Our third stop along the scenic Cactus Forest Loop Drive in Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro East was the Javelina Rocks Overlook and the Javelina Picnic Area — named for the Javelina who live in the park.
My son loves bouldering and climbing rock formations and there isn’t much of that available at Saguaro National Park because the southwestern desert landscape so flat. So when we saw Javelina Rocks, Brian pulled over and he and Carter jumped out of the truck and headed up the rocks, not even waiting for Natalie and I!
Composed of an ancient granite called Catalina Gneiss, Javelina Rocks Overlook on Cactus Forest Drive at Saguaro East provides majestic views of the Tuscon basin and the enormous saguaro cactus.
With several narrow dirt trails and climbing paths around, up, and over the rocks, the small, paved parking area fills up fast on weekends and spring and summer mornings. As you can imagine, with it being one of the only places kids can scramble around on the rocks, it’s a popular destination and the perfect spot to take a break from the scenic drive to let your kids run around and burn off steam.
The Rincon Mountain District is open through sunset and Javelina Rocks Overlook is one of the best places to watch the sun set in Saguaro National Park. If you stay for a spectacular sunset experience, be sure to arrive and climb to the top of the rocks about 30 minutes or so beforehand.
After exploring Javelina Rocks, we hopped back in the car to check out the Javelina Picnic Area as they’re not in the same place.
The Javelina Picnic Area, trailhead for the popular Tanque Verde Ridge Trail, is nestled in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains. The picnic area has a large parking lot and several covered stone picnic tables with grills.
Know Before You Go
About Javelina Rocks and the Javelina Picnic Area:
- Javelina Picnic Area is one of two picnic areas in the Rincon Mountain District at Saguaro East. The other is Mica View Picnic Area. Each picnic area has at least one picnic table with an overhanging end for wheelchair users and most have a charcoal grill nearby.
- The rock formation and picnic area are located off the 8.0 mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive.
- Javelina Picnic Area has one vault toilet that is wheelchair accessible but no running water.
- The strenuous 1.6 mile round trip Ridge View Trail and the varying length strenuous Tanque Verde Ridge Trail both leave from the picnic area.
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.
- Pets are allowed only on roadways, picnic areas, and the two paved trails — the Desert Ecology Trail and the Desert Discovery Trail. Pets must be on a leash of no more than six feet at all times.
- All resources (living and non-living) are protected in the National Park. Picking/taking of any resource is prohibited.