Dreaming of seeing the amazing landscape of gigantic cacti with various shapes spread across the Sonoran Desert? Then you must visit the Saguaro National Park, in Arizona, and wander around the park to see the majestic saguaro – the symbol of the American Southwest. From scenic drives to hikes amongst trails packed with the unique plant, find in this guide everything you need to plan a trip to Saguaro National Park.
About the park
In Saguaro National Park you can see the biggest concentration of cacti in the US. These colossal plants can live more than 100 years and can be as tall as 40 feet (almost the size of a 3-story building).
The park is located in the city of Tucson, Arizona, and is divided between 2 sections – the West and East districts – with the city in the middle. You should plan on visiting the two sides of the park, knowing it takes around 40 minutes to go from one section to the other. However, if you are short on time, the West district is the best one to visit, since it has the largest population of saguaros.
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Where is Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is located in Tucson, the second-largest city of Arizona, and is easily reachable from other cities in Arizona by car, or from major cities in the US by plane.
Getting to Saguaro National Park
The closest airport to Saguaro National Park is located in Tucson and is connected with many major US cities. Additionally, if you are on a road trip or planning on driving to the park, here are the main distances from a few destinations.
- Phoenix, AZ: 105 miles
- Flagstaff, AZ: 250 miles
- Sedona, AZ: 220 miles
- Las Vegas, NV: 400 miles
- El Paso, TX: 310 miles
- Grand Canyon National Park: 340 miles
- Petrified Forest National Park: 265 miles
The entrance fee to National Park is US$ 25 per vehicle, US$ 15 per person, and US$ 20 per motorcycle and is valid for 7 consecutive days.
Also, if you want to visit the park throughout the year, you can purchase the National Park Annual Pass which costs U$ 45 and is valid for 12 months from the date of purchase.
And if you are planning on visiting other national parks in Utah or in the United States, you should consider purchasing the America the Beautiful – The National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass. This pass costs US$ 80 and allows you to visit all the national parks you want during a 12-month period (starting from the date of purchase).
Hotels near National Park
The best hotels near Saguaro National Park can be found in downtown Tucson, where you can reach the West and East districts in around 20 and 30 minutes, respectively.
BEST HOTELS IN TUCSON
Restaurants nearby the park
The young, warm, and vibrant city of Tucson has amazing Mexican food and plenty of restaurants with great vibes. You can also give mezcal a try! Plan on bringing water and snacks for a picnic in the park, and head back to the city for a nice meal in a restaurant.
RESTAURANTS TO VISIT IN TUCSON
- Seis Kitchen at Mercado San Agustin
- Agustin Kitchen
- Welcome Diner
Weather and best time to visit the park
Winter is one of the best times to visit the Saguaro National Park because of the mild temperatures in Arizona this time of the year. Spring and fall are also great alternatives, while summers can be enjoyed with caution as the temperatures can reach over 1000 F during the day.
The best things to do in Saguaro National Park
VALLEY VIEW OVERLOOK TRAIL
A gorgeous 0.8-mile hike out and back going through an easy path full of saguaros with unique shapes and various heights. The Valley View Overlook Trail offers one of the best combinations in Saguaro National Park, with views of the mountains, desert, and the saguaro forest.
CACTUS GARDEN TRAIL
The Cactus Garden Trail is a short wheelchair-accessible trail that offers a walkway where you can see not only the saguaros but also a variety of desert plants.
DESERT DISCOVERY NATURE TRAIL
In the Desert Discovery Nature Trail, you can walk through a stand of large saguaros in a flat paved 0.5-mile loop that is wheelchair accessible and family-friendly.
BAJADA LOOP DRIVE
If you don’t have enough time to hike, head to the West district of Saguaro National Park to cruise along the Bajada Loop Drive, a 5-mile loop that gives you an amazing sight of the best features of the park.
Also, although on a dirt road, a four-wheel drive isn’t required, so regular cars can go on this drive without problems (if going on a rainy day, be sure to check the conditions of the road in the visitor center).
For one of the best views in the park, plan on going on an 8-mile hike out and back to Wassen Peak. Though strenuous, in this hike you can see the remains of old mining operations and have the perfect views of Saguaro National Park and the city of Tucson.
MICA VIEW TRAIL
Mica View Trail is a great hike in the East district of Saguaro National Park. This is a 2-mile easy stroll, that is perfect for all ages and fitness levels.
CACTUS FOREST LOOP DRIVE
Just like the West district, the East section of the park also has a scenic drive – the Cactus Forest Loop. This is an 8-mile scenic drive with many pullouts where to can stop to take in the view of the saguaro forest.
DESERT ECOLOGY TRAIL
Desert Ecology Trail is a short walk that is part of the Cactus Forest Drive and is a great alternative to explore the desert life in the park if short on time.
Because it’s a bit similar to the Desert Discovery Nature Trail in the West section, if you’ve seen the other, you can probably skip this one.
Things to do around the park
When you are done visiting Saguaro National Park, be sure to pay a visit to the Sonora Desert Museum, walk around Congress Street in Tucson, grab a bite in Mercado San Augustin, and check out the many restaurants in Tucson, and see the San Xavier del Bac Mission.
Tips for visiting Saguaro National Park
When visiting Saguaro National Park, have plenty of water – each person should carry at least one gallon of water per day.
Hiking or doing other outdoor activities in extreme heat can be hazardous. Be cautious!
Be aware of rattlesnakes.
If you’re visiting during the summer months, here are the park’s recommendations for hikes:
- If the daily high temperature is between 95° and 110° F, finish your hike by 10 am.
- If the daily high temperature is at or above 110° F, please stay home.
- Turn around BEFORE you have consumed half of your water supply.
Where to go from here
OTHER POINTS OF INTEREST IN ARIZONA
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE TO VISIT OTHER NATIONAL PARKS:
- Arches National Park: The Complete Guide to Arches National Park and The Best Hikes in the Park
- Capitol Reef National Park: Guide to Capitol Reef National Park and the Best Hikes in the Park
- Canyonlands National Park: The Complete Guide to Canyonlands National Park
- Rocky Mountain National Park: First-Timer’s Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park and 3-day itinerary to the park
- Bryce Canyon National Park: The Complete Guide to Bryce Canyon National Park
- Zion National Park: Best Hikes in Zion National Park
- Utah Itinerary: The Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip Itinerary
- White Sands National Park: How to Plan the Perfect Visit to White Sands National Park