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Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park - BEST Places to Picnic

3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, Arizona 85730

Rincon Mountain District Visitor Center
(520) 733-5153
Tucson Mountain District Visitor Center
(520) 733-5158

WELCOME to Saguaro National Park

Enormous cacti, silhouetted by the setting sun, for most of us the Giant Saguaro is the universal symbol of the American West. And yet, these majestic plants are only found in a small portion of the United States. Saguaro National Park protects some of the most impressive forests of these sub-tropical giants, on the edge of the modern City of Tucson.

Protecting America's Treasures

Saguaro National Park's geographic location and range of plant communities allow for a large variety in the plants that grow here. Find out which plants call Saguaro National Park home and find answers to all of your questions about the saguaro cactus.

The Saguaro Wilderness Area

The Saguaro Wilderness Area was officially designated as wilderness in 1976. This large, roadless backcountry consists of 57,930 acres within the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park. It is bounded on three sides by the 38,590 acre Rincon Mountain Wilderness Area, which lies within the Coronado National Forest.


Saguaro National Park's two districts offer more than 165 miles of hiking trails. A hike at Saguaro National Park can be a stroll on a short interpretive nature trail or a day-long wilderness trek. Both districts of Saguaro National Park offer a variety of hiking trails. Learn how to be prepared for hiking or backpacking at Saguaro National Park.

Saguaro National Park has two districts, separated by the City of Tucson. The Tucson Mountain District or Saguaro West, and the Rincon Mountain District or Saguaro East, are approximately 30 miles and 1 hour driving time apart. While similar in terms of plants and animals, subtle differences make both areas worthy of a visit.

Tucson Mountain District

  • A short hike on the Valley View Overlook Trail to view the Avra Valley and distant mountain ranges.
  • A fabulous orientation program offering a Native American perspective on the saguaro cactus. Shown daily at the Red Hills Visitor Center.
  • A trip to Signal Hill Picnic Area, which offers visitors the chance to view hundreds of ancient petroglyphs.

Rincon Mountain District

  • A scenic auto/bike tour around the Cactus Forest Loop Drive offering incredible views of the Rincon Mountains.
  • A one mile loop hike along the Freeman Homestead Trail to learn about homesteading in the desert as well as modern Tucson.
  • For those with a taste for adventure, as well as a couple of extra days, we recommend a trip into the Saguaro Wilderness Area to visit Manning Cabin, which was built in 1905 by Levi Manning, one time mayor of Tucson.


Saguaro National Park is composed of two distinct districts: The Rincon Mountain District and the Tucson Mountain District. The Tucson Mountain District lies on the west side of Tucson, Arizona, while the Rincon Mountain District lies on the east side of Tucson. Both districts were formed to protect and exhibit forests of their namesake plant: the Saguaro Cactus.

Most people think of Saguaro National Park as being a desert park. True, the lower elevations of the park encompass Sonoran Desert Vegetation, but there is much more to Saguaro National Park than just cacti.

The Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park ranges from an elevation of 2,180 ft to 4,687 ft and contains 2 biotic communities, desert scrub, and desert grassland. Average annual precipitation is approximately 10.27 in. Common wildlife include the coyote, Gamble's quail, and desert tortoise.

The Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park ranges from an elevation of 2,670 ft to 8,666 ft and contains 6 biotic communities. The biotic communities (starting from the lowest elevation) include desert scrub, desert grassland, oak woodland, pine-oak woodland, pine forest and mixed conifer forest. Average annual precipitation is approximately 12.30 in.

The Rincon Mountains peak at a considerably higher elevation than the Tucson Mountains, therefore there are more biotic communities and increased plant and wildlife diversity. Because of the higher elevation in the Rincons, animals like the black bear, Mexican spotted owl, Arizona mountain king snake, and white-tailed deer live in this district.

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