Saguaro National Park is named after the native cactus found in Arizona, the Saguaro. The city of Tucson splits the National Park in half. The Saguaro Park East is home to the Rincon Mountain District and the western side holds Tucson Mountain, which provides rolling hills of cacti forests. I recommend spending a day on each side! Although, if you had to pick just one, I would say western for the fact there are more Saguaro cacti over there and gives the more Sonoran Desert vibe.
Roaming the Western Side of Saguaro National Park
From Tucson, I made our way west stopping in Old Tucson. Honestly, I had no idea what this was and upon pulling up, just a tourist trap “amusement” park where you live a day in the wild west. Home to where a lot of John Wayne and other western films were shot.
My visit to Saguaro National Park was during the government shutdown that lasted over a month, so there were no park rangers. Luckily, most of the park was still open to the public though. I was able to drive straight in and start exploring the cacti forests but was a bit bummed I couldn’t check out the visitor center. Thanks, Trump.
Kings Canyon Trail
I was told if I had to hike on only one trail on the western side of Saguaro National Park, I should make it Kings Canyon trail to Wasson Peak. The beginning of the trail has interesting petroglyphs to start off the beautiful hike through Sonoran Desert flora and fauna. The hike is just over seven miles roundtrip that is pretty much up to the entire way there and vice versa down.
At the top of Wasson Peak, I made it to the highest peak of the Tucson mountains. From here, I could see Tucson is the distance. The stunning 360 views of Saguaro National Park was worth the hike. I could see the unique shape of Picacho Peak in the northwest. I highly recommend making the trek up here to see the beautiful Sonoran Desert with Tucson lingering in the distance.
Roaming the Eastern Side of Saguaro National Park
The next day, I had a chance to venture over to the Rincon Mountain Range in the eastern side of Saguaro National Park. The eastern side is much larger than the western side but less dense saguaro cacti forest. The eastern side still had plenty to offer.
Cactus Forest Drive
An old road now turned into an eight-mile one-way scenic loop through the base of the Rincon Mountain District. While on the Cactus Forest Loop, there are plenty of spots to pull over and picnic. The loop is a popular spot for cyclists, so make sure to pay attention when sharing the road.
Douglas Spring Trail
After having a nice lunch around the Cactus Forest Loop, it was time for me to hike around a bit. Right outside Tucson is the popular trail, Douglas Spring. The trailhead has many routes you can take, and some are shared with horses. The end destination for me was Bridal Wreath Falls. The total trip was a little over six miles roundtrip. Along the trail, we spotted a crested Saguaro, which apparently is a pretty rare phenomenon. That was really cool to see in person!