Saguaro National Park gets its name from the giant species of cacti known, as Saguaro, that are native to Southern Arizona. These giant cacti are found only in that small area of the United States, but they have come to serve as a symbol for the entire region of the American Southwest.
When you picture a Western cowboy making his way through the desert with his silver-plated pistol and his ten-gallon hat, you probably also picture the giant Saguaro cacti in the background. You see their raised limbs contrasted against a rusty orange trail and a deep purple sky. You’ve seen them many times in art and movies, but you probably never imagined you could go visit them.
With Saguaro National Park, it is possible. You don’t just have to imagine these amazing cacti in some far off way. You can actually see them for yourself. You can stand among them. You can marvel at their prickly ridges and their colorful blooms. They may be restricted to a small habitat in the Southwest of the United States, but they are accessible, and they are a must-see. You can visit them by visiting Saguaro National Park.
Three Ways to Appreciate Saguaro Cacti During Your National Park Trip
The park itself is divided up into Saguaro National Park East and Saguaro National Park West. It is located near Tucson, Arizona, and it is listed as one of the top things to do in Tucson, AZ. There are other Arizona State Parks nearby, but there is something special about Saguaro.
That’s because of the numerous hiking trails, camping opportunities, and the abundance of wildlife within its borders. But it’s also largely due to the looming cacti that dot the desert landscape. You can find tons of activities to occupy your time once you journey to the park, but make no mistake, the stately Saguaro cacti are the reason to make the journey in the first place. They are worth the trip, and here are three ways to fully appreciate the Saguaro Cacti during your visit.
1. Take the Cactus Forest Scenic Loop Drive
This one-way paved road will take you through the heart of Saguaro National Park East, and it’s the perfect way to enjoy the desert landscape in a leisurely fashion. You can observe the giant cacti, the richness of the wildlife, and the Rincon Mountains in the distance.
There are several picnic areas along the way, and plenty of chances to hop out and snap some photos. In a place where the heat can sometimes be overbearing, it’s nice to have the option of traveling by car.
It’s a great way for travelers of all ages and all abilities to get to experience the beauty of the desert, and its many gems. Who knows, you just might spy some other desert critters as you roll along.
2. Go Backcountry Camping
While a scenic drive makes for a nice introduction to the Saguaro cacti, a day of hiking through them, and a night of sleeping among them, can help make your trip one you’ll never forget. That means if you are able to camp at one of the six designated backcountry campsites in the East section of the park, you should definitely do it.
The first thing to know about Saguaro National Park camping is that there are no campgrounds within the park that are accessible by vehicle. There is plenty of lodging available around the park with vehicle access, but if you are looking to set up camp in the park, you’ll have to do a little hiking to get there.
Think of it as the immersion part of your trip. You had the scenic drive with the air conditioner on and the radio playing, and now it’s your turn to get back to basics. You’ll want to make sure to pack plenty of water, and don’t forget warm layers for the chilly nights. After all, t’s cold out there in the desert, cowboy.
3. See a Saguaro Cactus in Bloom
Visiting national parks is all about getting the timing right. You want to plan your visit when the weather is as moderate as possible, but you also want to make sure that you catch certain seasonal aspects of the park. For Saguaro this means coming when the cacti are in bloom.
A Saguaro cactus is beautiful any time of year, but beginning in April and lasting usually until June of each year, the cacti put on a special show. To see these immense prickly plants sprouting bright flowers is like witnessing two opposing forces of nature. There’s nothing quite like it, and if you can plan a visit during blooming seasons, you will not be disappointed.
Don’t Miss the Chance to See the Saguaro Cacti
There are many reasons to choose a particular national park as your visiting destination, but a species of cactus is probably among the most unusual. Of course, the people who think that are the ones who haven’t yet made the trek.