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15 Hard Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

Saguaro National Park Hiking and Boondocking Tips

Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas cover both the East and West zones of the park.  Most have little elevation change but the heat and distance makes some harder than others.  You can see our companion piece on the 15 Easy Saguaro Park trails if you are looking for something family friendly or more moderate than the 15 in this post.  As always HYDRATE on any trail in Arizona and make sure to prepare for these hikes since there will be little shade anywhere along the routes.

Women hiking alone might also enjoy this article from Explore Chick about Women Solo Hiking Safety

Saguaro National Park is located in southern Arizona. This beautiful park is divided into two; the Tucson Mountain District on the west and the Rincon Mountain District on the east. Saguaro National Park is a unique and one of the most stunning places in Arizona and the United States, thanks to the hidden gems there and the multiple attractions it features. Some of the attractions that make this national park unique and impressive are the beautiful saguaros that give it a lovely look, a variety of wildlife such as bobcats, coyotes, Gila monsters, vultures and many more, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, camping spots, wildflowers, and more than 165 miles trails for hiking. This beautiful park covers an estimated area of around 370 kilometers.

History

Saguaro National Park area was initially inhabited by the Hohokam, Sobaipuri, Tohono O’odham, Apaches, Spanish explorers, missionaries, miners, homesteaders, and ranchers in the early 1800s. In 1933, President Herbert Hoover established the Saguaro national Monument by using the powers of Antiquities. After that, in 1961, President John F. Kennedy added the Tucson Mountain District to the Saguaro National Monument. After that, in 1994, Congress decided to combine the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain District to form Saguaro National Park.

Saguaro Hiking

Top 15 Hiking On and Around Saguaro National Park

• Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
• Old Tucson
• International Wildlife Museum
• Rincon Mountain Ranges
• Tucson Mountain Park
• Wasson Peak
• Valley View Overlook Trail
• Agua Caliente Regional Park
• Sweetwater Preserve Trailhead
• Cactus Forest Drive
• Rincon Mountain Visitor Center
• Red Hills Visitor Center
• Tanque Verde Falls
• Tucson Petting Zoo and Funny Foot Farm
• Bridal Wreath Falls Trail
• Mica Mountain
• Mica View Trail
• Signal Hill Picnic Area
• Flora and Fauna
• Petroglyphs and many more

1. Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas – Bridal Wreath Falls Trail

1 Bridal Wreath Falls Trail-1

I visited the Bridal Wreath Fall Trail located in Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park with my friends to hike during a trip there. This hiking trail spans around 5.7 miles, and the route type was an out and back with an elevation of 1,095 feet. We did not have a hard time getting to this trail. We found out that the hike was moderate. While hiking along this trail, I was able to spot an array of desert vegetation, beautiful wildflowers and even wildlife such as coyotes. Although I was told, I could spot desert tortoises and snakes along the trail. I accessed this trail during the winter months, and therefore the temperatures were a bit tolerable. The best time I can advise hiking on this trail is very early in the morning to avoid the scorching desert heat. I had to carry a lot of water to keep myself hydrated along the way.

Length: 5.7 mi
Elevation gain: 1,095 ft
Route type: Out & back

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1 Bridal Wreath Falls Trail - Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

2. Saguaro National Park Hiking Trails – Wasson Peak via King Canyon and Hugh Norris Trail

2 Wasson Peak via King Canyon and Hugh Norris Trail-1

One morning during my visit to Saguaro National Park, I decided to hike towards the Wasson Peak using King Canyon and Hugh Norris Trail. The distance to the Wasson Peak was 7.9 mi, and as I was hiking along the trail, I realized it had an elevation gain of 1,863 ft, and the route type was a loop. Along the trail, there were beautiful wildflowers and desert plants. While at the top of Wasson Peak, I was able to have excellent views of the park and the surrounding areas. Since it was a long hike, and I did not know how long it would take, I carried water and sun-blocking gear.

Length: 7.9 mi
Elevation gain: 1,863 ft
Route type: Loop

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2 Wasson Peak via King Canyon and Hugh Norris Trail- Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

3. Saguaro National Park Nature Trails – Wasson Peak via Sweetwater Trail

3 Wasson Peak via Sweetwater Trail-1

This trail was one of the most difficult I encountered during my hiking spree in Saguaro National Park. This difficult hiking trail is located near Tucson. While hiking along this trail, I realized the route type was out and back. The distance was around 9.3 m, and the elevation gain was 2,093 ft. I had to watch my steps hiking along this trail since there were lots of rocky areas though it was well marked and maintained.

Length: 9.3 mi
Elevation gain: 2,093 ft
Route type: Out & back

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Additionally, I spotted a few crested saguaros along the trail during my hike. There were beautiful wildflowers along this trail during my visit. While at the top of Wasson Peak, I was able to have spectacular views of the sunrise, the park and the surrounding areas. There were not a lot of shades, but since I had carried a lot of water and several hiking gears like sunglasses and a hat with me, I had a memorable hiking experience hiking on this trail.

3 Wasson Peak via Sweetwater Trail- Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

4. Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas – King Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak

4 KC to Wasson-1

I had a more effortless experience hiking along this trail compared to hiking along Wasson Peak via Sweetwater Trail. I covered a distance of 6.7 mi kilometers hiking on this trail using an out and back route type with an elevation of 1,833 ft. Since it was spring, I spotted a lot of wildflowers blooming while hiking on my way to Wasson Peak. Additionally, there were a few deserts flora and fauna scattered around along the trail. After climbing on top of Wasson Peak, I was able to have incredible 360 degrees views of the park and its surrounding areas. I brought with me my hiking boots, a lot of water and sunglasses, and a hat, and therefore the hike was memorable.

Length: 6.7 mi
Elevation gain: 1,833 ft
Route type: Out & back

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4 KC to Wasson- Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

5. Saguaro National Park Hiking Trails – Hugh Norris Trail

5 Hugh Norris Trail-1

This is one of the beautiful trails in Saguaro National Park’s Tucson Mountain District. I was able to hike on a steep canyon to the top of Wasson Peak, covering a distance of 8.9 miles along this trail. Additionally, the route type was an out and back with an elevation gain of 2,398 feet. At the starting point, there were rocks after every two to three feet. While at the top of Wasson Peak, I was able to have spectacular views of the nearby mountains and the desert floor. Along the trail, there were lots of beautiful wildflowers, and there was no shade. Luckily, I had sun protection gear and a lot of water with me to keep myself hydrated. I hiked on this trail between September and May severally since the weather was tolerable at the time.

Length: 8.9 mi
Elevation gain: 2,398 ft
Route type: Out & back

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5 Hugh Norris Trail

6. Saguaro National Park Hiking Trails Nature Trails – Douglas Spring, Bridal Wreath Falls, Three Tank, Garwood Loop

This is one of the trails in Saguaro National Park that I had a memorable hiking experience during my visit. I found it fairly tracked during my visit on this trail, but from what I saw, it was being used on most occasions by experienced hikers now and then. The total distance of my hike along this trail was 7.1 mi kilometers while I was using a loop route type with an elevation of 1,253 ft. I was able to have excellent views of the waterfall during my hike. Additionally, there I spotted beautiful wildflowers blooming since I visited during spring. I also spotted coyotes and desert tortoises while hiking along this trail. I could hear and see a variety of birds while hiking along this trail.

Length: 7.1 mi
Elevation gain: 1,253 ft
Route type: Loop

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6 Douglas Spring

 

7. Saguaro National Park Hiking Hiking Areas – Petroglyphs at King Canyon

7 Petroglyphs-1

This moderate hiking trail is located in Tucson Mountain District. I started hiking on this trail next to the Canyon trailhead and traveled up a scenic wash before coming to an end next to the Mam-A-Gah Picnic Area. The total distance I covered was around 3.2 miles, and the route type was an out and back, plus the trail had an elevation gain of 491 feet. Additionally, several people were hiking along this trail. I was able to spot petroglyphs (mysterious symbols, circles and some animal forms) on two large rocks just a mile into the hike. I also came across desert plants and a variety of birds while hiking on this trail. The temperature was a bit scorching on this trail since I was hiking in the mid-morning in summer. The best time to visit this trail, however, is between September and May. I have to wear a hat and sunglasses, plus drink a lot of water to keep myself hydrated during the hike.

Length: 3.2 mi
Elevation gain: 491 ft
Route type: Out & back

 

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7 Petroglyphs

8. Saguaro National Park Hiking Trails – Douglas Spring Trail

8 Douglas Spring Trail-1

This is another trail located in Rincon Mountain District, Saguaro East, where I managed to go hiking during my visit to Saguaro National Park. The hike along this trail was moderate, and I covered a distance of around 2.2 m hiking on an out and back route type with an elevation gain of 291 ft feet. While hiking along this trail, I found out it connects to other trails such as Three Tank, Carrillo and Wildhorse. This trail was beautifully maintained and marked, so I did have an easy time hiking, plus it was reasonably populated. Additionally, there were several small streams, and I could view Bridal Wreath Fall along this trail. Along this trail, there were a large variety of wildflowers and cacti, including yucca, ocotillo and sotol that I could see. I also came across people doing horseback riding.

Length: 2.2 mi
Elevation gain: 291 ft
Route type: Out & back

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8 Douglas Spring Trail- Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

9. Saguaro National Park Nature Trails – Tanque Verde Ridge Trail

9 Tanque Verde Ridge-1

During my visit to Rincon Mountain District in Saguaro National Park, I decided to hike on this trail. The difficulty level of this trail is very hard. I hiked for around 20 miles using an out and back route with an elevation gain of 5,597 feet, starting at the Javelina picnic area. While hiking, I found this trail heavily trafficked, but I realized they were all experienced adventurers and hikers. I was enjoying beautiful panoramic views of this park and Tucson while hiking along this trail.

Additionally, there were plenty of saguaros, chollas and ocotillos along this trail. There were no shades along this trail, and therefore I had to take a lot of water to keep myself hydrated along the way. There is a beautiful spot at Juniper Basin that you can pitch your tent for an enjoyable hiking experience on this trail that I found out that the hikers I came in contact with stayed for the night.

Length: 20.0 mi
Elevation gain: 5,597 ft
Route type: Out & back

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9 Tanque Verde Ridge- Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

10. Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas – Goldstream Falls via Gold Mine, Arbutus Ridge, Upper Goldstream, and Prospector’s Trail Loop

10 Gould Mine-1

Gould Mine Ridge is a Moderate trail in Tucson Mountain District in Saguaro National Park that I managed to go hiking on. I covered a distance of 6.3 mi miles on a loop route with an elevation gain of 1,253 ft while hiking on this moderate trail. I passed through the remnant of Gould Mine and wooden relics as I was hiking along this trail.

Additionally, there were a variety of birds and saguaros along the trails. Since it was during winter, there were a lot of beautiful desert flowers blooming. Despite hiking during the morning hours, I had to drink a lot of water to keep myself hydrated. Some of the people I came across during my hike on this trail were bird watching while others were taking a walk.

Length: 6.3 mi
Elevation gain: 1,253 ft
Route type: Loop

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10 Gould Mine- Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas

11. Saguaro National Park Hiking Trails – Cactus Forest Trail

11 Cactus Forest Trail-1

This fantastic trail is one of the best moderate trails I managed to hike on during my visit to Saguaro National Park. I covered 110.0 mi using an out and back route type with an elevation gain of 511 ft. While hiking along this trail, I found a lot of beautiful wildflowers blooming. Additionally, I have the chance to spot heading under a rock a few meters from the trail. I was also able to enjoy stunning views of the Rincon Mountain Range while hiking along this trail. I also found some people horse riding on this trail during my visit. I did not have any problem with the heat since I brought along my wide hat, sunglasses, binoculars and a lot of water that I used to keep myself hydrated during the fantastic hiking experience.

Length: 10.0 mi
Elevation gain: 511 ft
Route type: Out & back

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11 Cactus Forest Trail- Saguaro

12. Saguaro National Park Nature Trails – Douglas Spring to Three Tank Trail Junction

12 Douglas Spring to Three-1

I decided to take on this trail one late evening during my visit to Saguaro National Park. I traveled for 4.5 mi using an out and back route with an elevation gain of 971 ft. While hiking along this trail, I was able to find several types of Cholla, Barrel, Hedgehog and Prickly Pear cactus along my route. Additionally, I was also able to have fantastic views of the magical sunset while hiking along this trail. There were a variety of birds resting and playing on the desert plants along this trail during my visit. There was not much heat during my hike that evening, but I was still able to in take a lot of water to be safe.

Length: 4.5 mi
Elevation gain: 971 ft
Route type: Out & back

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12 Douglas Spring to Three Saguaro

13. Saguaro National Park Hiking Areas – Hope Camp Trail

13 Hope Camp-1

We visited this amazing trail one morning with a group of friends. We covered a distance of 6.5 mi hiking along an out and back route type with an elevation gain of 528 ft. While hiking along this trail, we were able to have beautiful panoramas of the Rincon Valley. Additionally, we came across a sign warning about Africanized honeybees and mountain lions in the area. Apart from the beautiful flowers along the trail, we were able to spot desert plants such as prickly pears and saguaros mixed with mesquite trees and paloverdes. We also met some people on horseback riding.

Length: 6.5 mi
Elevation gain: 528 ft
Route type: Out & back

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13 Hope Camp Trail Saguaro

14. Saguaro National Park Hiking Trails – Rincon Peak Trail

14 Rincon Peak Trail-1

This was another trail I had strenuous experience hiking on. Still, I was lucky to find a few experienced hikers using it during my visit to Saguaro National Park. I hiked on an out and back route type covering a distance of 16.5 mi. While hiking a lot this route, I was able to spot beautiful wildflowers and a few scant bushes too. Additionally, there were a variety of birds on the desert plants that I was able to see while hiking. It was hot, so I had to take a lot of water to keep myself hydrated. This trail has an elevation gain of 4,593 ft.

Length: 16.5 mi
Elevation gain: 4,593 ft
Route type: Out & back

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14 Rincon Peak Trail Saguaro

15. Saguaro National Park Nature Trails – Sendero Esperanza Trail

15 Sendero Esperanza Trail-1

This is one of the moderately trafficked trails that is moderate rated that I was able to hike on during my visit to Saguaro National Park. I managed to cover 5.0 mi using an out and back route with an elevation gain of 1040 Feet. While hiking along this trail, I was lucky to spot several lizards, chipmunks, a little tortoise and a snake. Additionally, there were beautiful wildflowers along the trail that I was able to see while hiking. It brought along a lot of water to keep myself hydrated, a hiking boot and sun-blocking gears.

Length: 5.0 mi
Elevation gain: 1,040 ft
Route type: Out & back

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15 Sendero Esperanza Trail Saguaro

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