9 Best Hikes in Saguaro National Park for All Levels

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Saguaro National Park is a dream destination for those that want to feel humbled by the environment and have an obsession with all things desert (that’s me!).

While the park is hot and relatively unmanageable during the summers, it is a great place to take advantage of the many hikes in Saguaro National Park in winter and other times of the year. This is truly one of the best national parks to visit in January and other winter months!

This guide details the best Saguaro National Park trails and hiking in Saguaro for all levels. It truly is one of the best day trips from Tucson!

VISIT A LOT OF U.S. NATIONAL PARKS?


If you are visiting Saguaro National Park, or any of the other 2,000 federal registered sites in the US, we highly, highly recommend
purchasing an ‘America the Beautiful’ pass that lasts for 1 year and grants you admission to all registered sites.  At only $79.99, it is a steal and one of the best values for your buck for US travel!

>> Purchase your National Parks Pass here and start traveling!

If you have a favorite trail in Saguaro National Park or have any tips to share with those venturing there for some nature therapy, please leave a comment below!  We hope you consider adding this US National Park to your Arizona bucket list!

What to Know Before Hiking in Saguaro National Park

There are many things to know before you partake in the hikes in Saguaro National Park. Click here to see what is permitted and prohibited at Saguaro NP.

If you have additional questions, please send us a message or leave a comment below.

ABOUT THIS LAND

Saguaro National Park is on the unceded land of the Tohono O’odham people. We ask you to join us in acknowledging their communities, their elders both past and present, as well as future generations.

We also acknowledge that Saguaro National Park was founded upon exclusions and erasures of many Indigenous peoples, including those on whose land these US National Parks are located.

⇒ Do your research before visiting National Parks and places in the US. Native Land and Whose Land are good starting points.

⇒ Hire Native guides when possible and encourage National Parks and government organizations to start hiring them.

⇒ Donations matter. Part of the proceeds from this blog is donated monthly to the Native Women’s Wilderness.

Best Time to Go Hiking in Saguaro National Park

Situated in the middle of the scorching Arizona desert, the best time to visit Saguaro National Park is from October until April

You will find that Saguaro is unbearably hot in the summers and that most people visiting then will just simply drive the park because the temperatures do not allow much movement from the body.

Hiking in Saguaro National Park
Hiking in Saguaro National Park

If you are hiking in Saguaro National Park, you will definitely want to opt for late autumn, winter, and early spring.

Rincon Mountain District vs. Tucson Mountain District

One thing to know before setting off to go hiking in Saguaro NP is that the park is divided into two areas: East and West, or Rincon Mountain District (east) and Tucson Mountain District (west).  Tucson city is located in the middle of the two and it is easy to reach both.

Welcome Sign at Saguaro National Park
Welcome Sign at Saguaro National Park

The landscapes are similar in both but the rules are different and there is a visitor’s center located at both entrances.  Please note that you can enjoy wilderness camping in RMD but not inside of TMD. This is a perfect option for those backpacking the US or the Southwestern states.

The Tucson Mountain District’s visitor center is located at 2700 N. Kinney Road and the Rincon Mountain District’s visitor center is located at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail.

So, which part of Saguaro National Park is better? They are both spectacular, to be honest. But, there are more saguaro cacti in the West part of the park (TMD).

Map of the Best Trails in Saguaro National Park

To add this map to your Google Maps account, click the ‘Star’ icon next to the map name. You can then view it on your cell phone or computer by heading to your Google Maps account, click the menu and add it to ‘Your Places’.

Saguaro National Park East Trails 

There are a variety of trails in each part of Saguaro National Park.  This guide showcases a mixture of both parks, so for a quick reference, here are the Saguaro National Park east trails (Rincon Mountain District) that you will find on this guide.  

  • Mica View Loop Trail
  • Garwood Trail
  • Bridal Wreath Falls Trail
  • Douglas Spring Trail
  • Tanque Verde Ridge Trail
  • Turkey Creek

Saguaro National Park West Trails

Alternatively, you will find a few Saguaro National Park west trails on this guide too.  Here is a quick list of the trails we cover that are in the Tucson Mountain District.

  • Valley View Overlook Trail
  • Petroglyphs at King Canyon
  • Gould Mine

Best Easy Hikes in Saguaro National Park

Mica View Loop Trail

Distance: 3.7 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 121 feet
Location: Rincon Mountain District (east)

Beautiful Saguaro NP in Arizona
Best hikes in Saguaro National Park

Mica View Loop Trail is an easy trail located in Saguaro National Park East. It is heavily trafficked and a fan favorite because of its beautiful wildflowers and accessibility for all hiking levels.

Open year-round, Mica View is a great trail for those wanting to start the hike early in the day or in the evening. The last 3/4 of a mile of the trail are paved but it is sandy somewhat on the first part of the hike.

Be vigilant to wildlife on the trail. Many hikers report seeing snakes, bobcats, and hearing coyotes in the distance!

Valley View Overlook Trail

Distance: 0.8 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 49 feet
Location: Tucson Mountain District (west)

Valley View Overlook Trail is another popular favorite amongst hikers in Saguaro National Park and it is located in Tucson Mountain District (west).

The 0.8-mile, easy trail is perfect for those hiking with kids in Saguaro National Park and it is accessible year-round.

One thing to note about this easy hike in Saguaro is that there is no shade. So, be sure to go early in the morning or later in the evening when it is cooler if you’re venturing there during the warmer times of the year.

Be sure to watch out for snakes, lizards, rabbits, and more along the way! This is one of the best hikes in Saguaro National Park for those wanting to get acquainted with the nature of the place.

Garwood Trail

Distance: 3.3 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 203 feet
Location: Rincon Mountain District (east)

Best hikes in Saguaro National Park
Sunset in Saguaro National Park

A very easy trail to access and hike in Saguaro National Park’s Rincon Mountain District is the Garwood Trail. It is a 3.3-mile out and back trail that is great for all skill levels and is best visited from September until May.

This trail hugs the edge of the mountains but does not offer much shade, so be sure to bring a lot of water and a hat.

You will have the chance to walk through beautiful saguaros, prickly pears, cholla, and grass. You can also continue at the endpoint and take the Wildhorse Trail, another popular Saguaro National Park trail that hikers love.

Be on the lookout for Gila monsters along the way!

Best Moderate Hikes in Saguaro National Park

Bridal Wreath Falls Trail

Distance: 5.6 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 1,072 feet
Location: Rincon Mountain District (east)

The Bridal Wreath Falls Trail is a heavily-trafficked trail near Tucson that is an out and back favorite. Along the route, you will find a waterfall and many other stunning views over the Arizona wilderness.

At 5.6 miles long, this trail is best accessed in the winter months when the temperatures are tolerable. It is best to arrive at the trail early to beat the sun and other hikers.  Try to be there at around 5-6am.

It is not uncommon to see animals along this Saguaro National Park trail! Other hikers have reported seeing desert tortoises and snakes such as diamondbacks.

Be sure to bring a lot of water with you, however. There is nowhere to fill up on the hike.

Petroglyphs at King Canyon

Distance: 2.2 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 291 feet
Location: Tucson Mountain District (west)

Hohokam Petroglyphs, on Signal Hill in Saguaro National Park, at sunset
Petroglyphs in Saguaro National Park

This trail in Saguaro National Park is situated in the Tucson Mountain District in the west and is classified as being a ‘moderate’ trail.

The 2.2 Arizona hike tends to be heavily-trafficked and the trail is used for hiking, birdwatching, and walking. It is best to visit it from September until May.

The petroglyphs are on two large rock walls just below the picnic area about a mile into your hike.  Petroglyphs at King Canyon is one of the best hikes in Saguaro National Park for beginners.

Douglas Spring Trail

Distance: 16.6 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 3,740 feet
Location: Rincon Mountain District (east)

One of the most popular hikes in Saguaro National Park East is the Douglas Spring Trail, a 16.6 mile long out and back that has a waterfall and many amazing vistas that overlook the Arizona landscapes.

It is accessible year-round and you can go horseback on the trail. Many people believe that this hike ends at Bridal Wreath Falls but it actually continues past the famous landmark.

The scenery along the hike is the traditional Sonoran Desert Scrub and it gets wilder and wilder the further along the trail you manage to get.

If you wish to stay overnight on this hike, you will need to obtain a permit from the Saguaro National Park office before starting your hike.

Gould Mine

Distance: 2.3 miles
Type of Trail: Loop
Elevation Gain: 380 feet
Location: Tucson Mountain District (west)

Saguaro National Park trails
Saguaro National Park trails

A well-marked trail near Tucson is Gould Mine, a 2.3-mile hike that is located in Saguaro National Park west. The trail is popular for hikes, walks, and birdwatching and is open to visitors year-round.

It is of moderate difficulty and is a fantastic option for those really looking to enjoy viewing saguaros. There are quite a few loose rocks on the route and this Saguaro trail can be a bit of a challenge for those with bad knees.

The best time to walk this trail is during spring when all of the desert flowers are in bloom. Be sure to arrive early to beat the heat!

Best Difficult Hikes in Saguaro National Park

Tanque Verde Ridge Trail

Distance: 20 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 5,597 feet
Location: Rincon Mountain District (east)

A heavily-trafficked albeit, difficult trail in Saguaro National Park is Tanque Verde Ridge Trail in Rincon Mountain District.

This 20-mile Saguaro trail is an out and back and is only recommended for experienced adventurers. There are many beautiful views but a lot of false peaks.

It is also not as well-maintained as other trails in Saguaro National Park due to the fact that it gets fewer hikers because it is a challenging hike.

blooming Sonoran Desert in Saguaro National Park, Arizona, USA

You will see plenty of saguaros, chollas, and ocotillos along the way and if the saguaros are in bloom when you’re there, you can eat the fruit right off of them on the trail!

There is minimal shade on this trail and you will need to pack a lot of water. If you plan to camp along the way, you must obtain a permit from the Saguaro National Park office before setting off on your hike.

A recommended spot to camp is at Juniper Basin.

Turkey Creek

Distance: 12.1 miles
Type of Trail: Out & Back
Elevation Gain: 3,937 feet
Location: Rincon Mountain District (east)

This is one of the hikes in Saguaro National Park that starts in a bit of an obscure location. It starts near Benson, Arizona to the east of the Rincon Mountain District.

It is lightly-trafficked and 12.1 miles long and is rated as difficult. So, inexperienced hikers may want to take a pass on this trail!

Gila monster in Saguaro National Park
Gila monster in Saguaro National Park

The trail has a great forest setting and is used mostly for running, camping, hiking, and backpacking. It is recommended to visit from March until December.  That makes Saguaro NP one of the best national parks to visit in December.

The stretches are not well-maintained and it can be steep with a lot of loose rock. Mud Spring will sometimes have water but it is not a guarantee, so bring some along (suggested at least 4 liters per person during hotter months).

There is some shaded pine at around 3,500 feet in elevation that will offer a nice refuge from the blistering sun.

Be sure to have an early start!  You must obtain a permit to wild camp in the park from the Saguaro National Park office beforehand.

What to Pack and Wear

Here are some essentials that you should pack for a day of hiking at Saguaro National Park:

Hiking boots: I swear by my Keen Targhee hiking boots and they are an excellent choice for traipsing the wild trails at Saguaro National Park. Click here to see the Keen hiking boots I use.

Reusable water jug: Water is so essential if you’re on one of the hikes in Saguaro National Park and you definitely need to remain hydrated. I always tote along a Klean Kanteen water jug with me for the journey.

Trails in Saguaro National Park in Arizona

Sunscreen: Lather on up as many of the Saguaro National Park hikes have no shelter from the sun! The Arizona sun is ruthless and you definitely need to put sunscreen on before your hike!

Light-colored clothing with long pants: Make sure you wear something that is light-colored and preferably, long, that covers your body from head to toe. Even though it is hot, you need to protect yourself from the sun and insects in the Arizona desert.

Park map: I recommend downloading an offline map from Alltrails before taking to the hikes in Saguaro National Park. Better safe than sorry!

We hope that this guide to hiking in Saguaro National Park helps you plan your trip to this epic US national park in Arizona.  If you have any favorite hikes in Saguaro National Park that we missed- please leave a comment below! Thanks!

Additional Arizona Travel Resources

Pin this Saguaro National Park Trails Guide

Are you looking for the best hikes in Saguaro National Park? This guide details the best Saguaro National Park trails and the info you need for hiking them. | Saguaro National Park hikes | Saguaro trails | Arizona hiking | Arizona hikes | hiking in Arizona | Tucson hikes | Day hikes in Tucson | Rincon Mountains | Day hikes Saguaro National Park | Saguaro National Park winter

One thought on “9 Best Hikes in Saguaro National Park for All Levels

  1. alejandro says:

    hi there, we are heading there next week and it’s our first visit. We are also going to Chricahua and Organ Pipe. What trails would you recommend for us for day hiking for saguaro? great article by the way

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