Enormous cacti, silhouetted by the setting sun, for most of us the Giant Saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. And yet, these majestic plants are only found in a small portion of the United States. Saguaro National Park protects some of the most impressive forests of these sub-tropical giants, on the edge of the modern City of Tucson.
There are 2 districts of this park, one on the west side of Tucson, and one on the east. Both include nature centers, picnic areas and trails.
We stopped in Saguaro National Park while driving to visit grandparents in the southeastern corner of Arizona. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of plants in the park (as well as the majestic Saguaro that can't be missed at sunrise or sunset). High elevations bring even pine trees!
For starters, it's important to note that Saguaro National Park is divided into two sections, called districts, lying approximately 20 miles east and 15 miles west of the center of the city of Tucson. There is a visitor center in each of the two districts. The Tucson Mountain District (WEST) Visitor Center is located at 2700 N. Kinney Rd. The Rincon Mountain District (EAST) Visitor Center is located at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail. The visitor centers are open 364 days a year (closed on Christmas) between 9:00am and 5:00pm.
SNP is a fantastic place to go on a hike, bike ride, or run. It's also a lovely retreat for a picnic (when the weather is nice) or a morning of bird-watching. Other critters you may spy along the trails: rabbits, bobcats, coyotes, rattlesnakes, and tarantulas.
Be sure to wear good walking shoes and to bring along sunglasses, hats, sunscreen, LOTS of water, and snacks. Don't forget your camera! Sunrise + sunset are especially beautiful.
We enjoyed visiting this National Park for about an hour and a half on our road trip from LA to El Paso. We stopped at the east district which is at the foot of the Rincon Mountains. We first stopped at the nature center for restrooms, a quick film and helpful interpretive maps and info. There was a little kid table with puzzles, picutres and books. The saguaro skeleton is not to be missed standing next to the window. It helps to understand how these massive cactus can grow so tall and hold so much water.
We drove towards the picnic areas and walked the Freeman Homestead Trail. It was a 1 mile trail with several interpretive signs including a "children's corner" on the sign. The signs were helpful but not super amazing. Our kids were only half way interested in them, and I was hoping for more info on animals and plants on the trail. The dirt trail goes up and down gradually about 200 feet elevation with steps. A jogging stroller would probably make it because the steps are wide set apart, but there are a LOT of them. A long sandy area would be tough for other strollers. I would recommend a baby backpack before a stroller.
We had a lot of fun "imitating" the tall saguaro by trying to stand like them and hold our arms/legs like the arms of the cactus and then taking pictures. The kids loved it! The trail loops down to a large wash with an eroded cliff. It's a great visual for how water flows quickly in the desert and washes things away.
While on the trail, our 5 year old tripped and landed hands first in a small bush that didn't look like a cactus. But when we looked at his hand, as he was crying hard, we found about 100 small spines stuck in his flesh. Not fun! We spent a good ten minutes picking the tiny spines out of his fingers and palm and we still found some hours later. We rubbed his hand in sand to get them off as well. Note to self: bring tweezers next time! Despite the painful fall, our family really enjoyed this hike and this National Park.
* Bring tweezers and a first aid kit on any hike
* Bring lots of water. Even in cool November, we found ourselves getting hot and thirsty quickly.
* Bring an interpretive guide to plants if your family is interested while on the trail.
* Junior ranger books are available.
Great place to run around. Very beautiful. Lots for kids to look at and great areas for them to run (as long as they don't fall in to the cacti!!). Great hiking trails. Great photo opportunities and the most amazing sunsets that you will ever see anywhere!!
Last summer we went to the saguato park. This park was amazing. The drive was just breathtaking. We stopped several times to hike and take photos. Just watch out for snakes. The park was fun and a wonderful learning experience for our 6 and 9 year old. There were several hands on activities like petting snakes and lizards. Take lots of water because it is very hot.
We had a wnderful day at Saguaro National Park. We went during the late winter when the weather was perfect and the desert was just beginning to bloom. We enjoyed hiking up to see petroglyphs and walking among those giant cacti. be sure to visit in the winter or early spring before it gets too hot to enjoy this lovely park.