Is Saguaro National Park Worth Visiting? 8 Reasons You Should Go

Saguaro National Park is located just outside of Tucson, in the very southern part of Arizona. This national park was the first one designated to protect a plant – the saguaro cactus.

Saguaros (pronounced suh-wahr-oh) are the most “stereotypical” cactus – it’s what you imagine when you hear the word “cactus” or imagine a Wild West scene.

I loved my visit to Saguaro and think it’s definitely a national park worth visiting. Here are 8 reasons you should consider making a visit to Saguaro National Park.

8 Reasons Why Saguaro National Park is Worth Visiting

1. Saguaros Are Absolutely Majestic

The saguaro cacti at Saguaro National Park are truly magnificent to see in person. These towering giants, which on average grow to be 40 feet tall, are the stereotype of the Wild West – a classic desert cactus.

Standing under one of these enormous plants creates a sense of awe and amazement. The park is home to thousands of these iconic cacti, which can live to be over 150 years old. Each saguaro has a unique shape and number of arms, and some of the oldest cacti actually have arms on their arms!

You’ll get to experience saguaros in valleys, canyons, hills, and mountains. Seeing them cascade down hills with mountains in the background is a sight to behold.

Plus, viewing a saguaro up close gives you an appreciation for its resilience and adaptability in the harsh desert environment. Their thick, waxy skin helps them store water, allowing them to survive long periods of drought.

The experience of walking among these giants, with their massive trunks and spiky arms reaching towards the sky, is both humbling and inspiring and honestly almost feels otherworldly.

2. Saguaros are Only Found in the Sonoran Desert

Saguaros are only found in the Sonoran Desert, making a visit to Saguaro National Park a truly one-of-a-kind experience. These iconic cacti grow exclusively in southern Arizona, a small part of California, and northern Mexico.

Seeing them in their natural habitat is something you won’t find anywhere else in the world.

But saguaros aren’t the only fascinating cacti in the park. Since it is a desert, you’ll encounter a variety of other cacti too.

Prickly pear cactus

For example, the prickly pear cactus is easily recognizable by its flat, pad-like stems and bright red or yellow fruits. The teddy bear cholla almost seems to glow with its dense, silvery spines that catch the light and was a personal favorite of mine.

Teddy Bear Cholla

The cholla cactus is known for its spines that can easily detach and stick to anything that brushes against them. You might also spot the barrel cactus, which stands out with its ribbed, cylindrical shape and vibrant flowers.

3. It’s Easy To Visit the Park in 1-2 Days

Saguaro National Park is divided into two districts: the East (Rincon Mountain District) and the West (Tucson Mountain District), with the city of Tucson situated between them. Despite the divide, it’s actually not hard to visit Saguaro National Park in just 1-2 days.

If you have one day, I recommend spending your time in the West district. This area offers stunning views, plenty of hiking trails, the iconic desert landscape dotted with saguaros, and some fantastic sunset spots.

Sunset in Saguaro West

If you have a second day, head to the East district. This part of the park offers different types of landscapes, as you’ll be mostly in the valley, with the tall Rincon Mountains offering a nearby backdrop (whereas in the West district, you were more in the hills and mountains themselves). The East district has more scenic drives and overlooks to admire the views.

I spent 2 full days in Saguaro, following this itinerary, and while there were still lots of other hiking trails I could have done with more time, I feel like I had a really in-depth experience with Saguaro.

4. There are Trails for Every Hiking Level

The park offers a variety of trails, from short and easy walks to longer, moderate hikes and all are incredibly scenic, making it a good destination no matter your hiking preferences.

Mica View

Some of my top hikes in Saguaro National Park include the Mica View Trail, which is a pleasant and easy trail with beautiful scenery. The Hugh Norris Trail offers a challenging climb with picturesque saguaro scenery, while King’s Canyon Trail provides a lovely loop with a mix of rocky inclines and saguaro-filled ridges.

My personal favorite trail, though, was hiking to Wasson Peak, which is a strenuous but rewarding hike with incredible panoramic views.

Wasson Peak Trail

Additionally, there are also many quick, easy hikes like the Desert Discovery Trail and Signal Hill, that bring you to beautiful lookouts and Native American petroglyphs.

5. You’re Very Close to Tucson

One of the great things about visiting Saguaro National Park is its proximity to the fairly large city of Tucson – you’re only 20-30 minutes away from a city full of fun things to do.

Tucson offers a variety of attractions, including the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a fascinating combination of zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The Pima Air & Space Museum showcases an impressive collection of aircraft. The historic Mission San Xavier del Bac is a beautiful Spanish colonial mission worth exploring.

Tucson also has some of the best Mexican food in the country, with a plethora of excellent places to eat. Combine all this with plenty of lodging and it’s a convenient and enjoyable base for your visit to Saguaro National Park.

6. It’s Not Super Busy

Blissfully uncrowded trails

Saguaro National Park is the 25th most visited national park (out of 63), and welcomes just 1 million visitors a year, so it doesn’t experience the same level of crowds as the more popular parks, like Yellowstone or Zion.

This makes for a more peaceful visit, where you can truly enjoy the stunning desert landscapes. The park’s two districts help spread out visitors, offering plenty of space as you explore.

7. It’s a Great Winter Getaway

Saguaro National Park is an excellent winter getaway due to Tucson’s mild weather. Thanks to its southern location, winter temperatures are very comfortable, with average highs ranging from the mid-60s to low 70s Fahrenheit. (However, overnight temperatures can be quite chilly, so be prepared and wear layers.)

This makes exploring the park’s trails and scenic drives a pleasant experience compared to the summer heat, and truly, the best time to visit Saguaro is late fall, winter, and spring – it just gets too hot in summer to really be outside for too long.

Plus, January and February tend to be the cheapest months for flights, so it’s much more affordable to plan an Arizona winter escape.

8. Arizona is Full of Other Incredible Places to Explore

Once you’ve visited Saguaro National Park, the adventure doesn’t have to end! Arizona is full of other incredible places to explore, perfect for a road trip around the state. Here are some spots to consider visiting after Saguaro:


Sedona is known for its stunning red rock formations and vibrant arts scene and is a hiking mecca in Arizona. Don’t miss hiking Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, or Keyhole Cave, or check out my 5-day Sedona itinerary.

Petrified Forest National Park showcases ancient, fossilized trees and colorful badlands, offering unique landscapes in the middle of a barren desert. Petrified Forest is definitely a hidden gem National Park – I was so surprised and delighted during my visit.

Horseshoe Bend

Page is home to the famous Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, both offering unforgettable photo opportunities and stunning views, and numerous other hiking opportunities.

Lake Powell

Lake Powell, located near Page, provides excellent boating, fishing, and water sports activities, (such as kayaking) in among beautiful red cliffs.

Phoenix, the state capital, offers a mix of urban attractions, desert parks, and cultural sites. Don’t miss the Desert Botanical Garden, Old Town Scottsdale, or the Heard Museum.

Grand Canyon

Of course, the Grand Canyon is a must-see with its awe-inspiring vistas and numerous hiking trails. It’s one of the most iconic natural landmarks in the world.

The Wrap Up – Why Saguaro is Worth a Visit

Saguaro National Park offers a unique experience with its iconic saguaro cacti and beautiful desert landscapes. There are so many great hikes to do to enjoy the cacti and vistas.

Plus, Arizona is packed with other amazing destinations to explore, making it perfect for an extended road trip.

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