Arizona Vacation

Saguaro National Park In Tucson Arizona

By AZ Leisure Staff Writers

The Saguaro Holds Secrets

Think Arizona and the statuesque Saguaro Cactus usually comes to mind. It stands tall as an iconic symbol of Arizona as they seem to hold secrets to the the days of the Old West. That's because many of these stately plants are thousands of years-old and were there to witness ancient Native American civilizations, the arrival of Spanish Explorers in the 1600s, the wagon trains of early American settlers and the "rough and tough" days of cowboys and outlaws.


The only place in the world the Saguaro exists is the Sonoran Desert and are only found in a few sections of Arizona and Northern Mexico. A visit to Tucson Arizona will bring them up close and personal. And if they could speak, they would surely be able to give you a history lesson.

Saguaro National Park Is Two-Faced

Saguaro National Park is divided into two districts each with its own Visitor's Center. The Tucson Mountain District (Saguaro West) and the Rincon Mountain District ( Saguaro East). They are located on opposite sides of Tucson about 30 miles apart. If you plan on visiting both Parks in the same day, plan on driving through the city to get to the other side. Both districts serve to enhance and protect these magnificent cacti while providing access to miles of hiking and bicycling trails as well as conducting interpretative nature programs highlighting some of the most diverse plant life in the American desert.

Saguaro Park West

Saguaro West (Tucson Mountain District) encompasses two distinct biological zones and climbs to an elevation of 4,687 feet. Photographers and artists love the play of sunlight across the mountains and the deep purple sunsets that fill the nightime sky.

Hiking this district ranges from easy nature trails to rugged, switchbacks. Bring plenty of water as temperatures can exceed 100 degrees during the summer. Even in more temperate seasons, stay hydrated. Equestrians and hikers share the 2.7 mile one way Cam-Boh Trail which connects the two sections of the Saguaro West District.

The six-mile Bajada Loop is excellent for bikers featuring a scenic ride through the lower elevations. The loop is graveled for use by hikers, bikers and vehicles. There are hundreds of ancient petroglyphs along the the half-mile Signal Hill Petroglyphs Trail which while rough in spots, is easy to traverse the rocky hilltop. A nearby picnic area makes for a relaxing spot for lunch.

The Red Hills Visitor Center offers an orientation program introducing visitors to the Park and an insight into the Native American perspective of Saguaros.

Saguaro West Bird Walk

Over twenty-five species of birds call Saguaro National Park home and the Tucson Mountain District is the perfect place to explore and capture on film these spectacular winged residents of the park. A two hour bird walk begins at the Red Hills Visitor Center and birdwatchers caravan to several different locations. The bird walk takes in multiple trails although all are considered easy to navigate. The roads are flat wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking through dirt and gravel. Everyone will enjoy the bird walk as guide John Higgins leads you through this fascinating experience.

Saguaro East (Rincon Mountain District)

The Rincon Mountain District soars to 8,666 ft and is home to six different biological communities. From desert scrub to mixed conifer, the wide range of elevations makes the Rincon Mountain District home to more diverse plant life as well as wildlife more frequently found in the higher elevations, such as the black bear, Mexican spotted owl, and white-tailed deer.

Saguaro East, offers numerous hiking trails, a fantastic saguaro forest and a scenic auto or bike tour with stunning scenery and views of the Rincon Mountains. The Cactus Forest Loop Drive is open to bicyclists and cars and loops around for eight miles. This is a spectacular drive with numerous hiking trails designed to get you out of the car and amongst these magnificent saguaros. An easy stroll is the Desert Ecology Trail, a quarter mile round-trip paved trail that is wheelchair accessible and informative. You'll be introduced to the plants and animals that live in the Sonoran Desert. A one mile round -trip trail leads you to the Freeman Homestead where you can visit an old homestead site and see a grove of giant saguaros.

Access to the Saguaro Wilderness Area in the Rincon Mountain District is available for camping by permit only. In addition, livestock defined as donkeys, horses and mules are permitted here. Over 100 miles of trails open to livestock use are available in the 57,000 acre wilderness. The wilderness encompasses desert, grassland, oak woodland, pine forests and mixed conifer forests.

Hours and Fees

Saguaro National Park in Tucson is open from 7:00AM to sunset year round. The Visitor Centers are open from 9:00AM to 5:00PM daily except Christmas Day. Fees are charged per vehicle and bicyclists, motorcycles and pedestrians are charged individually. Entrance fees are valid for 7 days. Annual passes are available. Seniors over 62 years of age and permanently disabled residents and US citizens are eligible to purchase a "Golden Age Passport" which grants lifetime admission to National Parks.

Getting to Saguaro National Park

Rincon Mountain District can be reached from the City of Tucson by traveling east on Broadway or Speedway Boulevard to Freeman Road. Turn right (south) on Freeman to Old Spanish Trail. Turn left on Old Spanish Trail and � mile to the Park entrance on your left.

From Interstate 10 exit at Houghton Road (Exit 275) and drive 9.5 miles north to Old Spanish Trail and turn right. Drive 3 miles to the Park entrance on your left.

Tucson Mountain District can be reached from the City of Tucson by driving west on Speedway Boulevard (name will change to Gates Pass Road) until it ends at Kinney Road. Turn right (north) on Kinney Road and drive 3 miles to the Park entrance on your right.

From Interstate 10 east exit at Avra Valley Road and drive 5 miles to Sandario Road. Turn left on Sandario Road and drive 9 miles to Kinney Road. Turn left on Kinney Road and drive 2 miles to the Visitor Center on your left.

Saguaro National Forest Maps

Saguaro Park Tucson Mountain District

For More Information

Saguaro National Park
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, Arizona 85730
East: (520) 733-5153
West: (520) 733-5158

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