The Desert Ecology Nature Trail At Saguaro National Park

Desert Ecology Trail at Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is split into two separate sections, divided by the city of Tucson. The Tucson Mountain District sits about 10 miles west of Tucson and the Rincon Mountain District sits roughly 10 miles east of Tucson. Both sides of the national park have a visitor center, a scenic drive, and a paved, accessible desert trail with interpretive signs about the landscape and plants.

About a half mile past the Mica View Picnic Area turnoff on the scenic Cactus Forest Drive, we reached the parking area for a short nature trail and stopped.

The Desert Ecology Trail at Saguaro East is similar to the Desert Discovery Trail at Saguaro West, but at only 0.25 mile, it’s a little bit shorter.

  • The easy, flat, paved, Desert Ecology Trail begins across the street from the parking area.
  • It heads north away from Cactus Forest Drive then loops back, following Javelina Wash.
  • Signs along the way tell you about the plants and animals in this Sonoran Desert neighborhood.
  • Benches are placed along the trail to rest and relax.

You might be tempted to skip this short desert walk, but don’t do it! We saw three roadrunners during our mid-afternoon walk and enjoyed learning more about the mesquite trees and the different types of cacti found in the national park.

Know Before You Go

About the Desert Ecology Trail:

  • The Desert Ecology Trail at Saguaro East is a short, paved, accessible, 0.25 mile featuring plants of the Sonoran Desert.
  • The trail is located off the 8.0 mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive.
  • The parking area for the Desert Ecology Trail is a wide pullout with about six regular parking spots and one handicap spot.
  • Pets are allowed only on roadways, picnic areas, and two paved trails — this trail, the Desert Ecology Trail and the Desert Discovery Trail. Pets must be on a leash of no more than six feet at all times.

About Saguaro National Park:

  • Saguaro National Park is open 365 days per year. You can walk or bike into the park 24 hours a day. Vehicle access is from sunrise to sunset daily.
  • Admission to the park is $15.00/vehicle, $10.00/motorcycle, or $5.00/person and $5.00/bicycle. Free admissions days are offered on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the first day of National Park Week, National Public Lands Day, and Veterans Day.
  • The national park is split into two separate sections, one on each side of the city of Tucson, Arizona in Pima County: the Rincon Mountain District to the east and the Tucson Mountain District to the west.
  • Rincon Mountain Visitor Center in the Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park is located at 3693 South Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, Arizona 85730 in Pima County. It is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and closed on Christmas Day.
  • View maps of Saguaro National Park’s two scenic loop drives and numerous hiking trails and download the park newspaper.
  • There are no concession stands, snack/soda machines or restaurants in either section park. Water fountains are found at both visitor centers and only there.
  • There is little to no cell reception of service through the entire national park.
  • All resources (living and non-living) are protected in the National Park. Picking/taking of any resource is prohibited.

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