Top 7 Things to Do in Saguaro National Park

Take a breath of fresh air in the beautiful Saguaro National Park!

You can explore Saguaro National Park in so many ways from scenic drives to hiking, and watching the sunset. Please note that Saguaro National Park West/Tucson Mountain District is in the Tucson Mountain Range and borders Marana. Saguaro National Park West is where the architecturally stunning Red Hills Visitor Center is located (at 2700 N Kinney Rd., Tucson). During regular operations the Red Hills Visitor Center offers guided tours, indoor exhibits, gift shop, restrooms, vending machines, and drinking fountains. Saguaro National Park East is located about one hour away, in a different mountain range that has different scenery from Saguaro National Park West. If you're looking for iconic Saguaro Cactus landscape, Saguaro National Park West is that one.

Visitor tip: A visit to Saguaro National Park West may be combined with visits to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (2.6 miles from the Red Hills Visitor Center) and Old Tucson (5.6 miles from the Red Hills Visitor Center). Old Tucson is temporarily closed until new management takes over running the historic Western theme park and movie backlot.

Here are some of our favorite things to do in Saguaro National Park West:

1. Scenic Drives

Tour the Bajada Loop Drive in Saguaro National Park West for a great overview of the park and sweeping mountain, and valley views. Everywhere you look, you’ll see hillsides studded with majestic saguaro cacti. Stop at a picnic area or trailhead to get out and explore on foot. 

2. Go Hiking & Have a Picnic

The park offers more than 165 miles of trails ranging from easy nature trail hikes for beginners or families to full day-long wilderness treks and overnight adventures. On the western side of the park, the Valley View Overlook Trail is a popular choice offering a short hike with a stunning scenic view. Visit the Saguaro National Park hiking page to view trail maps and learn more.

In Saguaro National West, Signal Hill Picnic Area is a one-of-a-kind place to picnic. There are a number of covered picnic tables to choose from, each having a spectacular view of near and far rocks, mountains, and vistas. It’s an easy half-mile hike up a gentle hill and this trail rewards hikers with dozens of ancient petroglyphs. Another popular choice is the Valley View Trail, which offers gorgeous views of Avra Valley and Picacho Peak to the north. There are picnic areas along Golden Gate Road, all nestled into the Saguaro Cactus landscape that is famous worldwide.

For a curated selection of top trails to explore, visit the Friends of Saguaro National Park website

3. Mountain Biking

Many visitors enjoy biking the park’s scenic loops. The Bajada Loop Drive in the West side of the park is a six-mile gravel path, perfect for mountain bikes. For more information on biking through the park, please visit the Saguaro National Park biking page.

4. Camping Trip

Backcountry camping is available to backpackers only (no vehicles or RV camping is permitted). There is a Pima County-maintained park in Tucson Mountain Park, a couple of B&Bs, and private campsites in the vicinity of Saguaro National Park West. There are six campgrounds throughout Saguaro National Park East/Rincon Mountains, and a permit is required for all camping stays.

5. See the Wildlife

Many different species of birds, amphibians, and mammals call Saguaro National Park home. Look for roadrunners, horned lizards, kangaroo rats, and the cactus wren. On the eastern side of the park, at higher elevations visitors may encounter black bears and white-tailed deer as well. To learn more about all the amazing wildlife you may experience throughout the park, visit the Saguaro National Park page on wildlife.

6. View Ancient Petroglyphs

The astounding petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park West date back hundreds of years to the ancient Hohokam people. You can view a solar spiral petroglyph, and many others in Saguaro National Park West by following the Signal Hill Trail. It is a gentle climb to get up to the hill where you will find dozens of ancient markings.

7. Watch the Sunset

With the sun setting behind the Tucson Mountains, you really can’t go wrong as far as watching a sunset in Saguaro National Park. Visit picnic areas in any part of the park (East or West) and you’ll see just how stunning the 360-degree views of a Sonoran Desert sunset can be.

Check out our Guide to Saguaro National Park to answer all of your questions before you arrive.

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