The Saguaro cactus says, “Do anything you want.” These tree-like flowering desert cactus, pronounced “suhwaarow,” are difficult to categorize. They have a lifespan of 200 years. They can reach a maximum of 49 arms. However, because there is little pressure, some of them do not develop arms at all. Some Saguaros only grow two inches in ten years. Other 10-year-old Saguaros decide to get swole and grow to be around 60 feet tall. The Saguaro is one of the most inventive cactus on the globe, and we gave them their own park to praise them for their beauty: Saguaro National Park, in the southwest, and our favorite of the Arizona national parks.
Where is Saguaro National Park?
Saguaro National Park is an iconic experience in the American Southwest, located both east and west of Tucson. The Saguaro cactus, which is native to this area, is mostly found in the dry southern section of Arizona, with some extending into Sonora, Mexico, and Imperial County, California. Aside from those locations, the Saguaro is found nowhere else on the planet.
Best Time To Visit
The greatest time to visit Saguaro National Park is during the winter, when temperatures are warm, with highs around 65 degrees. Fall and spring are also pleasant, with temperate temperatures from November to March, however, Spring can be crowded. Summer is not the best time to visit because daytime temperatures might reach 105 degrees. Summer thunderstorms can sometimes bring lightning and flash floods, which is another reason to avoid going during that season. If you’re planning to camp, keep in mind that nocturnal temperatures typically drop by roughly 30 degrees.
Because of the temperate temperatures and the occasional surprise snowfall, the high season for Saguaro National Park is November through March. In April, however, the temperatures are more reasonable, and the Saguaro cactuses begin to bloom, despite the fact that the tourists have fled. Saguaros in bloom are a sight to behold, with their gorgeous white blossoms. The bee and bird populations in the area will agree. If you travel during the summer, be prepared for temperatures to climb over 110°F, and bring lots of water and sun protection.
Saguaro National Park is accessible all year. The Tucson Mountain District (west) is open to vehicles from sunrise to sunset every day, and to pedestrians and cyclists 24 hours a day, 356 days a year. The Rincon Mountain District (east) is available to vehicles from 6:00 a.m. until sunset every day, and to pedestrians and cyclists 24 hours a day. The Red Hills Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the exception of December 25th. For the most up-to-date hours and announcements, visit the park’s website. Due to COVID-19, Saguaro National Park is only open to a limited number of visitors.
Park Entrance Fees
To visit Saguaro National Park, you’ll need to buy a pass. A seven-day pass costs $25 for one car and all passengers. This pass gives you access to both parts of Saguaro National Park. If you plan on visiting a few National Parks this year, the Interagency Annual Pass, often known as the America the Beautiful Pass, is the best deal for most individuals. For one year from the date of purchase, you will have unlimited access to all Federal charge areas. The regular charge is $80, but seniors get a discount, and active-duty military, people with disabilities, and students in fourth grade get it for free.
Things To Do in Saguaro National Park
Bring a can-do attitude to this national park. It makes up for its lack of food booths and in-park lodging with easy-to-find trailheads right off the main road and a plethora of plants and creatures to see.
We started at the Red Hills Visitor Center because the west side of the park has a denser saguaro vegetation. We went outside and traveled the short interpretive route, where instructive plaques highlight the local ecology. Clients may reach the Desert Discovery Nature Trail by driving up the road, which we found to be suitable even for strollers. We were surrounded by slow-growing saguaro giants and a variety of birds hopping from cactus to cactus on both roads. Having a set of binoculars for each member of the family is a fantastic idea – even Dad didn’t want to miss out on seeing little gamble quail skittering across the desert floor.
Visitors can also observe desert creatures that are hard to spot in the wild, such as bobcats and coyotes, as well as my personal Sonoran Desert favorite, the javelina. Tickets with timed entrance must be obtained in advance to ensure social distancing, and prices range from $12 to $24 (children under 3 years old are free).
There are fewer saguaros on the eastern side of Saguaro National Park because it is more mountainous and at a higher altitude, but there are still plenty of trails and wildlife. The elevation also makes for excellent sunset viewing. Take the short Tanque Verde Ridge Trail after night to see a spectacular sky show.
Best Saguaro National Park Hiking Trails
Freeman Homestead Trail
Garwood Dam and Wildhorse Tank
Loma Verde Loop
Wild Dog Trail
Tanque Verde Ridge Trail
Hope Camp and Ridgeview Trail
King Canyon / Gould Mine Loop
Sendero Esperanza Trail to the Ridge
Sendero Esperanza Trail to Wasson Peak
Cactus Garden strolls at either visitor center
Where To Stay
JW Marriot Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa is located just outside of Saguaro National Park on the west side. This desert property has everything a family could desire, including a massive pool, a lazy river, and a waterslide. For those packing lunches for park adventures, there are several on-site food options as well as some quick grab-and-go options. For parents’ caffeine requirements, there’s also a Starbucks.
Tanque Verde Ranch, a huge cattle ranch that has been in existence for more than 100 years, is located on the opposite side of Tucson, just next to Saguaro National Park’s eastern part. With the Sonoran Desert as a background, the facility provides horseback riding, swimming, tennis, and an astonishing choice of activities for kids, including horseshoe painting, tie-dyeing, guided nature walks, fishing trips, and archery. We came to the ranch not as overnight guests, but for the ranch’s annual Thanksgiving meal, which was held on the property’s large lawn next to the lovely barn.