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Although there are many types of cacti that grow around the world, the giant saguaro is the largest and most iconic variety in the U.S. These impressive plants are only found in a very small part of the Southwest, around Tucson, Arizona, and the park is actually split into two separate parts by the city. These two sections are about 45 to 60 minutes apart from each other, and each one offers something unique for curious visitors and lovers of the desert.
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Highlights of a visit to the Tucson Mountain District are the petroglyphs at the Signal Hill Picnic Area, the Valley View Overlook Trail to see the nearby mountains and valleys, and the Native American orientation program at the Red Hills Visitor Center. Meanwhile, at the Rincon Mountain District, you can take a car or bike tour around Cactus Forest Loop Drive, hike the Freeman Homestead Trail, and explore many different hiking trails in the area.
Park on Loop Drive to reach the hiking trails from the visitor’s center or start your hike from eastern end of Speedway Boulevard. There are over 165 miles of hiking trails here to get in touch with nature. An overnight hiking trip into the wilderness can take you from elevations of 3,000 feet to 8,000 feet high. If you want to bike through the park, try the 8-mile Loop Drive if you’re up for some steep hills and tight turns.
Although there are no RV camping spots available in the park, you can backcountry camp with a permit and hike into one of six campgrounds in the Saguaro Wilderness Area. The permit fee is $8 per campsite. Manning Camp is the only campground that provides year-around water, to that’s definitely something you’ll need to plan ahead for in the desert.
The most popular time to visit the park is between November and March, although the park is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. In the winter, you can expect temperatures to be between the high-50s and the mid-70s. Between late-April and June, you can often see the saguaro cacti in bloom, which is a truly special sight to see.
The weekly national park passes to enter this park are $15 if you enter by vehicle or $5 if you enter on foot or bicycle. There are visitors’ centers on the east and west ends of the park where you can start your exploration of this amazing place. And if you have time, try to linger in the park until close to sunset because seeing these giant cacti in the colorful sunset hours is something you’ll never forget!
Saguaro National Park Information
Address: 3693 South Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, Arizona 85730