A National Treasure
Along Marana’s southwestern border, we’ve got a national treasure. Nicholas Cage probably doesn’t even know it’s here, but trust us, it is. We’ve got a specimen so rare, you can only find it in our small corner of the United States, and when you see it, you won’t believe your eyes. It’s hundreds of years old and it’s huge. And all of this time, we’ve been calling it an “it,” when really it’s more of a “they.” They’re our links to ancient history and the unimaginable future. And we love them so much, we’ve dedicated thousands of acres to them so they’ll be protected forever. They’re giant saguaros, and their home is Saguaro National Park.
National Park Service Centennial
This year, the National Park Service celebrates its centennial, and Marana is the perfect base camp from which to launch your cactus-filled adventure (we hope not literally though—those spines are painful!). Saguaro National Park West—some visitors are confused by its other name, Tucson Mountain District, but, really, no one calls it that—lies southwest of Marana. Picture Rocks Road, a winding ribbon of backcountry highway, will treat travelers to a feast of desert sights. Saguaros may inspire the name of this land, but it has so much more to offer.
Take the mountains. These jagged sawtooths are unlike every other range in this region. The Santa Catalinas, Rincons, and Santa Ritas were formed when fault lines dropped the valley floor far below their lofty summits. Seriously, the Marana plain was once at the level of Mt. Lemmon, until the “basin and range extension” dropped the valley floor to its present elevation. Sound unbelievable? Don’t take our word for it. Take theirs!
The Tucson Mountains, however, enjoy a far more tumultuous origin. Powerful volcanic eruptions caused the Tucson Mountains to slide off the Catalinas. Unlike those other three ranges, these rugged peaks feel alive, as if they’re still boiling up from the earth’s seething core. The vibrant reds and oranges of these craggy rocks evoke a powerful, almost violent, creation. Watch your footing in this stunning landscape: it lives and breathes as much as you do.
Marching Saguaro Cacti
Restoring a semblance of order, an army of saguaro cactus marches across these mountains. Their bright green skin contrasts sharply with the ruddy hues of the rocks. Beneath the outstretched arms of these giants, a rich ecosystem of desert plant-life flourishes. The barrel cactus with his yellow flowers grows slowly and inexorably from soil. In the spring, wildflowers explode as far as the eye can see. Purples and indigos and pinks everywhere! What a magnificent tableau you’ll see set against the brilliant blue of the cloudless sky. This is the land of Ansel Adams and Arizona Highways. Drink it in. This is special.
One hundred years ago, the US National Park Service began setting aside exceptional land across America. Think Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon. Not without reason did Ken Burns title his documentary series about these parks “America’s Best Idea.” In a peaceful corner of southern Arizona, we invite you to see why for yourself. Yes, glory in the magnificence of the Grand Canyon. Marvel at the immensity of El Capitan in Yosemite. But go farther, explore more. Our National Parks demand and deserve our unbridled joy. In Marana, you can experience anew that sense of wonder. One hundred years is far too little time to embrace this vast network of spectacular land. After all, it did take millions of years to form. Come young, come old. Hike miles in the wilderness or drive to a picturesque overlook. Just come! It’s happening in Marana, it’s happening now, and you can’t get here soon enough. Discover Saguaro National Park when you Discover Marana.