Saguaro National Park is home to the nation’s largest cacti — the giant saguaro — the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants, found only in a small portion of the United States, are protected by Saguaro National Park, to the east and west of the modern city of Tucson. Here you have a chance to see these enormous cacti, silhouetted by the beauty of a magnificent desert sunset.
Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona consists of two distinct areas—the Tucson Mountain District west of the city of Tucson and the Rincon Mountain District east of the city—that preserve Sonoran Desert landscapes and diverse fauna and flora, including the giant saguaro cactus.
The volcanic rocks on the surface of the Tucson Mountain District differ greatly from the surface rocks of the Rincon Mountain District; over the past 30 million years, crustal stretching associated with the Basin and Range displaced rocks from beneath the Tucson Mountains to form the Rincon Mountains. Uplifted, domed, and eroded, the Rincon Mountains remain significantly higher and wetter than the Tucson Mountains, and have plant and animal populations that do not exist in the Tucson Mountain District. The Rincons, one of the Madrean Sky Islands between the southern Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre Oriental in Mexico, support high biodiversity.
Earlier residents of and visitors to the lands in and around the park before its creation included the Hohokam, Sobaipuri, Tohono O’odham, Apaches, Spanish explorers, missionaries, miners, homesteaders, and ranchers. In 1933, President Herbert Hoover, using the power of the Antiquities Act, established the original park as Saguaro National Monument. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy added the Tucson Mountain District and renamed the original tract the Rincon Mountain District. Congress combined the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain District to form the national park in 1994.
Hiking on the park’s 165 miles of trails and sightseeing along loop drives near the park’s visitor centers are popular activities. Both districts have picnic areas and allow bicycling and horseback riding on selected roads and trails. The Tucson Mountain District forbids overnight camping, but the Rincon Mountain District supports limited wilderness camping. Both districts offer ranger-led walking tours and other educational programs.