The southwest desert is hot, ya’ll! Especially when you’re silly like us and visit in the hottest time of the year. After visiting Joshua Tree in California, the lovely Saguaro National Park is just a hop skip over the border into Arizona! On the way there, we stopped and visited some friends from the Midwest who happened to be down in Phoenix that weekend! Morgan and Jim, a million thanks for swooping in with the most delightful company (and AC and pool…)! Jim also helped me pronounce Saguaro correctly (Sa-WAH-ro) so I didn’t sound so lame and basic.
After a delightful night of sleep in air conditioning, we headed to the park. With the heat, we knew this was going to be a short trip for us. However, this park is set up quite well for the quick visitor. Unless you’re an extremely experienced wilderness hiker, this park can be visited easily in a day or less.
The park is split into two parts; Tucson and Rincon Mountain Districts. Tucson has a 5 mile scenic drive, while Rincon has an 8 mile drive. Tucson area is filled with the namesake cactus which, despite only growing in a small area of the country, symbolizes the American West. Fun facts; these cacti live around 150-175 years, weigh 6-8 tons, can grow as tall as 50 feet, and don’t even grow their arms/branches until 50 years of age! Wow wow we wow.
Along the scenic drives, we stopped at a few of the overlooks, hiked the short Signal Hill trail to see petroglyphs, and the nature discovery trail near the Visitor Center. We got to see lots of the various cacti and it’s flowers which are gorgeous!
As we were finishing up the drive, a desert storm started to roll in and it was stunning!
Short and sweet (and super sweaty), we then went to the Visitor Center where I got my junior ranger badge. We also got a glimpse of the common wildlife of the park; javelina, who were also exhausted and sweaty like us.
- Don’t forget that sunscreen and water.
- If you decide to do any of the trails off the scenic drive, start early! It’s a desert and you want to somewhat beat the sun/heat.
- Like I mentioned, unless you know what you’re doing, do NOT attempt the backcountry wilderness hikes unless you are very experienced. You do not want to get lost or stranded in a mountainous desert landscape with terrifying wildlife like mountain lions, coyotes, scorpions, and vultures. No thank youuuu.
- Maybe don’t go in August like we did. The saguaro cacti flower in late April – May, so if you don’t want to go in the winter season, this could be a good alternative time.