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Saguaro National Park

Very little symbolizes Arizona and the Southwest more than the giant Saguaro cactus. Saguaro National Park is located in Southern Arizona. The park is divided into two units (East and West), both of which are close to Tucson. The east unit is known as the Rincon Mountain District while the west unit is known as the Tucson Mountain District.

Rincon Mountain District

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For Families:

There are some great short loop trails for children. If you stop at the Visitor's Center, your children can get Junior Ranger booklets to fill out, after a fun day (or a few hours) exploring, they can turn in the booklet for a Junior Ranger badge. Most of the National Parks and Monuments have a similar program.

The roads can be a bit twisty and bumpy, so watch your children for signs of car sickness. Slow down, or pull over for fresh air until their stomach settles.


The Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro East) has a visitor's center and an eight mile scenic drive called the Cactus Forest drive, which winds through a large Saguaro Forest at the base of the Rincon Mountain and has various hiking trails and view points. It offers a close up of the Sonoran desert. There are over 120 miles of hiking trails here.

Hiking: Trails in the East Unit include the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail, Cow Head Saddle Trail, Douglas Spring Trail, Manning Camp Trail, Heartbreak Ridge Trail, Rincon Creek Trail, North Slope Trail, Turkey Creek Trail, and the East Slope Trail.

Tucson Mountain District

Saguaro West has the Red Hills Visitors Center, the larger of the two Visitor's Center. Also, there is a nice nine mile drive called the Bajada Loop Drive, which passes through a Saguaro forest. The Golden Gate Road, a dirt road, also takes off from here. Petroglyphs and abandoned mines are also located in this very beautiful area.

Hiking: Trails in the West Unit include Valley View Overlook Trail, Signal Hill, Hugh Norris Trail, Sweetwater Trail, and the King Canyon Trail. There are also nature trails close to the visitors center. The Tucson Mountains and Red Hills are also located here.

Wildlife in the park includes Coyotes, Roadrunners, Javelinas, Mountain Lions, Lizards, Hawks, Owls, and much, much more. Check at the visitors center for more information.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is located close to here.

General Info: Saguaro National Park has forests of Saguaros and a number of trails for the enjoyment of visitors. It became a National Monument in 1933 and a National Park in 1994.

Saguaros have spines, which protect the cactus from predators. Visitors will sometimes notice small circular holes in the upper reaches of the cactus. Cactus Wrens,Woodpeckers, Elf Owls, bats, snakes, and other animals and insects have been known to make their homes here.

The growth of the Saguaros depends on a number of conditions, such as rainfall and elevation. Since there is not really any way to determine the age of a Saguaro, it is estimated that some Saguaros may reach the ripe old age of 300 years, but most live from 175-200 years. When a Saguaro is 60-100 years old, it will begin to grow arms. Sometimes the crowns of Saguaros can take on strange forms known as Cristates. Researchers are unsure of what causes this. The National Park Service has some nice information on the Saguaro Cactus here.

The Saguaro also produces a red fruit that splits very easily when it is ripe. The pulp of the fruit has been made into jam, wine, and even an etching acid. However, harvesting the fruit of the cactus is restricted.

Climate: Keep in mind this is the Sonoran Desert. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, and Gila monsters are active in this environment. At various times during the year, the land is susceptible to heavy flash flooding. It is highly recommended that hikers and visitors carry plenty of water.

Location: East Unit: Due east of Tucson, Arizona. (Freeman Road) West Unit, Northwest of Tucson. (Kinney Road/Sandario Road/Picture Rocks Road) The units are approx. 30 miles apart.


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