There are roughly 165 miles of marked trails in Saguaro, and the Cactus Forest is threaded with roughly one-quarter of that total with a spider-web of trails that ramble through the Sonoran Desert. Cumberland Island National Seashore: Georgia’s Coastal Jewel, UDATED | Funding Cuts Imperil Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Program At Padre Island National Seashore, UC Merced Helps Preserve Sequoia National Park History. Manning Camp, Saguaro National Park/Friends of Saguaro. Yes, you certainly can drive through Saguaro in a day or less, but you'll miss the essence of this iconic Southwestern landscape. 154.1k Followers, 270 Following, 1,112 Posts - See Instagram photos and videos from Saguaro National Park (@saguaronationalpark) Stop and pause along the way and you might catch the drumming of a few Gila woodpeckers. In the Tucson Mountain District, the Signal Hill Petroglyphs Trail offers a glimpse of history while the Hugh Norris Trail offers the longest hike in the western district at 4.9 miles one-way to the top of Wasson Peak. Park rangers in Saguaro National Park offers several guided interpretive programs throughout both areas of the park. Ask Google how much time you should spend in the park and you might see stories with one-day itineraries or people arguing whether two days is too long. The larger region surrounding the park is home to over 6,000 plant species–second only to the Amazon Rainforest in biodiversity. You’ll be surrounded by saguaros as you hike up to the ridge line, which boasts sweeping views of the park. When you first head down the Douglas Spring Trail, it almost seems as if you're strolling through a botanical garden. My last day in Tucson was spent at the Desert Museum before heading to the airport. What better way to prepare yourself for an exploration of the national park than to take a primer on the vegetation and wildlife that make this place home? The eastern part of the park is flatter, a cinch to hike, and easily accessible from the Douglas Spring trailhead at the end of Speedway Blvd. The 8-mile loop is popular with area cyclists, so keep an eye out for them and be courteous by slowing down and giving them room. Desert hiking in extreme heat can be hazardous, but savvy visitors know they can hike early, pace themselves, rest often, and drink at least one gallon of water per person per day — while using sunscreen and wearing a hat with a full brim. Placards not only identify these plants for you, but explain what they can be used for. It’s almost cliché to say the Sonoran desert looks like the background of a Wile E. Coyote cartoon. The loop is less than a mile in length, and relatively level, with only a few short mild dips and rises. By now, you should be ready to return to your room to clean up for dinner...or you might want to linger to enjoy the sunset. The loop is less than a mile in length, and relatively level, with only a few short mild dips and rises. Saguaro National Park covers little more than 90,000 acres, which is small compared to Yellowstone or Death Valley national parks, and less than a quarter the size of nearby Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. A copy of National Parks Traveler's financial statements may be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: National Parks Traveler, P.O. You can start your day's exploration right at the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center. You can stop and get pictures of the cacti, read some educational signs about the history of the park, and do a short hike through the forest if you'd like. The luxe dude ranch is about as close to staying in Saguaro National Park as you can get without gear, and even offers guided horseback rides through the saguaros with the added bonus of a bar to enjoy a local craft beer overlooking the Saguaro sunset. Enrance Fees: $25 for private vehicles good for one week; $20 for motorcycles; $15 for pedestrians and cyclists. On the east side, take the Bajada Loop Road, which is only six miles but is partially unpaved. High temperatures from May through September often exceed 100 degree Fahrenheit. October through April, visitors can experience cooler highs in the 60s to 70s with temperatures dropping below freezing occasionally overnight. On March 1, 1933 Saguaro National Monument was created. Jackrabbits, horned lizards and Gila monsters are frequently encountered. The license is not an endorsement by the State. The first evening, I went on a ranger led night hike and the moon was so bright we didn't really need flashlights. (Ask about their work with the Tarahumara frog when you visit.). Follow this to Garwood Dam and then take the Carillo Trial along the mountain ridgeline and back to the trailhead. Hikes to consider in this district include the Valley View Overlook, an eight-tenths-of-a-mile out-and-back trek that can be busy with visitors, and the Desert Discovery Trail, a half-mile paved loop good for wheelchairs and which offers exhibits to help you better under the plants, animals, and ecology of the Sonoran Desert. Those looking for a more arduous hike might consider the King Canyon Trail, a 3.5-mile trek that leads you to the highest point in the Tucson Mountains, 4,687-foot-tall Wasson Peak. It also serves as a genetic refuge for "three endangered native fish, one state endangered snake, and several endangered plants." Washington: National Parks Traveler is registered with Washington State’s Charities Program as required by law and additional information is available by calling 800-332-4483 or visiting. 80 reviews of Saguaro National Park West "This was the first (and so far only) National Park I have written a letter to thanking them for their excellent Junior Ranger Program. So unless you’re looking to rough it in the desert, you’ll likely need to find a hotel. National Parks Traveler is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit media organization. Or just go to Tucson: It’s only a half hour from the park, has an outstanding food and drink scene, and a chilled-out artsy vibe. Take the Bajada Scenic Loop and stop at the Signal Hill Picnic Area both for lunch and to study the rock art that dates to the prehistoric Hohokam culture. One of the reasons Saguaro National Park is such a wonderful escape is the sheer lack of RVs, busses, and other large vehicles: The park is intended for hikers and backpackers, so you won’t find any RV sites within its gates. Marana rarely gets mentioned in articles about Saguaro National Park and is still the best kept travel secret in the region. Prime time in southern Arizona is spring or fall, when daytime highs rarely get over a dry 90 degrees and the mornings are pleasantly cool. This might be counterintuitive to some, but start your trip with a visit outside the park. Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, get Next Flight Out for more travel coverage, and subscribe here for our YouTube channel to get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun. They come in all shapes and sizes, some appearing quite humanoid," Becky Lomax, author of Moon USA National Parks: The Complete Guide to All 62 Parks (which just arrived in October), reminds me. National Parks Traveler was formed in the state of Utah for the purpose of informing and educating about national parks and protected areas. The next two days, I spent hiking all over the park. It ends at the highest point in the western side, the 4.687-foot Wasson Peak. These cacti can grow as tall as 50 feet and may weigh more than six tons. Wildflowers were coloring the park, temperatures were warming, but not too hot or too cold, and crowds seemingly had gone elsewhere. And hit the Desert Discovery Nature Trail, a half-mile detour where you’ll learn all about the flora and fauna of the area. The Rincon Mountain District is the larger of the two districts, and you can spend a day, or days, here. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is in Marana just a bit further east of the I-10 from Saguaro National Park West. What should you do on day three? They'll lead you to some pretty interesting displays/exhibits, such as the Hummingbird Aviary and the Walk-in Aviary, where nearly 20 bird species live, including Cardinals, Gambel's quail, and the Greater roadrunner. There's even an 1,100-square foot aquarium facility at the museum with two galleries. In October of 1994, President Bill Clinton enlarged the park boundaries once more to create America’s 52nd national park. I've made two visits to Saguaro in the past decade, and neither was long enough. High temperatures from May through September often exceed 100 degree Fahrenheit. Bobcats, mountain lions and black bears thrive in the park as well, so visitors should always be aware. For pretty much the entirety, you’ll be treated to panoramic views out over the park. While you're hiking in the forest, be sure to keep an eye out for Gila woodpeckers and gilded flickers that whittle out cavities in saguaros for their nests. President John F. Kennedy expanded the land in 1961 and Congress designated 71,400 acres as wilderness lands in 1976. After perusing the bookstore there to pick up any guide books, hats, T-shirts or other memorabilia, take a stroll through the Ethnoboany Garden right outside. You'll need a backcountry permit to head up to the camp, or elsewhere in the park's backcountry, for that matter, if you're staying overnight. Stop and pause along the way and you might, National Parks Traveler 2019-2020 Annual Report. What could you use for shelter? The silly, green giants with arms pointed in all directions look like they’re about to break into a musical number at any second. The A list Western Films were and until recently (Three Amigos)  still were filmed at Old Tucson, orginally a movie studio and more recently more of a theme park located only a few miles from the Red Hills visitor center. There's even a short, 2.5-mile stretch that is open to mountain bikers, though that's too short to truly appreciate what the area offers if you're traveling by bike. Or take a longer hike in the Rincon District. Another somewhat short hike is along the Freeman Homestead Nature Trail. Fun Fact: The varied elevation within the park allows for remarkable biodiversity. I was the Backcountry Ranger stationed at Manning Camp in the late 1970's and I highly recommend the trip up into the Rincons for adventurous backpackers. It’s separated into two sections, each of which can be easily tackled in a day: East (also called the Rincon Mountain District or RMD) and West (aka the Tucson Mountain District or TMD). When you do get out to stretch your legs, keep a sharp eye. Hiking is popular in the park with more than 165 miles of hiking trails throughout the park. If you prefer to see national parks from the air-conditioned comfort of your car, Saguaro makes that easy too. Start with a few hours spent at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum just south of the park's Tucson Mountain District to the west of downtown Tucson. It was a solo trip. Red Hills Visitor Center is 26 minutes from the Cortaro Road/I-10 cluster of nicer hotels and locally-owned restaurants in the Town of Marana that are immediately adjacent to the gorgeous Picture Rocks scenic drive through Saguaro National Park West. You'll find the park's Centennial Saguaro in front of the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center/Kurt Repanshek. The Rincon Mountain District is located east of the city and the Tucson Mountain District is located outside northwest of Tucson. Marana is my second home, see the Ritz on my walk every morning. Within the museum's animal collection are 20 endangered or threatened species. Make sure to stop at the Signal Hill Petroglyph trail and take the short walk to the ancient etchings. Pennsylvania: The official registration and financial information of National Parks Traveler may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling 800-732-0999. For younger patrons, the Junior Ranger Program can learn about the desert environment through various activities and programs. The saguaro (pronounced sah-WHAH-ro, if you don’t want to be corrected by locals) is also exceedingly rare, found only in southern Arizona and northern Mexico. As the lighting changes throughout the day, so does what you discover about the saguaro spines, their shapes, and what grows in their shadows. prehistoric Hohokam culture. Odds are, if you take the time to delve into this surprising park you'll find reason enough to return. see a variety of cacti, from saguaro to cholla, as well as mesquite, soaptree, and mormon tea. The Tanque Verde Ranch borders the east side of the park, and is actually visible from the park’s ridgeline. Tour the museum, or study its website, and you can learn about desert tortoises, elf owls, Gila monsters, scorpions, and tarantulas that are present in the Sonoran Desert. A quarter-inch tall version might already be two years old, a desert sprite overlooked amid other vegetation. There he built a three-room adobe home with several outbuildings, dug a well, and constructed a corral out of octillo branches. I spent a long weekend at Saguaro in November of 2019. Hike out the Douglas Spring Trail and on to Bridal Wreath Falls, where hanging gardens are nourished by the falling waters...which can either be a trickle, or a torrent, depending on recent rains. In April, the Cactus Forest bursts with color/Marcelle Shoop. This easy access and convenient lodging makes it all the more puzzling that Saguaro doesn’t get more love. The trail only takes 15-20 minutes to complete, and along the way you'll see a variety of cacti, from saguaro to cholla, as well as mesquite, soaptree, and mormon tea. "Most of all, it’s the stately saguaros you want to see. The trail is wide and smooth, lined by all sorts of desert vegetation that explodes like a kaleidoscope during the spring bloom, which usually arrives by early-to-mid April. This is a garden of Sonoran Desert plants that long have been used by local cultures for foods and other uses. Residents of the following states may obtain a copy of our financial and additional information as stated below: The Desert museum is great. Despite its arid appearance, this is a rich and diverse landscaope. (Source: National Park Service) Learn more about Saguaro NP’s Rincon Mountain District with the Cactus Forest Drive Guide or commemorate your visit with any of these official national park products from Western National Parks Association. For something easier on the west side, take the .8-mile Valley View Trail, which as the name suggests also boasts phenomenal views of the valley, on a far shorter walk. Among its payoffs is a nice view out across a cactus forest. Hiking loops such as the Mica View Loop offers a quick look at the cactus landscape while longer hikes, such as the 5.6-mile Garwood Loop, travel into the foothills of the Rincon Moutains and offer great views of the Catalina Mountains. There are no front-country campgrounds at Saguaro. Saguaro National Park is separated into two districts surrounding Tucson, Arizona. As the sign to the trail states, "Imagine living in the Sonoran Desert. Other than Manning, the campgrounds have either two or three sites. Contrary to the popular notion that desert landscapes are barren and uninhabitable, Saguaro National Park is teeming with life. Unfortunately it has closed and been taken over by the city of Tucscon. The Gila woodpecker, elf owl, Anna’s hummingbird, Harris’s hawk, roadrunner and many other birds make birdwatching in Saguaro National Park very popular and rewarding. Six campgrounds, ranging in elevation from 4,800 feet to 8,000 feet above sea level, are located throughout the park. The park is open year-round. It was elevated to national park status on October 14, 1994, shortly before two other desert national parks, Joshua Tree and Death Valley, were also redesignated as national parks. What To Know Before You Visit the Grand Canyon This Year, David C Tomlinson / the image bank / getty images, John Cancalosi / Stockbyte / getty images. What follows are some suggestions on what you might consider doing in the park. And while it's true that Tucson's footprint around Saguaro has grown considerably since it was designated as a national monument back in 1933, that doesn't mean the city is constantly over your shoulder wherever you head in the park. If Rincon is summited more than a couple of times in a month, that's busy! Also, trailers longer than 35 feet or any vehicle wider than 8 feet are not permitted on the loop drive; there just isn't room for those large vehicles. Birding can be a challenging hobby out in the open, but here inside the aviary your odds of matching a particular bird species with its look and call go up significantly and better prepare you for what you should look for, and listen for, out in the national park. The camp was built in 1905 by one of Tucson’s early mayors. Saguaro National Park covers little more than 90,000 acres, which is small compared to Yellowstone or Death Valley national parks, and less than a quarter the size of nearby Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.But that doesn't mean you should take a windshield tour of Saguaro and be gone in 24 hours. Marana has 50,000+ population and is bordered on one side by Saguaro National Park West. Though the mountainous desert topography might look intimidating, Saguaro National Park is one of the easier national parks to hike. Excellent article on the multitude of adventures available at Saguaro NP. The whole loop is just under seven miles, or three to four hours. The cacti bloom from late April through early June, opening their flowers in the night and closing them during the high daytime temperatures.