Saguaro National Park
Divided into two segments, one east and one west of Tucson, this national park is home to thousands of giant saguaro cacti.
The giant saguaro (sa-wah-ro) is an icon of the American Southwest, but lives in only one portion of the world, the Sonoran Desert. Chances are, if you have seen a photo featuring a blazing Arizona sunset with a prominent giant cactus in the foreground, it was made in Saguaro Park.
Saguaros generally live to be 150 years old, with their first “arm” sprouting around age 40. Some are known to have lived over 200 years. They can live for years through drought conditions. When they get plenty of moisture, they have a very plump look. Their needles look almost delicate from a distance but they are hard and are as sharp as needles. The “skeleton” of a dead saguaro looks like a framework of wooden rods.
The park is more than 50,000 acres and is covered with giant saguaros. You can drive through the landscape or take one of many hiking trails. Hikers can start from any of five trailheads ranging from the easy-to-access Douglas Spring Trailhead at the east end of Speedway Boulevard to the more remote Italian Spring Trailhead accessed through Reddington Pass on the adjacent Coronado National Forest.
This is a remote area without water or emergency services. Extended hikes should only be attempted by experienced, well-equipped hikers.