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  • Writer's pictureMick McMurray

Two Days in Saguaro National Park

Updated: 6 days ago

Saguaro cactus at sunrise
Saguaros National Park

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.

Our campsite in Tucson, showing our jeep and our trailer
Our Campsite

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.

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

Saguaro NP Illustrated Trail Guide

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 day wasn't over yet, as we made a short drive to The Desert Discovery Nature Trail for a colorful twilight experience. The Desert Discovery Nature Trail at Saguaro National Park is a short, easy trail that is ideal for families or those looking for a leisurely stroll, and winds through a variety of desert habitats, including mesquite bosques, creosote flats, and of course, towering saguaro cacti. This 0.4-mile loop trail is popular during the day, but we were lucky to have it mostly to ourselves during this stunning sunset.

Exploring Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona was an unforgettable experience, from scouting the perfect sunrise location at the East Unit to witnessing the golden light on the cactus at the Red Hills Visitors Center during sunset. The park's diverse landscape provided incredible photo opportunities, from close-up shots of the iconic Saguaro cacti to panoramic views of the hills and sky in the background. We also took advantage of the park's hiking trails, capturing the beauty of the cactus gardens during the blue hour and the colorful nature trail at twilight. 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.


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