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Complete Saguaro National Park Visitor Guide

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

spring wildflowers blooming in Saguaro National Park arizona

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.


beautiful desert trail in saguaro national park

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.


dirt road in saguaro national park

Scenic Drives

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!


couple backpacking in saguaro national park to a wilderness campsite

Hiking Trails

Our top hikes in Saguaro National Park from short and sweet to longer routes for the ambitious traveler.


backpacking to a campsite in saguaro national park

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?

suh·waa·row

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?

Tucson, Arizona

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?

91,445 acres

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.

tucson mountain district east vs rincon mountain district west saguaro national park map

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.

Lodging

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:

Printable Saguaro National Park Maps

Download these printable trail maps for Saguaro National Park. The maps are in PDF format.

Top Things To Do In Saguaro National Park

Nature trails

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.

Scenic drives

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.

Overlooks

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.

Petroglyphs

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.

Hiking Trails

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.

Birdwatching

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

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.

Dog-Friendly Trails

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.

Wildlife

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:

photo of spring wildflowers blooming in Saguaro National Park arizona
photo of signal hill petroglyphs in saguaro national park
picture of hundreds of cacti in saguaro national park
picture of desert discovery trail in saguaro national park
picture of javelina rocks overlook in saguaro national park
picture of winter snow falling on the mountains in saguaro national park
photo of summer rain during monsoon season in saguaro national park
picture of a hiking trail in saguaro national park