For the first solo trip of the new decade, I flew from Corpus Christi to Tucson, Arizona. The Tucson airport is about 30 minutes away from Saguaro National Park East, and about an hour from Saguaro National Park West. These parks are known for their massive Saguaro cacti. Being from Texas, I have seen many a cactus in my life but I was intrigued by the idea of these towering plants.
For this trip I did get a rental car from Enterprise. With the underage fee it was $60, so not too bad considering how much I drove on this quick trip.
It was 60 degrees and sunny, perfect weather for hiking through a cactus-filled desert. I drove to Saguaro East first. The park is essentially an 8ish mile one-way loop that you can drive your car around, with multiple hiking trails branching off of the loop. There are several backcountry trails as well that seemed to go a little more into the mountains, but I stuck to the loop and short day hikes. The cactus forest against a dry mountain backdrop was stunning. The gentle rolling hills of the road took me through a decent portion of the park. I walked the 0.25 mile paved discovery trail, which basically takes you around different types of cacti and teaches you about the different plants and animals in the desert ecosystem. I walked a couple miles on the Cactus Forest Trail, a 10 mile (total) out-and-back trail alongside the cacti. I then walked a couple more miles on the Loma Verde Trail and Squeeze Pen Loop. Squeeze Pen had been recommended to me by one the employees in the visitor’s center because it went very close to the base of the mountains. All of the trails I walked in Saguaro East were almost entirely flat, and they all fulfilled my dream of getting up close to the largest cacti I have ever seen.
After driving the Saguaro East Loop it was only around 3pm, so I drove out to Saguaro West. It took over an hour but the drive was beautiful. West seemed to be more mountainous with the same amount of cacti. I arrived around sunset which was gorgeous. I walked another little paved 0.5 mile discovery loop that overlooked the mountains.
For dinner, I went to Sweet Tomatoes. I know, out of all the restaurants in Tucson I went to Sweet Tomatoes. It sounded good. I did hear however that I needed to try a Sonoran hot dog. Maybe another time.
I stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Tucson East/Williams Center. There were several Hilton hotels in the Tucson area but I was extremely happy with the location of this one. It was 20 minutes from the airport, 30 minutes from Saguaro East, an hour from Saguaro West, and only 15 minutes from the beautiful Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.
Sabino Canyon is part of the Coronado National Forest. It cost me $8 to get in and it was worth every penny. In fact, I wish I had gone here on the first day. There were just as many cacti but they were nestled in between rocky mountains. A stream ran through part of it, and paired with the painted-sky sunrise it was simply stunning. There were miles and miles of trails I did not have the chance to explore, but if I ever find myself in Tucson again I’ll visit Sabino Canyon first.
My trip to Tucson was short but sweet. I had a great time at this beautiful, bizarre place and am extremely grateful for my visit there.
https://www.nps.gov/sagu/planyourvisit/saguaro_hiking.htm à recommended hikes in East and West Saguaro
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/cactus-forest-trail à Cactus Forest Trail
https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/loma-verde-and-squeeze-pen-loop à Loma Verde Trail and Squeeze Pen Loop
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/coronado/recarea/?recid=80532 à Sabino Canyon