Straddling the legendary Southwest community of Tucson, Arizona, lies a national park devoted to protecting arguably the most iconic symbols of this region, the saguaro cactus.
Saguaro National Park is divided into two regions, Saguaro West’s Tucson Mountain District and Saguaro East’s Rincon Mountain District. Both districts are home to their own scenic drive, with the popular Bajada Loop Drive in the west, and the Cactus Forest Drive in the east.
Beginning at the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center, the one-way Cactus Forest Drive Loop leads visitors on a leisurely eight-mile journey through a saguaro forest. The drive provides a stunning view of Sonoran Desert life and varieties of cacti, plants, and wildlife that inhabit the area. Many of the 130 miles of trails that stretch across the Rincon District of Saguaro National Park begin and/or end along the loop road. Trailheads can be seen all along the route.
Being a relatively short loop, and in close proximity to downtown Tucson, the Cactus Forest Drive loop is a popular destination for bicyclists.
If you’re planning to hike into the park, be sure to make yourself of the weather forecast for your visit. Temperatures in Southern Arizona can often reach into the 100’s and there is little shade provided by the mighty saguaro cactus. In the mid-to-late summer, monsoon season can bring sudden rain that can create unexpected washes in desert environments that aren’t accustomed to large amounts of precipitation.