Saguaro National Monument consists of two districts, Saguaro West and Saguaro East. The two areas, separated by the city of Tucson, are about 25 miles apart. Together Saguaro West and the much larger Saguaro East preserve 83,576 acres of the life and landscape of the Sonoran Desert, including the park's namesake, the saguaro.
The desert season many people feel is "just right" is from October through April, when high temperatures are in the 60s and 70s °F. Nighttime temperatures during this time can fall below freezing. The hottest period is from May through September, when highs average in the 100s °F. Still, at night, temperatures drop by as much as 30 °F and high in the Rincon Mountains it is cooler yet. Rainy seasons occur twice a year - in short but violent thunderstorms between July and September and in gentle rains from November to March. Otherwise sunshine prevails.
Saguaro East, also called the Rincon Mountain District, encompasses an aging saguaro forest at the foot of the majestic Rincon Mountains, as well as an exceptional variety of other desert communities. It is open daily.
Visitor Center At the visitor center, you will find books, brochures, maps, trail and drive guides, exhibits and a slide program about the saguaro and the Sonoran Desert. Rangers are available if you have questions about what to see and do. Schedules of ranger-guided walks and other park activities that are offered in the winter are posted. The center is open daily.
Scenic Drive The 8 mile long Cactus Forest Drive winds through the heart of an extensive saguaro forest and offers a close leisurely look at a variety of Sonoran Desert life. This one-way road begins at the visitor center, is paved. A guidebook is available.
Trails More than 75 miles of trails wind through the desert and mountain country of Saguaro East. Short hikes will introduce you to both the plant and animal life of the Sonoran Desert. The 0.25 mile long paved Desert Ecology Trail, located along Cactus Forest Drive, provides a brief explanation of water's role in the desert. This self-guiding trail is accessible to the disabled. Many other trails along the scenic drive are suitable for short hikes into the nearly pristine desert environment of this area. For information on these trails, stop at the visitor center. Several longer hiking trails penetrate the vast wilderness of the Rincon Mountains and their foothills. This is a part of the park few people experience because it is accessible only by foot or on horseback. It is quite unlike the lowland cactus deserts. In the Rincon Mountains, woodlands of scrub oak and pine and forests of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir similar to those of the northern United States and southern Canada prevail.
Because many of the trails in Saguaro East intersect one another, trips of varying length can be planned. Horseback riding is permitted on all trails except the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail, Miller Creek Trail and the Rincon Peak Trail. Before hiking or horseback riding in the Rincon Mountains, check with a park ranger on trail conditions.
Backcountry camping is allowed, but only at designated sites. Backcountry use permits must be obtained at the visitor center in advance of an overnight trip.
Picnic Areas There are two picnic areas in Saguaro East, both located along Cactus Forest Drive. Each has picnic tables, fire grills and pit toilets. They do not have drinking water.
Nearby Places of Interest Coronado NationalForest, which surrounds Saguaro East on the north, east and south, has campgrounds, hiking trails, and picnic areas.
Information Center The Red Hills Information Center has brochures, books, maps, trail and drive guides, exhibits and rangers who can discuss plans and interests with you. Schedules of park activities, which include half-day guided hikes, nature walks and talks are posted. Most activities are conducted from December through April.
Scenic Drive The 6 mile Bajada Loop Drive passes through dense saguaro forests. This graded dirt road begins 1.5 miles from the Information center. A guidebook is available. Persons with motorhomes or trailers should check road conditions before starting the drive.
Trails A hike in Saguaro West can be a stroll on a nature trail or a day-long wilderness trek. Within 1 mile of the information center are two nature trails. The Cactus Garden Trail, located at the center, follows a level paved walkway through a collection of desert plants. The Desert Discovery Trail loops 0.5 mile along the gently sloping bajadas at the foot of the Tucson Mountains. Another short trail, the Valley View Overlook Trail, is a 1.5 mile roundtrip with spectacular views of mountains and plains scenery and extensive saguaro forests. Longer trails penetrate the wild country of the Tucson Mountains and their foothills. Because these trails intersect one another, you can make your hike as long or short as desired. Horseback riding is permitted on all trails. It is recommended that you stay on trails; abandoned mine shafts make off-trail exploration hazardous. Camping is not permitted.
Picnic Areas Four picnic areas are located along park roads. A fifth, in the backcountry, can be reached only by trail. All trash must be packed out of this site. Each area has tables, grills, shade ramadas and pit toilets.
Nearby Places of Interest Located south of Saguaro West, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has a live collection of about 200 desert animals and 300 kinds of plants. Also to the south is Tucson Mountain County Park, which has hiking and horse trails and a campground.
This page is essentially the brochure available at Saguaro National Monument.