Visiting Saguaro National Park
I am a cactus lover, fan and aficionado. Kidding, I don’t know anything about them besides that I love them. Imagine my delight that there is an entire national park dedicated to the Saguaro cactus. Saguaro National Park slightly outside of Tucson is a cactus-y desert dream.
The drive in is scenic and a bit confusing if you’re used to instant gratification like a millennial. There are signs indicating that you are going in the right direction of Saguaro National Park and the whole time you drive along you’ll be thinking “we must be here” without really being sure. But there will be a large undeniable sign once you actually enter the park.
By some magic when we arrived at the welcome center we were told that admission on that day was free due to it being the “beginning of the season” – a gift from the universe I assume.
What I loved most about our visit to Saguaro National Park was the variety of cactus and desert flora you get to see up close! (even a little too close at moments, see foot prick incident below) The desert flowers were blooming and there were even some curly cacti – I didn’t know this was a thing! The entire park is so serene and even though we encountered other visitors here and there most of the time we felt we had the entire park to ourselves.
There is a tonne to do at Saguaro. There are walking and driving trails, picnic areas, a learning centre and gift shop. Also there are many small hikes off of the main driving trail and look outs galore. The terrain is curvy, bumpy, dusty and rocky - everything you would expect from a desert park. Overall a visit to Saguaro National Park is a lovely way to spend a day grounding yourself and admiring natures prickly beauties.
Pro tips from yours truly:
1.Wear closed toed shoes, or at least bring some and pretend you’ll wear them. Since it was hot and summery I chose to wear sandals and promptly got picked in the foot by multiple cactus needles from a cactus the size of a clementine that I didn’t see due to being in awe of all the cacti.
2. Pack some snacks and enjoy the picnic area. For some reason I always mentally block that a patio is not the only place you can eat outdoors. Driving through the Saguaro National park loops we discovered the most serene picnic area. It was extra amazing because during our entire time at the picnic spot we were completely alone! It was so magical to have such a naturally beautiful space all to ourselves.
3. Once again, as we’ve experienced in the past with parks and monuments the ride is not smooth. Large rocks and bumps in the road make for quite a rocky drive, so be prepared to go slow – and give yourself enough time to do so.
4. Admission to Saguaro National park is $15 per car, there are multiple driving loops and walking trails. The welcome center is also home to an extensive gift shop with some really cute stuff, so prepare to spend a couple bucks on enamel pins and walking stick plaques. The welcome center also has a washroom and water bottle filling station, there are none once you set out onto the driving loops so take advantage of the facilities while you can!