Life Would Succ Without Cacti – How I Spent 2 Days Exploring Saguaro National Park

I visited Saguaro National Park in the spring of 2021 and

I am telling you right now there wasn’t a single part of it

that succ’d. The whole time I was just prickled pink to be

there seeing some pretty fly cacti! Okay…enough of that.

I’m sure all of you are just on pins and needles waiting to hear about

my time exploring the park so Imma take a sharp turn away from

the puns and get right to the point. (Come on, you should know

better than to believe that for a succond! Okay that one was pretty

bad. lol) Read all about my time in the lovely sun soaked desert

surrounding Tucson, Arizona below!

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So for those of you that aren’t too familiar with Saguaro

National Park, it is divided into two separate districts, the more

“civilized” East Rincon Mountain District and the “wild” West Tucson

Mountain District. The East district is the one I went to first since

I was coming from White Sands National Park and it sits right on

the outskirts of the city of Tucson almost as if it is its own little gated community.

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My first stop was at the visitor center, but unfortunately it

was closed so I drove on to the Mica View Trail.

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Trail NameRound Trip Length Estimated Hike TimeElevation Gain
Mica View Trail2 miles1 hournone

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I walked along the wide dirt trail as the midafternoon sun hit my bronzed skin and was so happy to see that I had the whole place to myself. Well aside from this adorable lizard I almost set my bag on top of!

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After admiring the lizard I decided he marked a great place on the trail

to do a little desert photoshoot so I pulled my tripod out of my hiking bag

and started snapping away.

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After my photoshoot I packed my tripod back up and continued on the trail.

The farther along I went the more isolating the trail felt as I remained

alone without another human soul in sight and the desert began to creep

closer and closer to the trail. In some of the narrowest bits I kept my eyes

glued to the ground thinking I would surely see or hear the tell tale

sounds of a rattlesnake, but thankfully I saw none.

Now, of course it would be out of character for me to not get lost

at least once so I did that and ended up having to backtrack a little ways

to the correct turn off for the Cactus View Trail in order to make it back to the truck.

The extra hiking time was nice and even though it was in the 90s

there was a nice breeze (weather that I am currently wishing I had right now as

I shiver in the cold) and being alone out in the dry dry desert really allowed me to

fully enjoy the sights and sounds of nature in the park and leave

all my worries behind. Although I have to admit that those sounds of nature

put me a little on edge as the words my dad told me (“Now missy don’t

go hiking alone. The human traffickers and gangs are really bad

down in that area”) rang through my head. With every rustle in the

brush I felt myself tense and was ready to kung fu fight my way

out of any potential harm. lol

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Once back at the truck I continued on the black paved road

that wound through the park until I reached the Freeman Homestead Trail. 

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Trail NameRound Trip LengthEstimated Hike TimeElevation Gain
Freeman Homestead 1 mile30 minutesLittle to none

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In the trail description it said you would be able to see the

ruins of an old homestead, but in reality all that is

left is a mound of dirt sooo that was a little disappointing.

However, if you don’t have much time in the park and are looking

for a short easy trail to do this is still one I would

recommend as it had really pretty scenery. 

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After the Freeman Homestead Trail I continued on

to the Tanque Verde Trailhead. 

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Trail NameRound Trip LengthEstimated Hike Time Elevation Gain
Tanque Verde18 miles2 days (recommended)4000ft

This was listed as one of the best places to witness sunset

in this district of the park so initially my plan was to get out

and hike on the trail for some sunset views. However, by the

time I reached the trailhead the toll the hot sun and hours of driving had taken on

me throughout the day really started to sink in and all I could

think about was food and bed. So I stayed in the trailhead parking

and tried to pull up directions (service in the park is VERY spotty) and then

drove into Tucson to grab dinner and check in to my hotel.

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I stopped and got dinner at Renee’s Organic Oven which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives! (I have this weird and realistically unacheivable goal of going to all the restaurants triple D has been to sooo while I was here I had to make the stop.) This is called the Tailored Tony and it is what Guy ordered on the show! I got it to go and ate it at my hotel (the 3 Palms) and it was absolutely delicious!

The next day I returned to Saguaro East and began my

day of hiking on the Douglas Spring trail. 

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Trail NameRound Trip LengthEstimated Hike TimeElevation Gain
Douglas Spring5.6 miles3 hours1000ft

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The Douglas Spring trail in it’s entirety is about 16.6 miles long.

However, I opted to only hike out to Bridal Wreath Falls

(hence why the chart above says 5.6 miles instead of 16.6) or at

least where Bridal Wreath Falls should have been. I hiked along the

surprisingly well maintained and easy to follow trail up (and up and up

some more) into the Rincon mountains (like seriously…this trail does wonders

for your booty with its intense uphill features). Unfortunately

though, the area hadn’t

gotten much, if any, rain over the past few days sooooo the falls

were all dried up.

I hung my head and

turned my oh so so sweaty and very sunburnt self around to head back to the truck.

At least the worst part of the trail was downhill going back. Lol

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I was moseying along the trail listening to the Park Predators

podcast (because while hiking alone in a national park that

is like the most logical thing to do right? Lol Highly recommend

it for a listen though especially if you like national

parks and true crime!) and was looking straight down at the

my feet in an effort to keep my hat from flying off in the wind.

For some reason I felt the need to look ahead of me on the trail

and then I screamed and jumped back so fast I nearly fell over.

Sitting on the trail right where my next step was going to be

was a huge, brown and black, snake! I slowly backed away a little

more, keeping a very close eye on the snake who was now looking right

at me and started to writhe its body in my direction. I didn’t know what

to do. Do I try to go around the snake? Is looking the snake in the eye

like a threat to it? Do I need to make myself look bigger and make loud

noise? Wait…I think that’s what you do if there’s a bear…lol I just stood

there with the desert sun beating down on me trying to decide

what kind of snake it was and

what to do. Every time I moved the snake moved with me so for fear of

getting bit in the middle of the Arizona desert miles from a hospital and

all alone with no help in sight I just watched and waited.

I dared to inch forward a little to take a few

pics and a video of the snake (because no one was going to

believe how big this snake really was otherwise) and then

waited until it slithered it’s way off the trail. 

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After my run in with mr. snake I definitely was paying a lot more

attention to my surroundings and maybe walked just a little

quicker. Lol I came upon one couple on my way back and as

I was about to meet them the lady starts yelling “OMG! A

SNAKE! A HUGE SNAKE!” I didn’t get a picture of that one, but

how crazy that I saw two not only in one day, but on the same

trail! I guess if you aren’t a fan of snakes use your best judgement

on whether you want to hike the Douglas Trail in spring/summer. Lol

 Overall, even though I didn’t get to see any waterfalls, I enjoyed the Douglas

Spring trail. Although I have to admit that it is not an easy hike and not

one for kids in my opinion. (Also dogs are not allowed on this trail so just FYI.)

I also highly recommend that you get to this trail early. There is a small parking

lot, but it fills up pretty quickly (you can park along the road like I did, but

when I left there were cars lined up for quite a ways) and getting there

early will keep you from being out in the intense desert heat.

Be sure to read any signs that are at the trailhead (I know one year they

had a colony of bees that moved in and were terrorizing hikers who didn’t

read the signs or went anyway), bring plenty of water, and also use the

bathroom beforehand as there isn’t one at the trailhead.

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After the Douglas Spring trail I left Saguaro East and drove to

the west Tucson Mountain district. The road that takes you

through this part of the park is an unpaved dirt road called the

Bajada Loop Drive. It was very rough with huge potholes and

washboards and I think my top speed while driving on it was about

7mph. No joke. However, it did give me plenty of time to kind of look around

at the scenery so that was nice. 

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I drove on the loop road until I got to the trailhead for the Valley View Overlook trail.

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Trail NameRound Trip LengthEstimated Hiking TimeElevation Gain
Valley View Overlook1 mile30 minutesLittle to none

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This trail was pretty easy to follow and the overlook gave me probably

one of the best absolute best views in the park. Standing on the edge of

the cliff with the wind at my back and the sun shining down I looked out

in front of me and all I could see for miles and miles were cacti.

They were everywhere.

After the overlook I thought the trail continued or at least linked up

with another trail to get back to the trailhead however after wandering

around looking like a lost fool I just simply gave up looking and went

back the way I came.

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From Valley View Overlook I decided to make an unscheduled stop at Signal Hill.

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Truthfully I am never one to go out of my way to see petroglyphs, but this place was listed as a must see stop in this section of the park so you know, when in Saguaro. Lol (I have admit that they were actually pretty cool to see.)

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The trail itself was quite short and very easy and there is a nice little

sitting area at the start of the trail (along with bathrooms) where you

could have a picnic lunch.

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I finished out the loop road at the Red Hills Visitor Center

and decided to walk through their desert garden to see

the plants and also have a quick outfit photoshoot session.

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Once I was done there I drove on to Phoenix for the next leg of my trip!

Overall I loved Saguaro. The heat, the desert wildlife (yes even the

snakes lol), THE CACTI. All the trails were easy to follow and most were

easy to find (I did have some issues in Saguaro west, but someone

who is better at map reading than me will probably be just fine). Definitely

think this ranks pretty high in my list of top national parks and I

cannot wait to go back!

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