Best Time To Visit Saguaro National Park

The Saguaro National Park is one of the most popular parks in the United States. The park, found in southern Arizona, was established to protect its namesake (columnar cacti), which are found all over the place. It’s home to many different species and offers a unique experience for those who visit. This post will look at the best time to visit Saguaro national park. But before we go into that, let’s talk briefly about the park.

Interesting facts about Saguaro National Park

This was the first national park in the United States created solely to protect a plant species. Interestingly, the park is located within a desert! The Saguaros are the largest cactus species in the country, and the park provides an opportunity to see and learn about them.

Although they have a pretty slow growth rate, Saguaros can reach 50 feet tall (15 meters), making some of them as big as trees. Their huge size is partly because they store a lot of water. What’s striking about these plants is that they seem to imitate human gestures. Local folklore has it that some humans would turn into Saguaros. Note that these plants’ fruits are edible and are a staple food for the natives.

Saguaros have a lifespan of approximately 200 years! Keep in mind that not all of them grow arms, and they flower between mid-May and mid-June.

Saguaro National Park Sections

The park is located in two districts which are on either side of Tucson city. Let’s take a look at each district:

Saguaro East (Rincon Mountain District): 66,947 acres in size. It has six backcountry camping sites and 128 miles of hiking trails. You will also find an 8-mile paved scenic drive and two picnic spots. This area has the oldest Saguaro forests, and individual Saguaros are taller than those found in the eastern part. Also, it is at a higher elevation than Saguaro West National Park.

Saguaro West (Tucson Mountain District): This area has 43 miles (69km) of hiking trails, a 5-mile unpaved scenic drive, and five picnic spots. It covers an area of 24,498 acres. Note that you cannot camp in this section of the park. This district was founded in 1994 and contains younger Saguaro groves.

Best time to visit Saguaro national park

Summer: If you are thinking of visiting Saguaro national park, summer is the best time. Usually, a lot is going on in the park during this time. During summer, different activities take place, including bird walks and night sky programs – there is something for everyone!

Spring: The spring season gives a good opportunity to see many flowers blooming, but it can be difficult to visit due to lack of water. The desert is very dry during this time, which means that the attractions are few.

Fall: If you’re visiting in autumn, October is the best time since you get to see the “monsoon” activity with lots of colorful leaves and flowers. You can also enjoy the early morning hours since it’s not too hot or humid.

Winter: It’s an excellent time to go to the park, but you need a 4WD vehicle as the roads become difficult. This is also the season where most of the winter bird species are visible. The best time is January, when you can see a diverse range of wildlife, including birds, bears, and bison. You can also check out the best time to go to Zion National Park.

Best times of day to visit Saguaro national park

The best times to visit Saguaro national park are sunrise and sunset. Early morning hours allow you to see animals such as roadrunners and Gila woodpeckers. During sunset/the evening, you get to see the colors of the rocks and saguaros as well as the full moon. You can even view galaxies during this time!

Things to do at Saguaro National Park

1. Cactus Forest Scenic Loop

The Cactus Forest Scenic Loop is one of the top tourist attractions at the park. It is a paved 13km (8-mile) road that offers breathtaking views and allows visitors to access a couple of trailheads. You get to drive through some of the tallest Saguaros in the park. This Loop is also great for mountain biking.

2. Hike the Loma Verde trail

This is a major trail found in the Northern part of the Cactus Forest Scenic Loop. Another main trail here is the Mica View trail, and they both lead to majestic Saguaro forests. From these two trails, you can access several other smaller trails. If you’re looking to hike for a couple of hours, then you can start with these two trails.

3. Go to the Red Hills Visitor Center

This should be your starting point if you haven’t visited the park yet. It is the biggest visitor center in Saguaro. This is where you can get more information about the park before you start exploring. One of the learning materials is an introductory movie about the park. In addition, the visitor center contains a wheelchair-friendly trail.

4. Gates Park Overlook

This area is not within the park, but it’s an exciting place to visit. The Gates Park Overlook is in the Tucson Mountain Park, in the south of Saguaro National park. Visitors can access the park through Tucson Mountain using Gates Park Road. The Overlook is atop the Tucson Mountains and provides stunning vides of the desert and Saguaros below. Further, this is an excellent location for viewing the sunset.

5. Visit Signal Hill Petroglyphs

The Signal Hill Petroglyphs site lies in the north of the Bajada Scenic loop, and you can access it via an easy 0.5-mile round trip. At the hilltop, you will find petroglyphs (rock art) drawn by the Native Americans. The works of art are said to be as old as 800 years.

6. Enjoy a hike to Wasson Peak

This is a moderately strenuous 8 mile round trip trail. But it is worth it as you will enjoy the views when you finally reach the top. You can start from the Sendero Esperanza Trail.

7. Visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

The museum will help you learn about the history and evolution of living organisms in the park. The museum has botanical gardens, an aquarium, and animal visits. It’s a large property that can take a couple of hours to explore.

8. Bajada Scenic Loop

This is an 8 kilometer (5-mile) unpaved road that goes through the Tucson Mountain District. The Loop contains trailheads, viewpoints, and picnic spots. It offers a spectacular view of the desert and saguaros. You can either drive or explore this Loop using your mountain bike.

9. Valley View Overlook Trail

This is an easy 0.8-mile trail in the Bajada Loop Drive. It is flat and goes through some of the densest cacti in the park. Other trees you can see while on this trail include ironwood and prickly pears.

10. Take photos with Saguaros

The saguaros are the main attractions at the park. As you explore, you will come across huge individual plants. Take photos in front of the cacti. You will look at the pictures a couple of years later and remember the great experience you had at the park.

11. Stay at Gilbert Ray Campground

Consider staying at The Gilbert Ray Campground, though it is not within the park. This campsite is found in Tucson Mountain County Park, to the south of Saguaro National park. It’s one of the best campgrounds around the park. Despite being outside Saguaro National Park, you will enjoy the same scenery as anyone inside the park (the site has many saguaros).

Beware of Rattlesnakes at the park

Did you know that Arizona has the largest concentration of rattlesnakes in all of the US? This information shouldn’t scare you, though, as they won’t be waiting to bite you! Be alert when hiking and always look at the trail and the surroundings.  This post contains some great tips on how to avoid venomous snake bites when hiking.

How to get there

Tuscon International Airport is the closest major airport to Saguaro national park. It’s around 25 minutes away. Daily flights are available to Tucson from many cities across the US, including all three NYC area airports (JFK, LGA, EWR), CHI (O’Hare), LAX, SFO, Denver, Dallas/Ft.Worth, Las Vegas. There are also daily flights from Canada (YYZ) and Mexico (MEX). Taxis are available outside the airport to take travelers directly to their hotel or rental car office.

Tucson is the closest large city to Saguaro national park, around 13.9 miles away. There are many hotels and resorts in Tucson, which can be a convenient option for visitors who want to stay at a hotel during their visit. Taxis are available from the airport and other locations in town (e.g., restaurants, shopping malls) to take visitors to the park.

For how long should one visit the park?

It’s possible to see some of what Saguaro national park offers in one day, but if you really want to get the whole experience, it’s probably best to stay at least two days. If you will be at the park for only a day, your best bet is perhaps to visit some of the main attractions like the famous saguaro forests or drive around on some of the scenic routes.

If you are staying for two days, it’s worthwhile to stay at least one night in a campground so that you can see different parts of the park at other times. It’s also a good idea to hike or take a mountain biking trail if you have enough time. If visitors plan on staying three days, it’s best to stay in one area of the park while visiting the other area by driving.

And if you are planning on spending more than four days in the national park, it’s probably worthwhile to visit some other sites nearby as well. Tucson has a lot to offer, and there’s a lot to do in the surrounding areas as well.

What are some helpful tips for people going to Saguaro National Park?

  • Be sure that you have a full tank of gas before entering the park. There aren’t any gas stations inside, and it’s a long way down to Tucson, which can be difficult for people who run out of gas. Make sure to bring enough water as well.
  • It’s advisable to check the weather before going, especially if you’re going in the spring or summer months. In those times, it can be pretty hot, and visitors should make sure they have hats and sunscreen ready as well as something cool to drink since it can be challenging to find great-tasting water inside the park.
  • If staying for several days and you plan on leaving your car in one place, it’s best to bring along some extra supplies like battery packs to charge your phone and things like that. There aren’t many resources available, and it can be hard to find places to refill your supplies.
  • Visitors shouldn’t try to cross any creeks or rivers when they’re in the national park, especially in the summer when water levels are highest. These can seem shallow, but there is probably a strong current underneath that people aren’t aware of, and it’s best to be safe and not risk it.

Where can people stay when visiting Saguaro national park?

There are various places to stay near Saguaro national park. These include hotels, hostels, camping sites, and VRBO rentals.

There are some options within the actual national park itself, like backcountry camping or reserving campsites in advance. This is best done through the official website, but it’s easy enough to find different information about where you can stay in the park and what you need to be aware of when it comes to overnight camping.

There are also plenty of hotels, bed & breakfasts, and hostels to stay at in the Tucson area. It’s a common tourist area, so there is often a large variety of options. It’s best to book these ahead of time if you know when you want to travel as they can fill up quickly during busy seasons.

Saguaro National Park is among the most visited parks in the United States. The park allows you to explore desert life up close with amazing guided tours. If you have always wanted to see the giant Saguaros, this is your chance to go there. I hope this post helped you choose the best time to visit Saguaro National Park. Enjoy your trip!

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