Jul 06

Saguaro National Park East

Along the TrailSaguaro National Park is divided up into two sections or districts.  There is one east of Tucson and the other section is on the Westside of town.  The Saguaro National Park is home to North America’s largest cacti the giant saguaro which is one of the main reasons to visit.  This was my first visit to the park, but I had always envisioned it looking like the Looney Tunes cartoons of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner because they were always running around giant cacti.  While I did not run across any coyotes chasing after roadrunners, I did get to see many saguaros.  While this park could never compare to some of the other wonderful national parks that are found in the United States the desert environment that makes up Saguaro National Park has its own distinct beauty. 
Shantz TrailAfter visiting the Pima Air and Space Museum and the Reid Park Zoo I thought I would swing over and see the east part of Saguaro National Park.  I was going to be in Tucson for a few days and knew the receipt would be good for the short amount of time that as I was going to be in town.  My first stop was to their visitor center to get an idea of what I was going to be seeing.  At every national park that I have visited I always try to stop by the visitor center.  The reason I do this is because I have never had a bad experience with a park ranger.  They always seem to give good advice on what to see and when to see it. 
Saguaro National Park BirdsEast District of the park is also known as the Rincon Mountain District and includes all the land from the original grant that had created the area as a national monument.  This district is larger than its western counterpart because it includes an extensive mountainous area.  Saguaro National Park East is also unique because it is only part of the national park that allows backpacking.  While I was not there to do any backpacking I imagine in the fall or spring season, when the weather is not baking hot, it is probably a pretty good area to leave civilization behind. 
Saguaro RoadOne of the things that I liked about Saguaro National Park East compared to the West District is the fact that it had a paved road.  The Cactus Forest Drive is an 8 mile one lane road that you can walk, drive, or ride a bike through.  I was there in March and the weather was just about perfect though I ran into a few snow flurries along the drive.  It is amazing how much the desert weather can change in just a few hours. 
Saguaro CactusThere were several short hikes to choose from and I had decided to do several while I was there but only for about a mile each.  The reason I did not do the whole hike was the fact that most of the trails do not lead to any major land features but are just chances to walk through some of the landscape of the area.  Plus, I wanted to see as much as I could and was on a limited schedule.  The only trail that I completed was the Desert Ecology loop which I believe is less than a half a mile.  During my short hiking excursions I saw several different small mammals like rabbits or chipmunks.  I did not see any of the larger species of the park like javalinas or coyotes, and I am certainly glad that I did not run into any of the black bears or mountain lions that can be found in Saguaro National Park since I was hiking by myself. 
Desert RabbitSaguaro National Park East is well worth a few hours of your time.  Especially do the fact that it does not take a long time to drive through it and to take a few short trails to see some of the cacti that make up this park. I have never been here during the summer months and probably would never want to, but I did enjoy spending a few hours in the spring there and would do it again.          
Desert Ecology TrailSaguaro National Park East
Located at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail
Hours of Operation – 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every day of the year except Christmas Day
Cost as of this posting — $10.00 per privately owned vehicle $5.00 for any individual on foot or bicycle the receipt last for 7 days
For more information visit their website at http://www.nps.gov/sagu/
Saguaro National Park Sign

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  1. Lynn Braz

    Great photos, great post. I enjoy reading about your adventures.

    1. Kenny and Karen

      Thank you so much!

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