Saguaro Park, located in the lush Sonoran Desert of Arizona, preserves some of the most beautiful desert in the United States. The Saguaro, known as the monarch of the Sonoran desert, is the world's most recognized cactus. A many-armed stalwart that stands tall among the desert brush, the Saguaro lives to be almost 200 years old. The Saguaro can reach heights of up to 50 feet, and can weigh over ten tons. Gila Woodpeckers make nests in the cavity chests of the Saguaro. In the spring, beautiful brightly colored blossoms bubble from the tips of its arms. Many visitors are surprised to learn that the Saguaro also produces a sweet fruit after its flowering period. Red, fleshy, and sweet, each fruit is called a pitayah, and is used to make jellies, jams, and even wine! The fruit also provides much-needed nutrition and sustenance for many desert animals, mostly birds such as the Gila Woodpecker.
Saguaro Park is part of the federal government's national park system. Established in 1933, the Saguaro Park protects these treasured giants. Saguaro Park is divided into two sections, covering part of the West Tucson Mountains, part of the Tucson valley floor, and the Rincon Mountains to the East.
Saguaro Park has two main entrances, known as districts: the Rincon Mountain District Visitor Center (also known as Saguaro National Park East) , and the Tucson Mountain District Visitor Center (Saguaro National Park West). The Saguaro National Park East entrance is accessible from Cactus Forest Drive. The Saguaro West entrance is accessible from Kinney Road. Both districts of the park open at 7:00 am and close at sunset. The visitor centers are open year round, with the exception of Christmas Day. Both visitor centers have operating hours of 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Entrance fees are $10.00 per vehicle, and $5.00 for pedestrians or bicyclists.
Both visitor centers offer brochures, maps, and trail guides.
The Saguaro Park offers visitors with several miles of paved road that allow for leisurely car rides through the park. If you're interested in getting up close with nature and the desert scenery, the Saguaro Park also provides visitors with over 150 miles of hiking trails. The Saguaro Park hiking trails range in intensity, and are suited for both beginning and advanced hikers. Some are flat and easy strolls, while other trails are more rigorous.
The Saguaro Park also provides visitors with several other amenities, including two gift shops and museums (one at each of the two visitor centers). The museums offer visitors with slide shows and interpretive exhibits. Guided walks led by the park's rangers are offered on an almost daily basis from the visitor centers. Restrooms and picnic areas are available around the visitor centers.
If you plan to visit Saguaro Park, be sure to pack accordingly. In the summer, temperatures are extremely hot, usually reaching or exceeding 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Spring, autumn, and winter are very pleasant. Winter temperatures, for instance, average 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of time of year, it is recommended that visitors carry at least one gallon of water per person.