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Sedation Vacations

Travel Blog of a Travel Nurse

A Couple Days in Saguaro Nat'l Park

Updated: Apr 29, 2023

A woman is seen standing next to a cactus. The cactus is about double her height. The woman is facing the camera, but has a large camera up to her eye, obstructing her face.  She is wearing rust colored pants and a tan tshirt with a design on it.  In the background, a desert and some mountains are seen, as well as many other cacti.

Located in Tucson, AZ and named after that big cactus, Saguaro Nat'l Park is a great place for a weekend getaway. It's broken up into two separate parks, East and West, with about an hour drive in-between the two districts of the park. I spent about 3 days in Tucson, and one day per park was more than enough to take it all in.

A very large saguaro cactus is seen.  Next to the cactus, but behind multiple shrubs, a woman is seen standing next to the cactus.

Saguaro West: Start your trip in Saguaro West, aka The Tucson Mountain District. Personally, I liked this side of the park better because it was more heavily populated with the Saguaro Cacti, which was the main reason I wanted to go to this park in the first place. I highly suggest starting at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, right outside the park. It has a whole zoo full of all the animals you may encounter in the desert, a scenic trail, and lots of other educational and interactive activities. After this, I would head over to the Bajada Scenic Loop, a beautiful scenic drive, with multiple trailheads to get your day started. Two of the easier trails that you do not want to miss are the Desert Discovery Nature Trail (0.5 miles) because the saguaros on this trail are gigantic and the Signal Hill Petroglyphs, a short walk off a picnic area, to see some of the Native American artwork. If you include the desert museum and a few short hikes in this park, you can easily spend an entire day here.

There are two boulders seen in the foreground. The one on the left has a swirling petroglyph design on it.  In the background, you can see a desert as well as mountains
Signal Hill Petroglyphs

Saguaro East: On your second day in Tucson, head over to Saguaro East, aka The Rincon Mountain District. This side of the park is less densely populated with saguaro cacti, but seems to have more (longer) hiking trails than it's west counterpart. I had been hiking all week prior to visiting this park, so I wasn't in the mood for any long hikes. So I hopped on the Cactus Forest Loop Drive (the only road in this park I think?). There's lots of viewpoints and trailheads off this scenic drive, and between a few short hikes and a few stops for pictures, I would say this side of the park took about 4 hours to cover. I would suggest checking out the Desert Ecology trail, Mica View, Loma Verde trail, and the Cactus Forest trail!

The sun is setting in the background. The foreground is dark, but you can make out the silhouette of multiple large saguaro cacti

While you're in Tucson:

  • Have breakfast at The Cup Cafe in Hotel Congress- Get their cast iron baked eggs. So good. I would also suggest making a reservation here, we had about a 20 minute wait for inside seating, and outside seating had a 45 minute wait. Worth the wait though!

  • Grab costilla (rib) tacos at Tacos Apson- delicious and filling, with a large menu full of tacos, burritos, tortas, etc. There are two locations, check out either of them.

  • Get a beer at 1912 Brewing Company- They're beer menu is gigantic, with IPAs, red ales, goses, and sours. They also offer mead from Superstition Meadery.

  • Enjoy another beer at Borderlands Brewing Co- beautiful outdoor seating, live music, good vibes, and great beer. I really enjoyed this brewery, and they seem to have food trucks for food options.

  • Grab dinner and another beer at Barrio Brewing Co- This employee owned business is Arizona's oldest brewery, serving great food (burgers and such), and decent beers.

  • Like mead? Then please make the hour drive to The Meading Room in Sonoita. I would live here if they would let me. This newly opened meadery, owned by a retired mom and her daughter, serves up some great tasting mead with even better vibes. It's nestled in a rural area with live chickens roaming around, a lavender garden, outdoor drinking games, fire pits, and a library on the inside. This meadery is also very close to multiple wineries and it's right off a wine tour route, if that interests you.

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