Visiting Saguaro National Park is a unique and captivating experience that immerses you in the beauty and mystery of the Sonoran Desert. The park’s most iconic feature is its towering saguaro cacti, which can reach heights of up to 40 feet and live for over 200 years. The park is divided into two districts, each offering its own set of trails, scenic drives, and stunning vistas. Visitors can hike through rugged desert terrain, marvel at the park’s unique flora and fauna, and witness breathtaking sunsets that illuminate the surrounding mountains and cacti.
You can get a weekly or annual pass to the park and all Interagency Passes are valid. Our first day in Saguaro National Park started off with a scouting mission for the perfect sunrise location. After checking into the KOA, we headed to the East Unit and entered the park through the Broadway Trailhead where we did a few short hikes.
The East Side
We returned the next morning for a breathtaking sunrise experience. As the first light of day was breaking over the Sonoran Desert, the towering cacti took on an otherworldly glow, casting long shadows and creating a stark contrast against the desert landscape. The tall cacti stood still in the pre-sunrise twilight, also known as the blue hour, providing us with the perfect photo opportunity. We were here for a couple of hours doing a short hike and taking in the beautiful scenery.
The camera and lens for these photos can be seen in the ,Photography Gear Guide
Cactus Forest Drive Loop
Once the sun was up, we took a drive on the 8-mile paved Cactus Forest Drive loop in Saguaro National Park which was a memorable experience that allowed us to explore the park’s beautiful desert scenery at their own pace. The loop takes drivers through a variety of ecosystems, from the lush riparian area of Rincon Creek to the high desert terrain of the Freeman Homestead Trailhead. Along the way, visitors can stop at several overlooks to take in panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, and even spot some of the park’s iconic wildlife, such as the Gila woodpecker and the Harris’s hawk.
After lunch back at camp we drove the 22 miles to the Red Hills Visitors Center in the West Unit and did some short walks in the area. The Red Hills Visitor Center in Saguaro National Park is an excellent starting point for visitors to the park, offering a wealth of information about the park’s history, ecology, and geology. We were treated to some awesome golden light on the cactus behind to Visitors Center at sunset
The West Side
Afterward, we drove to The Desert Discovery Nature Trail for twilight. This short, easy trail winds through desert habitats. The 0.4-mile loop was mostly ours during the stunning sunset.
Exploring Saguaro Park’s Tucson trails was unforgettable. Sunrise at East Unit, sunset at Red Hills—stunning! Diverse landscapes, amazing photos. Hiking trails, capturing cactus gardens, twilight trails—spectacular!. With its stunning scenery and abundant wildlife, Saguaro National Park is a photographer’s paradise.
Do you want to see what’s next on this trip? If so let’s go to 4 Days in Big Bend National Park
Lorna’s Tips and Lessons
We did not want a large trailer in order to access more campgrounds. However, we don’t have a lot of space to store things. Therefore, finding anything collapsible is a great find. I would start with bowls, a dishpan, and a bucket.