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10 INCREDIBLE Saguaro National Park Hikes (+ Helpful Tips & Photos)

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saguaro national park
Best Hikes in Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park Hikes

I’ve spent a great deal of time hiking in Saguaro National Park over the years and I have to say (outside of the peak summer heat) it’s a fantastic park to wander some trails. So let’s explore the best hikes Saguaro National Park has to offer.

In 2021 I visited Saguaro in the late fall with a small crew to create our SAGUARO film. In the making of that film we roamed more trails I can count looking to capture the park from every angle.

So enough introduction, let’s dive into these hikes I’ve been talking about and maybe you’ll find a few that interest you!

WATCH: A Visually Stunning Journey through Saguaro National Park

Things to Know Before You Hike in Saguaro National Park

Entrance Fees: $30 per vehicle OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months I suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be found at the entrance gates to most national parks). This pass gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.

Sunscreen: For many of us visiting national parks means lots of sun. Seriously, some of these parks can zap you if you don’t wear sunscreen. We happen to like this one because it works AND it’s not full of a bunch of chemicals.

Cell Service is actually pretty great in the park thanks to it’s close proximity to the city of Tucson.

Waterproof map with hikes: This one from National Geographic is the best one out there.

Water: Drink it. Lots of it. Don’t forget it in the car.

The Best Time to Visit Saguaro National Park is during the winter when the weather is mild and pleasant.

Food options are endless near Saguaro thanks again to the bustling city of Tucson. Not only are there plenty of food options within short driving distance of the park, but there are some really fantastic restaurants, grocery stores, and just about anything else you could possibly want or need in terms of food and supplies.

Dogs are not allowed on trails in most national parks due to their potentially disruptive presence with the natural ecosystem. The basic rule is they are allowed where cars can go so be sure to check the rules before bringing along your furry friend.

Getting to Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park Driving Directions
Phoenix Airport to Saguaro National Park West

Deciding where to fly in to visit Saguaro really all comes down to balancing the rental car and plane ticket costs. Sometimes you’ll get a great deal on flights and a rental car in Tucson, and sometimes it will make sense to fly into Phoenix because the rental car or flight is that much cheaper.

Thankfully no matter what you choose, both options are very simple, straightforward, and inexpensive compared with most parks.

  • Closest Airport: TUS – Tucson International Airport (25 minutes driving from the Eastern District)
  • Cheapest Airport: PHX – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (An hour and a half driving from the Western District)
Saguaro Driving Directions
Tucson Airport to Saguaro National Park East

My recommendation is definitely flying into Tucson and renting a car from there because you’re basically in the park at that point. You could even bike from the airport if you wanted! The airport is serviced by every major domestic airline and flights are typically not expensive.

Best Hikes Saguaro National Park

Hiking in Saguaro National Park
A hiker traverses a wash | Best Hikes Saguaro National Park

1. Loma Verde Trail

  • Distance: 3.8 miles
  • Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
  • Time: 1.5 hours

The Loma Verde Trail is a 3.8 mile loop that offers a terrific variety of scenery.

You’ll hike through a seasonal wash and eventually reach the Loma Verde Mine, an abandoned gold and copper mine. From there you’ll take a right on Pink Hill Trail and come upon an incredible view of the cactus forest below.

A few more turns and you’ll head right back.

saguaro hiking
Wasson Peak Hike | Saguaro National Park Hikes

2. Wasson Peak Hike

  • Distance: 6.7 miles
  • Elevation: 1833 feet
  • Time: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty: Moderate

If you go very early in the morning, before sunrise, the Wasson Peak hike can be incredible. From the top you’ll have panoramic views of the surround desert and mountains stretching far into the distance.

The hike is several miles and more than 1500 feet of elevation gain so make sure you’re well prepared and whatever you do, avoid hiking during the afternoon when temperatures can soar into triple digits. Bring plenty of water!

desert ecology trail
Desert Ecology Trail | Best Hikes Saguaro National Park

3. Desert Ecology Trail

  • Distance: 1/4 mile
  • Elevation: None
  • Time: 15 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

This beautiful 1/4 mile paved loop trail takes visitors through a perfect subsection of the Sonoran Desert. Here visitors of all abilities have the opportunity to a close up look at what makes this part of the world so special.

Along the trail you’ll find a multitude of species of labeled desert plants along with interpretive signs full of fascinating information about how life works in this one-of-a-kind desert wonderland.

There are also a number of shelters with benches, perfect for stopping and taking in the views or resting from the desert heat.

saguaro hikes
King Canyon Trail | Best Hikes Saguaro

4. King Canyon / Gould Mine Loop

  • Distance: 2.4 miles
  • Elevation: 380 feet
  • Time: 30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy

This is a great loop trail that takes hikers through prime Saguaro country. There’s some climbing up some rocky steps, but nothing difficult. Be aware of bees in the area and if you hear them swarming get away from them quickly.

A warning about bees in Saguaro National Park: Saguaro National Park is unfortunately home to some colonies of africanized bees. These bees are extremely territorial and become aggressive when they feel threatened. If you hear them swarming or making their presence felt leave the area immediately. These bees can cause fatal injuries.

saguaro national park
Best Hikes Saguaro National Park

5. Freeman Homestead Trail

  • Distance: 1 mile loop
  • Elevation: 100 feet
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Here’s another great trail for hikers of all ages and abilities. Hiking this easy one mile loop offers up close views of this one-of-a-kind desert. Who knows, you may even bump into a rabbit!

saguaro national park
Mountain Views | Best Hikes in Saguaro National Park

6. Ridge View Trail (via Hope Camp Trail)

  • Distance: 2 miles
  • Elevation: 400 feet
  • Time: 1-1.5 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

This trail with a very modest elevation gain offers beautiful views of Rincon Peak and the surrounding desert as you go.

Depending on the time of year you visit wildflowers can be seen carpeting the hillside towards the end of the trail. Also season waterfalls can be sighted from the trail’s end.

7. Garwood Trail

saguaro national park
Saguaro National Park Trails
  • Distance: 3.3 miles (out and back)
  • Elevation: 200 feet
  • Time: 1.5-2 hours
  • Difficulty: Easy

This is a great trail that takes hikers through a quintessential Saguaro forest and continues up towards the Rincon Mountains.

There are many options to continue hiking to Garwood Dam though the elevation gain picks up quite a bit.

saguaro close up
The spines of a saguaro cactus| Saguaro National Park Hikes

8. Manning Camp Trail

  • Distance: 15.4 miles
  • Elevation: 4,560 feet
  • Time: 6-9 hours
  • Difficulty: Difficult

Hiking to Manning Camp

Manning Camp is an old cabin built by former Tucson Mayor Levi Manning as a family retreat. The camp is home to six campsites and typically has water available. A permit is required.

The hike up to Manning Camp involves over 4,500 feet of elevation gain and takes backpackers from the hot and dry desert floor into the cool pine forests high in the Rincon Mountains.

Hiking to Manning Camp is no joke. This arduous undertaking is not recommended for anyone who isn’t prepared for a grueling hike.

For those who are prepared, the hike offers sensational views and incredible changing scenery as you climb higher into the mountains.

Views from Saguaro National Park

9. Wild Dog Trail

  • Distance: 1.8 miles
  • Elevation: 180 feet
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Easy

Hiking Saguaro’s Wild Dog Trail

This is another easy trail that’s great for visitors of all skill levels. Lots of opportunities to see wildlife and plenty of interesting looking saguaros.

Wildflowers are common in spring and provide a beautiful punch of color as you enjoy your hike.

Saguaro Biking
A biker rides by Javelina Rocks in Saguaro National Park East | Saguaro National Park Best Hikes

10. Bike Saguaro National Park East

Biking in Saguaro National Park

Okay it’s not hiking, but Saguaro National Park East’s one-way loop road is perfect for biking. Plus bikes can be rented from any one of the many many bike rental shops in Tucson.

Morning is the best time as you’ll feel like you have the park to yourself and will see plenty of birds fluttering across the road and perching on top of saguaros. Javelina Rocks is the perfect spot to stop and take in the views after a great ride.

List of the Best Saguaro National Park Hikes

  1. Loma Verde Trail Hike
  2. Wasson Peak Hike
  3. Desert Ecology Trail Hike
  4. King Canyon / Gould Mine Hike
  5. Freeman Homestead Hike
  6. Ridge View Trail Hike
  7. Garwood Trail Hike
  8. Manning Camp Trail Hike
  9. Wild Dog Trail Hike
  10. Bike Saguaro National Park East

Map of Saguaro National Park Hikes

Summary of Saguaro National Park Hikes

Saguaro National Park Guide
Will (left) and Jim (right) in Saguaro National Park

Saguaro has a great range of hiking opportunities for visitors of all skill levels. From grueling 15 mile hikes up mountains, to easy half mile paved loops, and everything in between, Saguaro is full of adventures.

That’s a wrap folks! If you enjoyed this post about the best hikes in Saguaro National Park please leave us a comment below!

Further Reading (Best Saguaro National Park Hikes)

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Jim Pattiz

Co-Founder of More Than Just Parks. Filmmaker, Conservationist, Public Lands Enthusiast

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