Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Saguaro National Park

Or, another installment in how I spent my winter vacation.

Saguaro National Park is located on two sides of Tucson, Arizona. The unit on the west side is supposedly mostly desert and a gazillion cacti; the east side includes the Rincon Mountains so has areas with higher elevations and a forested environment. Most of the Rincon unit is wilderness accessible only by hiking, which we didn't do.

Well, we did get out of the car and do some walking, but not much. When Saguaro was added to the National Parks system it came in as a monument and, like a bunch of others from the 1930's, was set up to encourage windshield tourists.

We visited the unit on the east side of Tucson. A road loops through a section of that unit that stops at various overlooks where you can get good views of the desert and the mountains. You also get an eyeful of just how far out the city has sprawled in the past 30 years. Suburban development is right up against the boundaries now; when we lived in Tucson in the early 80s both units of the park felt pretty far out from everything else.

In any case, the loop road is obviously popular with local cyclists -- there were a lot of people biking, and it was easy to see why. Because the loop was designed to provide variety in what people saw out the windshield, it packs a fair amount of up and down and winding around into not very many miles. It would definitely more fun to bike that road than to just get pedaling along the typical urban area bike paths, which tend to be pretty flat and boring. On that loop road cyclists might be sharing space with cars, but the speed limit is only 10 mph and the road's design ensures people don't go much faster than that.

There are stops at a couple of short trails where you can amble through the cacti, getting up close views of the teddy bear cholla and the giant saguaro, and read various wayside signs explaining to you just what it is you're seeing. We stopped at a handicapped accessible trail to check it out.

It's nicely designed. Does the usual switchbacking and weaving around the vegetation so it feels a little longer than it actually is and provides a variety of hostile shrubbery and cacti to admire from a safe distance. Arizona definitely has unfriendly vegetation.

Cholla cactus

Prickly pear


  1. Glad I can at least travel vicariously through you. Thanks for sharing the pics.

  2. Always amused how in the Western books, people ride at a gallop through that stuff.

  3. I always thought John Wayne should be riding up out of the desert when I lived there.ha


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