Saguaro National Park
See giant symbols of the Southwest in the only place where saguaros grow in the Sonoran Desert near Tucson.
Saguaro National Park protects the Sonoran Desert’s signature cactuses in vast areas that attract visitors from around the world. Separated by the city of Tucson, the park has east and west districts, both brimming with native plants and wildlife that thrive in areas where the desert floor gives way to mountain foothills. The surprising biodiversity here supports desert critters such as javelinas and coyotes in the lower elevations and black bears in the upper reaches. The western section of the park lies within the ancestral home of the Tohono O’Odham people, who still harvest saguaro fruit every summer.
Walk Among the Saguaros
In the most bio-diverse desert in North America, visitors get up close to plants they’ve only seen in movies. The elders of the cactus forest are often 50 feet tall and more than 200 years old. Each district of the park has a visitor center with easy garden walks and access to trailheads that lead to longer, tougher hikes. With more than 170 miles of hiking in the two districts combined, visitors can choose from desert romps in the west or mountainous treks in the east. Loma Verde trailhead in the east park leads to multiple trails in the Rincon Mountains. In the west district, hike the 1-mile Valley View Overlook Trail in the Tucson Mountains and set up a picnic at Signal Hill, which has the largest concentration of petroglyphs in the park.
Both sections of the park give visitors a driving-tour option to see the saguaros up close. In the east section, the Cactus Forest Loop runs 8 miles through the park into the Rincon Mountains. The paved road is shared with cyclists, so resist the urge to zoom along the roller-coaster road.
In the west section of the park, Bajada Loop Drive takes visitors 5 miles on a dirt road into a magnificent desert setting. Prefer to stay on paved streets? Kinney Road and Picture Rocks Road offer a fun ride along the edges of the park in the Tucson Mountains.
Don’t rely on GPS to get to the west district. Instead, take the scenic route over Gates Pass, one of the most exhilarating roads in the Tucson area. Saguaro studded hills in Tucson Mountain Park give visitors a glimpse of what’s to come. Before entering the park, make note of two of the area’s points of pride. Old Tucson and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum are close to the entry of the national park, providing fun and educational opportunities to add to this unique Sonoran Desert experience.
"When you see a saguaro in person, it's difficult to comprehend their size and how unique they are; each one has its own personality. I never get tired of seeing a saguaro cactus. Every time I come out here, I see something different and I am still amazed by the Sonoran Desert.
Saguaros are like people. You'll go out during the sunset, see the silhouettes, and it looks like there are full families and groups of people interacting and enjoying themselves."
– Freddy G. Fernandez-Ramirez, Park Guide
- The visitor centers in both districts are fully accessible with assistive door systems, flat surfaces, accessible restrooms, paved cactus garden paths, a Braille version of the park brochure, and captioned orientation programs. Additionally, Saguaro West's visitor center offers volume assist, audio descriptions, and neckloop telecoil couplers for its film program.
- Both districts have paved trails with resting benches and exhibits about the plants and wildlife in the area. The ¼-mile Desert Ecology Trail at Saguaro East is graded to ADA standards and supports all types of wheelchairs. The ½-mile Desert Discovery Trail at Saguaro West also includes shaded ramadas and trail guides in Braille for rent at the visitor center.
- There are six picnic areas within Saguaro National Park. In each area, there is at least one picnic table with an overhanging end for wheelchair access and accessible restrooms (no water). Ground surfaces in these areas are compacted soil and gravel.
For more information
Saguaro National Park
3693 S Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730