Complete Visitor Guide: Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is split into two divisions (east and west) which border the city of Tucson, Arizona.
East Saguaro is known as the Rincon Mountain District (RMD). This area is located closer to the city, so it’s easier to access.
West Saguaro is known as the Tucson Mountain District (RMD). This area has the most Saguaro Cacti and dense vegetation.
Despite it’s location in the Sonoran Desert, there are plenty of year-round activities for families, thrill-seekers, and leisurely visitors to enjoy.
The Visitors Guide To Saguaro
The Best Time To Visit
The Sonoran Desert has 5 distinct seasons. We cover the best time to see the Saguaro Cactus bloom, go on a hike, and enjoy colorful wildflowers.
East VS West Saguaro
Each side of the park has its own highlights. In this article we discuss which side is best for hiking, overlooks, scenic drives, cactus viewing and more.
There are two scenic drives in Saguaro that visitors simply cannot miss. One on the east side, and one on the west. This is the perfect way to see the park in the heat of summer!
Our top hikes in Saguaro National Park from short and sweet to longer routes for the ambitious traveler.
Camping and Backpacking
Everything you need to know about tent camping, RV camping, and backpacking in Saguaro National Park and the surrounding area.
Saguaro National Park Facts And Information
How do you pronounce Saguaro?
What is the Saguaro National Park entrance fee?
The cost to enter is $30 per vehicle; $70 annual pass, or $80 America the Beautiful Pass
What are the Saguaro National Park hours?
Pedestrians are welcome to visit Saguaro National Park 24 hours per day. For vehicle traffic, the Tucson Mountain District (west) is open from sunrise to sunset. The Rincon Mountain District (east) is open from 5:00am-8:00pm (summer) and 5:00am-6:00pm (winter).
What time of year does Saguaro National Park open?
The park is open year-round. Find out the best time of year to visit here.
What are the visitor centers in Saguaro National Park?
The Red Hills Visitor Center on the west side of the park, and the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center on the east side.
Where is Saguaro National Park located?
How far is Saguaro National Park from Phoenix?
115 miles, approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes away
How far is Saguaro National Park from Tucson?
Approximately 30 minutes to either the east or west side from downtown Tucson.
How big is Saguaro National Park?
Saguaro is the smallest National Park in Arizona. It is 91,445 acres and approximately 143 square miles.
How many Saguaros are in Saguaro National Park?
In 2021 it was estimated that there are over 2 million Saguaro Cacti in the park
When was Saguaro National Park established?
March 1, 1933
How many people visit Saguaro National Park each year?
In 2019 there were over 1 million visitors in Saguaro National Park.
Visiting Saguaro National Park: How To Get There
Saguaro National Park is located nearby the city of Tucson Arizona. Saguaro is a unique park because it’s split into two locations east vs west which each offer their own experience.
Both sides of the park can be easily accessed within 30 minutes of downtown Tucson.
There are no shuttle services or public transportation to the park so you will need to bring your own vehicle or rent a car to visit.
The closest airport to Saguaro National Park is the Tucson International Airport which is about 25 minutes from the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center.
The cheapest airport nearby Saguaro National Park is the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport which is about 90 minutes west of the Tucson Mountain District.
All campgrounds within Saguaro National Park are hike-in. There are no RV campsites or vehicle camping areas within the park. If you want to stay the night, the best hotels can be found in the nearby city of Tucson.
The closest Saguaro National Park Hotels are:
- La Quinta by Wyndham NW Tucson Marana (west Saguaro)
- Motel 6 Tucson, AZ – North (west Saguaro)
- JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort (west Saguaro)
- Hilton Tucson East (east Saguaro)
Printable Saguaro National Park Maps
Download these printable trail maps for Saguaro National Park. The maps are in PDF format.
- Tucson Mountain District (west Saguaro) Printable Hiking Trails Map
- Rincon Mountain District (east Saguaro) Printable Cactus Forest Trails Map
- Rincon Mountain District (east Saguaro) Detailed Hiking Guide Brochure
Top Things To Do In Saguaro National Park
Several nature trails within the park are perfect for a short, accessible hike. In the Tucson Mountain District (west side) visitors can enjoy the Cactus Garden Trail and Desert Discovery Trail.
In the Rincon Mountain District (east side) the Desert Ecology Trail is the perfect way to get education on the local plants and wildlife.
Two scenic drives in Saguaro National Park cannot be missed. The Cactus Forest Loop on the east side, and the Bajada Loop on the west side are a great way to see the park from the comfort of your vehicle.
Both sides of the park have scenic overlooks where you can see thousands of Saguaro Cacti, interesting rock formations, breath-taking sunsets, and the mountains. On the west side of the park, be sure to visit the Valley View Overlook. On the east side of the park, check out the Javelina Rocks Overlook and Cactus Forest Overlook.
Sunrise and Sunset
The best way to end your day is by watching the incredible sunsets within the park.
The best sunset on the west side of the park can be seen at Gates Pass which is located at the end of Speedway Boulevard in Tucson Mountain Park. The best sunset on the east side of the park can be seen from the Javelina Rocks Overlook.
Due to the orientation of the park, sunrises are not as colorful and impressive as sunsets. The best place to view a sunrise in Saguaro from Gates Pass road. The best place to view a sunrise in the city of Tucson is atop Sentinel Peak.
Saguaro National Park has a large concentration of Native American Petroglyphs. Most of this rock art can be found on the west side of the park. If you want to enjoy the petroglyphs, be sure to check out the Signal Hill Area and go for a hike to the petroglyphs at King Canyon.
There are 165 miles of hiking trails in Saguaro National Park. These range from short and easy hikes to multi-day backpacking adventures. Most of the park’s hike can be found on the east side of Saguaro which is more mountainous and remote.
Saguaro is home to 155 species of bird. There are many places within the park to go birdwatching, but some of the best locations within the park can be found in the Rincon Mountain District is on the Desert Ecology Trail.
Horseback riding is limited in Saguaro National Park. A portion of the Cactus Forest Trail is the only multi-use trail park which allows horses and bicycles.
7 Trails and roads within the park are dog-friendly. Fortunately, many of the roads within Saguaro are unpaved so there is a lot of opportunity to get your dog some exercise and replicate the feeling of being on a trail.
Visitors who want to do some wildlife watching will be thrilled to know that there is a huge variety of animals within Saguaro National Park. Roadrunners, horned lizards, and Gila monsters are the most commonly found. But high up in the mountains you can find several mammals as well. Black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and white-tailed deer have all been seen within the park as well.
Camping and Backpacking
The most adventurous travelers can find 6 wilderness campgrounds within Saguaro National Park. These campsites are all hike-in and do not allow vehicles or RVs. Nevertheless, camping within the park is one of the best ways to get away from tourists and become one with nature.
Saguaro National Park Photos
This is some of our favorite photography from within Saguaro National Park: