Situated in southeast Arizona within Pima County is the Saguaro National Park, a 92,000-acre park that has both the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mount District contained therein. The park is famous for preserving the Sonoran Desert landscapes, flora, and fauna, and of course, the famed saguaro cactus.
The park was home to early Native Americans before Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived in the 1800s. In 1933, President Hoover established the Saguaro National Monument within the Rincon Mountains. It wasn’t until 1961 when President John F. Kennedy added the Tucson Mountain District to the monument. Congress combined the Tucson Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain District to form Saguaro National Park in 1994.
Today people travel to the park to go hiking and capture the iconic Route 66 postcard image. There are plenty of biking trails, horseback riding trails, and wilderness camping sites available as well.
The park gets its name from the saguaro cactus, which does not grow anywhere else on the earth.
Although it’s a hot and dry landscape, the Saguaro National Park is still home to a slew of medium-sized and large mammals with more than 30 species marked. Some of the most notable residents include cougars, coyotes, bobcats, deer, mule deer, foxes, jackrabbits, cottontails, ring-tailed cats, squirrels, and bats. The park also supports a wide range of birds, like flycatchers, whiskered screech owls, great horned owls, cactus wrens, ravens, turkey vultures, roadrunners, quails, and hummingbirds.
The park is home to 36 reptiles, like the famous desert tortoise, diamondback rattlesnakes, and spiny lizards. The canyon tree frog, the lowland leopard frog, and the Couch’s spadefoot can also be spotted within the park.
Since the park ranges from 2,180 feet to 4,687 feet in elevation, there are two biotic communities, desert scrub, and desert grassland habitats available for exploration. There is also some annual rainfall and more activity than is typically found in a plain desert region. If you think you will merely see cacti when visiting this park, think again!
The Saguaro National Park’s Animals
- Mule deer
- Also known as a skunk pig, the javelina is a medium-sized, pig-like, hoofed mammal that can be found in Central and South America. They weigh about 50 pounds and can be spotted making their way up into the Saguaro National Park. They live in small herds.
SNP East: Available after a mild hike, SNP East is a great spot for seeing javelinas in the washes. During the hot sunlight hours the animals will be hidden, so head out early in the morning to see them.
Catalina Mountains: At the top of the Catalina Mountains, especially at Mt. Bigelow, visitors can see deer, turkeys, bobcats, coyotes, and most other large mammals.
When Should You Go?
The Saguaro National Park has relatively stable and predictable weather year round – cool in the mornings and hot in the afternoons. For wildlife viewing, your best bet is super early morning or at dusk. The winter months can be cooler at night and in the morning, but it’s an overall safe bet that you aren’t going to be dealing with blizzards.
If you plan to hike by day, please pack plenty of water.