Welcome to Saguaro National Park

Welcome to the Saguaro National Park Information Page.

Here you will find all you need to know about the natural history of the park.
Learn about the geology, trees, mammals, birds, or other plants and wildlife of the area.

Saguaro National Park is located in southeast Arizona, on the east and west sides of Tucson, Arizona

Welcome to Saguaro National Park

Getting Here

The closest major airport to Saguaro National Park is Tucson Airport, Arizona


Bus lines and major airlines serve Tucson which is a short drive from the park. Both districts of the park feature scenic loop drives.


The Saguaro National Park was made a national monument in 1933. In Nov of 1961, President Kennedy signed a bill expanding the monument to include Tucson Mountain Park. Then on 14 Oct 1994, Saguaro National Park was established.

Size and Visitation of Welcome to Saguaro National Park

Gross Area Acres – 91,446

Total Recreation Visits in 2000 – 757,417

Saguaro National Park is open year round, daily from sunrise to sunset, with peak visitation in March.

General Information

The saguaro has been described as the monarch of the Sonoran Desert, as a prickly horror, as the supreme symbol of the American Southwest, and as a plant with personality. It is renowned for the variety of odd, all too human shapes it assumes, shapes that inspire wild and fanciful imaginings. Giant saguaro cacti, unique to the Sonoran Desert, sometimes reach a height of 50 feet in this cactus forest, which covers the valley floor, rising into the Rincon and West Tucson mountains.

Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. Preserved along with it are many other members of the Sonoran Desert community, other cacti, desert trees and shrubs, and animals. In lushness and variety of life the Sonoran Desert far surpasses all other North American deserts and yet paradoxically, it is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent. Summer midday temperatures commonly climb above 100 degrees F. Less than 12 inches of rain fall in a typical year. Between summer and winter rainy seasons, it is not unusual for months to pass without a drop of rain. The plants and animals able to survive this environment, with adaptations specially designed for desert survival, make up one of the most interesting and unusual collections of life in the United States.

History of Welcome to Saguaro National Park

The desert is immense and infinitely variable, yet delicate and fragile. It is a land shaped by sudden torrents of rain and climatic extremes. Rainfall is sparse and unpredictable. Streambeds are usually dry and water holes are few. This land may appear lifeless, but within its parched environment are intricate living systems, each fragment performing a slightly different function and each fragment depending upon the whole system for survival.

Visitor centers, restrooms, picnic areas, and some trails and programs are fully accessible.

Basic Recommendations

I recommend that you plan your trip and the areas you would like to see and then go and relax and make a day of it. Go and see all that is in the area and enjoy it. You spend more quality time and learn and see more than you could ever imagine.

Saguaro East encompasses an aging saguaro forest at the foot of the majestic Rincon Mountains, as well as an exceptional variety of other desert communities. Saguaro West embraces a variety of Sonora Desert life against the backdrop of the rugged Tucson Mountains.


There are no car camping options available within Saguaro National Park itself. However, if you’re up for an adventure, you can try backcountry camping. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Backcountry Camping: There are six designated backcountry campgrounds, all located in the Rincon Mountain District (Saguaro East). These campsites are primitive and require a permit, which can be obtained online at Recreation.gov. Backcountry camping offers a unique opportunity to experience the park’s scenery and wildlife in a secluded setting. Be aware that these sites are not accessible by car and require hiking in with all your gear.

Here are some of the things to consider when planning your backcountry camping trip to Saguaro National Park:

  • Distance: The backcountry campsites are located at least 4.4 miles from the nearest trailhead.
  • Permits: Backcountry camping permits are required and can be obtained online up to six months in advance of your trip.
  • Water: There is no reliable source of water in the backcountry, so you must pack in all the water you will need for your trip.
  • Time of year: The Sonoran Desert can be very hot, especially during the summer months. The best time to go backcountry camping in Saguaro National Park is in the spring or fall.
  • Leave No Trace: Be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the park’s environment.

If you’re not up for the challenges of backcountry camping, there are several campgrounds located near Saguaro National Park that you can consider. Here are a few options:

  • Rincon Vista Campground:This Pima County campground is located just outside the park’s east boundary and offers stunning views of the Rincon Mountains. Sites can be reserved online.
  • Tucson Mountain Park campgrounds:Pima County operates several campgrounds in Tucson Mountain Park, which is located adjacent to the park’s west boundary. These campgrounds offer a variety of amenities, including RV hookups, showers, and laundry facilities. Sites can be reserved online.
  • Colossal Cave Mountain Park:This park offers camping in a scenic setting with views of both the Rincon and Santa Rita Mountains. There are both primitive and RV campsites available. Sites can be reserved online.
  • Private campgrounds: There are also several private campgrounds located near Saguaro National Park. These campgrounds typically offer a wider range of amenities than public campgrounds, but they may also be more expensive.

Birds of Saguaro

The saguaro is like a multi-storied complex; many animals live in close quarters and the occupants change constantly. Two common residents are the Gila woodpecker and glided flicker. These birds dwell in nest holes they make in the trunk and larger branches of saguaros. The birds excavate new holes each spring and reject several cavities in one nesting season before settling in one and raising a family. Their industriousness leaves many holes for other animals, who rapidly move in. The birds who compete for the homes include:

  • American kestrel
  • Cactus wrens
  • Lucy’s warblers
  • Phainopeplas elf owls
  • Purple martins
  • Screech owls
  • Western kingbirds


A popular way to view native plants and animals while surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the Sonora Desert is to take a bike ride around the Cactus Forest Loop Drive. Cactus Forest Loop Drive
8.0 miles
Paved, and open to motor vehicles and joggers as well as bikes. The drive is narrow with tight turns and steep hills. Always ride single file and alert other users when passing by saying, “passing on your left.” Cactus Forest Trail
2.5 miles
Located inside the loop drive, open to equestrian and foot traffic as well. Bicyclists are required to yield to all other trail users. When encountering riders or hikers, stop your bike and move off to the side of the trail while they pass.

This is especially important when encountering horses. Restrooms are available at the visitor center during daylight hours, pit toilets are available in both picnic areas. A shade ramada with benches, water fountain and bicycle rack are adjacent to the visitor center. Bicycles are not permitted in the cactus garden or on the patio in front of the visitor center.

Carry and drink plenty of water, especially in the summer. There is no water available on the loop drive. Carry personal identification while biking, including the name, address and phone number of an emergency contact. Bicycle helmets are required for all riders 14 years and younger. Helmets and other safety gear are strongly recommended for all riders.

Bicycle riding after dark requires a headlight and rear reflectors. Bicycle access to the park from Tucson is available along the Old Spanish Trail bike path. If you see an accident or are in one, report it to the park ranger as soon as possible. If the visitor center is closed, call 911.

Entrance fees and ticket

  • Private Non-commercial Vehicle $ 25.00 (Seven Day Pass)
  • Motocycle $ 20.00
  • Individual Entry (Bike, Foot, Motocycle & Moped) $ 15.00 (Seven Day Pass)
  • Annual Pass (good 1 year from date of purchase) $ 45.00
  • National Park Pass (good 1 year from date of purchase) $ 80.00 (Valid in all Natl Parks)

The west district has no entrance fee.

To update Saguaro National Park fee and ticket you visit here: https://www.nps.gov/sagu/planyourvisit/fees.htm

Food and Supplies
Food and supplies are available in Tucson.


A hike in Saguaro National Park can be a stroll on a day trail or a long wilderness trek. Within a mile of the visitor center in Saguaro West, there are two nature trails, the Cactus Garden Trail and the Desert Discovery Nature Trail. There are approximately 128 miles of trails that wind through the desert and mountain country of Saguaro East.

Safety Tips

  • Hiking and other strenuous activities in extreme heat can be hazardous. Pace yourself and rest often.
  • There is no water available at the picnic areas or along most trails.
  • Drinking water is essential. Each person should carry at least one gallon of water per day.
  • Persons planning to hike or ride a horse on the longer park trails should carry a topographic map.
  • Beware of painful encounters with cacti and other prickly plants.

Horseback Riding
Horses are prohibited from traveling off trail throughout the park.

Horseback riders must access the Douglas Spring Trail via the Wildhorse Trailhead. It is located on Speedway Boulevard, .12 mile west of Douglas Spring Trailhead.

Horseback riding is permitted on all trails except the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail, Miller Creek Trail, and Rincon Peak Trail.

There is no lodging in the park.

Permits are needed for backcountry camping.

Pet Information
Pets are allowed on paved roads only and must be leashed.

Picnic Areas
There are seven picnic areas in the east and west Saguaro National Park.

Visitor Center

There are two visitor centers.

Open time: 9:00 AM–5:00 PM (Monday => Saturday)

Weather of Welcome to Saguaro National Park

Winters are delightful with mild warm days 60 F to 70 F, and cool nights 40 F. Summers can be extremely hot with daytime temperatures of 100 F to 115 F in the shade, and evening lows in the 80’s. Long hikes are not recommended in the summer. Even short hikes require lots of water, a hat and sun screen lotion.

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