Saguaro National Park Hikes

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Saguaro National Park is the ideal destination if you have a desert obsession and want to be humbled by the environment. Located in Southern Arizona, it is among the best national parks to visit in January and other winter months. Although the park is usually unmanageable and hot during the summer, there are many hiking trails you can take advantage of.

No matter when you go, be sure to bring plenty of water and apply sunscreen. This article gives insight into all levels of hiking trails available, so you can find the best Saguaro National Park hikes to include on your next trip. Like its name, expect to see hundreds, if not thousands, of saguaro cactus while you are there.

Saguaro National Park East

The park has two parts. East of Tucson, the forested area is home to the Saguaro National Park East visitor center, which is located in a historic ranch house. The western part of the park is more arid and includes desert scrublands preserved as natural areas.

Saguaro National Park East was created as a result of a donation from businessman, philanthropist and conservationist C.C. “Doc” Covington in 1954 to preserve the native flora and fauna on his ranchland holdings east of Tucson, Arizona.

Saguaro National Park East is a national park in southeastern Arizona just east of Tucson Arizona. The Saguaro National Park East is one of the most popular destinations in Tucson and encompasses 1,327 acres and includes hiking trails that are accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities. The park is open every day of the year.

The park is best known for its large stands of the namesake cactus and the Giant Saguaro Cactus Garden with its many mature specimens. The park is also home to saguaro cacti, the iconic symbol of the American Southwest.

The plant life within the garden includes two other cacti species – prickly pear and barrel – as well as ocotillo, cholla cactus and organ pipe cactus.

Other wildlife includes coyotes, javelina (wild pigs), bobcats and cougars; there are also occasional sightings of mountain lion and bear.

Best Saguaro National Park Hikes

1. Freeman Homestead Trail

You will encounter a grove of huge saguaro cactus, an incredible desert wash, and an old homestead foundation on this trail. You can observe Great Horned Owls from a ridge found above the wash.

You will get a deeper understanding of the phrase “home in the desert” as you encounter interpretive signs regarding the plant life and history along the trail. The signs also have excursion activities that youngsters can enjoy.

2. Mica View Loop Trail

The Mica View Loop Trail is located on the eastern side of the park and is considered one of the easier hiking trails. It is popular among many people as it has alluring flowers and is accessible to all hiking levels.

The trail is usually open throughout the year and is suitable for those who prefer to take early morning hikes or hikes later in the evening. The first part of the trail is somewhat sandy, while the last ¾ mile of the course is paved.

You are likely to encounter wild animals on this trail. Therefore, you have to be very vigilant. There have been reported sightings of bobcats, coyotes, and snakes.

3. Signal Hill Trail

Signal Hill Trail is a 0.15-mile trail that is barely considered a hike but is included in this guide because the short ascent ushers you into an area surrounding American Indian petroglyphs.

Signal Hill Trail starts from the picnic site and entails a sequence of rock steps uphill. There is a terrific view of desert topography and the petroglyphs at the top. You’ll also come across a warning sign for rattlesnakes on the trail, so you have to be careful where you walk.

4. Valley View

Valley View Trail is your best bet if you want to soak yourself in the breathtaking Saguaro Desert landscape. The trail combines two fantastic trails amid picturesque Bajada Drive.

The Trail begins at the parking site (constructed by Civilian Conservation Corps) at Valley View. It extends into an outlook where you can observe Picacho Peak on the northern side and Avra Valley.

If you wish to take a lengthier trek, you can lengthen your hike by trekking on Wild Dog Track. Wild Dog Trail extends from one end of Loop Drive to the other.

If your crew consists of non-hikers and hikers, this presents an excellent chance to drop off the hikers on one side and pick them up at the other end.

5. Desert Discovery Nature

Desert Discovery Nature Trail lined with saguaro cacti
Desert Discovery Nature Trail lined with saguaro cacti

Desert Discovery Nature Trail is an excellent hike if you want to traverse the park. The trail is spectacular, especially at sunset. Sunsets in Arizona are the best. You can enjoy the wildlife, plants, and interpretive signs along the nature trail.

You can bring your dog with you on this trail, but you have to keep it on a leash. The paved trail is also suitable for strollers and wheelchairs. You can watch the sunset from the covered benches you will find along the trail.

6. Loma Verde Loop

Loma Verde Loop extends through a mature mesquite tree thicket. Past the perennial flowing wash, you’ll climb a cliff onto the bajada (Spanish word that means gravel plain at the foot of a mountain)

Go past the Lorna Verde Mine and turn right onto Pink Hill Trail. A short rocky course leads to a beautiful outlook of Tanque Verde Ridge and Cactus Forest Trail. Turn right onto Pink Hill Trail and take another right onto the Squeeze Pen Trail.

Take a left on the Loma Verde Trail to head back to the trailhead.

7. Garwood Trail

Garwood Trail is an easy trail that gives you access to trek into the Rincon Mountain District in the park. The trail is a 3.3 mile to and fro course that is suitable for all hiking levels. The best time to go on this trail is from September until May. 

Make sure you bring along a hat and plenty of water. Although the trail is close to the mountain’s edge, it does not offer adequate shade.

You will have the opportunity to stroll through cholla, prickly pears, grass, and beautiful saguaros. Another popular trail among hikers is Wildhorse Trail. It is situated at the endpoint of the Garwood Trail.

You can also look out for Gila monsters along the trail!

8. Gould Mine Loop at King Canyon

Are you searching for a more moderate trek through this national park? Gould Mine Loop at King Canyon offers the best moderate hike through Saguaro National Park.

The trail is 1.5 miles long and extends from King Canyon to the grainy wash track leading to King Canyon Wash.  When you reach the course at the junction, you can choose between going back using the trail that leads to King Canyon or the trail that leads to Gould Mine.

On this trail, you are assured of encountering striking desert landscapes, including the numerous saguaro cacti surrounding the wash.

9. Mica View Loop Trail

The trail (among the best hikes in Saguaro East) begins from the Mica View Picnic Area to the north of the Cactus Forest hoop. There are many cacti and saguaros along the way.

From this trail, take a right that will lead you to Shantz Trail, and then go south on the Cactus Forest Trail, which connects with the start of the Mica View Trail.

Do not turn right on to the Shantz Trail if you want a short hike. Just turn around on the same route to get back to the trailhead.

10. Hope Camp and Ridgeview

Begin at the Lorna Alta trailhead and follow the Hope Camp trail for a tenth of a mile until you reach Ridge View Trail. This region was an ancient homesteading path and used to take cattle to a line camp.

Follow the Ridge View Trail route, which climbs immediately after the junction. The Rincon Peak Views begin after a short slope and increase in elevation. 

Beautiful seasonal wildflowers and brilliant panoramic views fill the hillside toward the trail’s end. The end of the course is at the top, and it shows a breathtaking view of Box Canyon. During wetter periods, you can see waterfalls on the ridge.

11. Bridal Wreath Falls

Bridal Wreath Falls is located near Tucson. Being an out and back favorite, it is heavily trafficked. You will see a waterfall and other incredible scenery over the Arizona desert along the route.

The trail is 5.6 miles long and is easily accessible during the winter months, with tolerable temperatures. Start early to beat other hikers and stay ahead of the blistering sun. It is best to get there between 5 AM and 6 AM.

It’s common to see animals along this trail in Saguaro National Park. Hikers have encountered snakes like diamondbacks and have also seen desert tortoises.

Note: Pack plenty of water, and keep in mind that there are no places to refill water bottles on the hike.

12. Wasson Peak

One of the most popular treks in the park is the seven-mile round excursion on the King Canyon Trail that leads to Wasson Peak (4,687 feet). It is the highest among all Tucson peaks. There are stunning views from the peak, and they’re arguably the park’s finest.

The trailhead and parking space are directly opposite the path from the museum in the Sonoran Desert wilderness in Arizona. You can also visit there during your trip.

Gould Mine Loop above extends over the hiking region in King Canyon. Use the loop route to merge both park hikes on your way back. You’ll enjoy the trek since it provides an all-around wilderness escapade. You can frequently hike in and see canyons and desert washes, and ancient mining roads along the way. The higher you go, the more vivid the views become until you reach above the landscape.

13. Douglas Spring Trail

Douglas Spring Trail
Douglas Spring Trail

Douglas Spring Trail will lead you to a forested region above 6,000 feet, which is extremely distinct from lower elevation terrain. You will find Bridal Wreath Falls and multiple small streams along the trail.

You will also experience a wide range of wildflowers and cacti like sotol, ocotillo, and yucca. There is an oak woodland sitting at 5,000 feet. This is among the more diverse hikes in the park.

Cowhead Saddle is at the top of Douglas Spring Trail. Although it’s an extended way, it provides an excellent end to the hike. If you can’t manage the entire 17.6 miles, you can just hike part of the trail (hike to Bridal Wreath Falls and back).

14. Tanque Verde Ridge

This is a highly strenuous trail.

The seasonal wildflowers and views are a sight to behold during the hike up. The Javelina region for picnics is the trail’s starting point.

Upon reaching the .75 mile mark, you can see north, west, and south at several mountain ranges and the Tucson Basin while on the ridge.  

At 2.5 miles, there is a crested Saguaro unique view. The Dome is a large, exposed surface at the third mile and offers more spectacular views.

The trail progresses to the campground at Juniper Basin at 6.9 miles. At the 8.7 mile sign is Tanque Verde Peak at 4,000 feet elevation.

15. Turkey Creek

This is among the Saguaro National Park hikes that begin at an obscure location. It starts next to Benson, Arizona, close to Rincon Mountain District’s eastern side.

It’s 12.1 miles long, lightly-trafficked, and rated as difficult. Inexperienced hikers may find it too strenuous to manage.

There’s an excellent forest setting on the trail, primarily used for hiking, camping, backpacking, and running. You are encouraged to visit between March and December, making Saguaro National Park among the top-rated parks to explore during this period.

The stretches aren’t maintained well, and it can be steep with several loose rocks. Sometimes the Mud Spring can have water, but it’s not a guarantee, so you need to carry some water with you. Make sure to have at least four liters per person during the hotter months.

You will find shaded pine at 3,500 feet in altitude that provides the perfect shelter from the scorching sun.

Make sure to start early. You should also get a permit beforehand from the Saguaro National Park office so you can camp in the park.  

What Should I Carry for Saguaro National Park Hikes?

Saguaro National Park Hikes
Saguaro National Park Hikes – Saguaro National Park

Below are a few essential items to carry when going for a hike at Saguaro National Park:

  • Refillable water jug: If you’re going for hikes in Saguaro National Park, water is essential, and you’ll have to stay hydrated. Carry along a clean insulated water jug for the journey.
  • Hiking boots: These boots are an excellent choice of footwear to trudge through Saguaro National Park’s wild trails.
  • Long pants and light-colored wear: Wear something light-colored and long to cover your whole body from head to toe. Although it may be hot, these clothes will shield you from insects and the sun in the hot Arizona desert.
  • Sunscreen: Most of the trails in this national park lacks shelter from the sun, so you should lather up. The sun in the desert is scorching, and you’ll have to apply sunscreen before you begin hiking and reapply for the duration of your hiking trip.

Saguaro National Park west

Saguaro National Park west is a desert park located west of Tucson, Arizona. The Saguaro National Park west was established in 1994. It is the only part of the national park that has been designated as a national preserve. This area is 5,920 acres and includes some of the most scenic areas of the park.

Saguaro National Park west has over 200 miles of trails for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding and car-top vehicle use.

This park offers many hiking trails that vary in length and difficulty, like the 1-mile round trip hike to The Hole-in-the-Rock. These hikes are perfect for anyone looking to go on a leisurely walk for between 30 minutes to an hour.

Some other popular hikes include: The 3 mile round trip hike to Sentinel peak, or The 4 mile round trip hike to Rincon peak. For those looking for more strenuous hikes there are also longer trails like 8 mile round trip hike to Harcuvar peak summit or 18 mile.

Start Planning Saguaro National Park Hikes

This guide should help you navigate Saguaro National Park hikes and help you when planning your excursion to this stunning national park in Arizona. Have you taken a hike on any of the trails in Saguaro National Park? If so, which is your favorite?

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