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11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park

Visiting Saguaro National Park? Here’s everything you need to know.

Saguaro National Park is a beautiful park that sandwiches Tucson, Arizona. With two districts, there is more than enough opportunity to appreciate the majestic Saguaro Cactus that covers the park grounds. Unlike some of the other national parks, you can explore many park highlights in just a few days, which makes it a great weekend getaway.

What I found most interesting is that even though it’s technically one park, they compete for which side is better. Are you team east side or west side? If you’re going for photography, this will help you decide where you need to be:

  1. Saguaro West (Tucson Mountain District) – More dense cacti with one of the best overlooks and more crowded with people.
  2. Saguaro East (Rincon Mountain District) – Closer to the mountains, so you will get pretty saguaro silhouettes against a purple mountain backdrop.
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Last Updated: March 14, 2024

11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park

1. Get a Scenic View from the Valley View Overlook Trail (West)

This hike is only 0.8 miles and relatively easy. There are a few stairs to traverse but takes you to an amazing view overlooking a valley full of Saguaro Cacti.

See More: 15 Best Day Hikes in the US to Put On Your Bucket List

 Valley View Overlook Trail (11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park)/

2. Bajada Loop Drive (West)

This 6-mile drive takes you through some of the most dense cactus forests. It is unpaved, but you won’t need a four-wheel drive car to make it around.

Local Tip: The road is prone to flash flooding during the monsoon season (July and August), so be sure to check road conditions at the visitors center before.

Bajada Loop Drive (11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park).

3. Cactus Forest Drive (East)

The east district has an 8-mile paved loop that provides a beautiful landscape from the comfort of your car. It’s an easy drive with plenty of scenic pullouts. Rainbow not included on all drives.

See More: 21 Best Road Trips in USA to Put on Your Bucket List

Cactus Forest Drive (11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park).

4. Hike to Manning Camp (East)

If you’re looking for a good backpacking trip, make your way out to the summer home of Levi Manning. Once Tucson’s mayor, this was a popular gathering spot for the city’s elite. Depending on your route, it will be anywhere from 12-15.5 miles one way.

Local Tip: If you’re not interested in hiking that distance, you can also reach the camp via horseback.

5. See the Beautiful Flowers Bloom (East + West)

Visit sometime between late May and June to see these white, waxy flowers, Arizona’s state flower. Much of the animal population here loves snacking on them as little treats.

saguaro national park flowersPin

6. Stop by the Visitor Center (East + West)

I know it sounds like a cheesy thing to do, but we love stopping by the visitor center. You can learn secret tidbits from rangers you would never find on your own. Plus, we always pick a patch to help us remember our travels. The Red Hills Visitor Center in Saguaro West has a great view of the mountain and a cacti forest. The Rincon Mountain Visitor Center in Saguaro East is much smaller, but they still offer great information on making the most of your time at the park.

Local Tip: Have fun!

See More: 15 Wanderful Ways to Track Your Travels

11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park.

7. Gaze Up at Mica Mountain (East)

Turn off the paved road and head towards the Mica View picnic area to see the park’s highest peak, Mica Mountain. The view was obscured when we went.

11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park East (Rincon Mountain District).

8. See Ancient Petroglyphs on Signal Hill Trail (West)

This short 0.3-mile hike takes you to ancient petroglyphs older than 800 years.

saguaro national park petroglyphsPin

9. Take a Photo Next to the Biggest Saguaro You Can Find (Both)

We didn’t realize how big these guys get and it became a bit of a game trying to find the biggest one. Did you know that these guys can live up to 250 years? The largest living saguaro now is the Champion Saguaro in Maricopa County, Arizona at 45.3 ft (13.8 m). The tallest one ever measured was 78 ft tall, but in 1986, it fell over in a windstorm.

See More: Recap of Our Endless Caravan

11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park.

10. Watch the Sunset from the Hugh Norris Trail (West)

The full hike is 10 miles, but you don’t have to hike very far into this trail to get a great view of the sun setting over the mountains. After 5-8 minutes of hiking, look towards the west and see the sun glow over the cacti forest.

Saguaro Cactus in Sunset + 11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park ArizonaPin

11. Visit the Desert Museum

This museum is technically just outside of the park grounds but is still worth the stop when you’re exploring the National Park. Contrary to its name, it’s more of a zoo than a museum. You’ll get to see all the wildlife residing in the Sonoran desert.

Local Tip: Spend at least 3 hours here to see everything.

Great Horned Owl at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum (11 Beautiful Things to Do in Saguaro National Park).

Map of things to do in Saguaro National park Arizona

Essential Tips for YouR visit to Saguaro National Park

  • It takes 30-45 minutes to drive between the two districts.
  • Your pass is good for both locations for seven days from the date of purchase.
  • Saguaro cactus more densely populates the west district. I read online that it was the opposite but confirmed with rangers in both districts that it is, in fact, the most dense in Saguaro West.
  • Saguaro is pronounced ‘sa-WAH-ROH.’ We were saying it all wrong for a while.
  • When we went (October), it was considered mating season for tarantulas. You will generally see more sightings during mating season.
  • If you only have time to visit one side during your visit, I would pick Saguaro West.

Where to Stay

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Any more things to do in Saguaro National Park that we missed?

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Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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