Trail. Be aware that this upper section, which extends about nine miles high into the Catalina Mountains, is steep and best left to experienced hikers.

Sights to see: Even though the walking is quite easy, the views of the towering peaks and ridges of the Catalinas will keep your camera finger busy.

On a recent hike, Bill Wittleder paused along the trail to watch deer moving in brushy terrain and browsing for food.

Get there: Take Tanque Verde Road to Sabino Canyon Road and continue north about four miles to the canyon, where you'll pay a $5 per vehicle fee.

From the eastern end of the parking lot, walk east about 0.1 of a mile on a broad path and watch for the signed Esperero Trail on the left.


How easy: The 2.5-mile trail segment, in Saguaro National Park East, connects two points on the park's Cactus Forest Drive.

The terrain is mostly flat, and the trail accommodates either an out-and-back hike or a one-way trek by parties arranging a vehicle shuttle.

Sights to see: Superlative saguaros and other Sonoran Desert vegetation flank the trail, which is open to mountain bikers as well as hikers.

Dan and Lorena Moore paused on a recent hike to take in one of the route's unusual sights: the remains of lime kilns dating to 1880.

Get there: One way to get to Saguaro Park East is to take East 22nd Street to Old Spanish Trail and continue southeast to the park entrance at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail. The entrance fee is $10 per vehicle. Start out on the one-way Cactus Forest Drive and watch for the trailhead at the 2.8-mile point on the drive.


How easy: The 50-acre preserve - in gently rolling desert terrain west of Tucson - includes short paved paths and unpaved gravel trails. The paved and unpaved segments are graded to accommodate wheelchairs.

Sights to see: Desert vegetation lines the paths, and information panels along the way provide details on wildlife and the natural habitat.

"We've seen javelinas and deer out here," said Chrissie Hansen, who walked park trails recently with Paul Crosby and several leashed dogs. "It's a beautiful area."

Get there: Drive west on Speedway to Camino de Oeste. Turn right, north, onto Camino de Oeste and continue less than a mile to the park entrance on the right.


How easy: The trail, in Saguaro National Park West, is 0.8 of a mile long and gains only about 100 feet in elevation. It ascends to a ridge, but the uphill stretch is short and gently graded.

Sights to see: From an overlook point at the end of the trail, hikers get an expansive view of the sprawling Avra Valley and Picacho Peak in the distance.

There's also much to see on the walk to the overlook: gargantuan saguaro cacti, sandy washes meandering through the landscape, and some small but shapely rock formations.

Get there: Drive west out of Tucson on Speedway, which becomes Gates Pass Road. Cross the pass, continue to Kinney Road and follow Kinney Road northwest to the Saguaro Park entrance. Stop at the visitor center, where you'll pay a $10 per vehicle fee and get a map showing the way to the trailhead along the park's Hohokam Road.