After visiting the Rincon Mountain Visitor Center and starting out on the scenic Cactus Forest Loop Drive in the eastern section of Saguaro National Park, we saw a sign for the Mica View Picnic Area and decided to check it out because the picnic area is also the trailhead for the Mica View Loop Trail.
We turned off Cactus Forest drive onto Mica View Road, a relatively smooth, unpaved, dirt/gravel road and followed it to the the picnic area at the end of the road.
The Mica View Picnic Area at Saguaro East has some trees and shade, but not all picnic tables are shaded and there is no running water and no restrooms. It was hot and a few other park visitors were picnicking at the shady picnic spots, so we were happy to have picnicked at the Visitor Center before beginning the scenic drive through the park.
We grabbed our Hydro Flasks, downed a ton of water, and set out north along the 2.0 mile round trip, easy, flat Mica View Trail to see some of the older, larger Saguaro Cacti up close.
While walking this wide, paved, family-friendly trail, we enjoyed views of the Santa Catalina Mountains to the north, the Rincon Mountains to the east, and Tanque Verde Peak and Mica Mountain to the south. We also loved seeing young saguaros under their palo verde “nurse trees”, cholla and prickly pear cacti, and the old, towering saguaro cacti.
Saguaro cacti can stand as tall as 75 feet and live more than 200 years. Many have their trademark arms, but not all saguaros have arms. In fact, it can take at least 75 years for a saguaro to begin growing their first arm!
Eventually the Mica View Trail reaches the Broadway Trailhead along the northern park boundary at Broadway Road. This trailhead is near a developed neighborhood and is free to access, so it is a popular exercise destination for locals.
From the Broadway Trailhead, you can turn around and go back the way you came along the Mica View Trail, or you can make it a loop by heading right on the Shantz Trail, then right on the Cactus Forest Trail to head south to its intersection with the Mica View Trail.
Once back at the picnic area and parking lot, we guzzled water, refilled our Hydro Flasks (we always pack extra water in the truck), and hopped back on the Cactus Forest Loop Drive to walk the Desert Ecology Trail and check out Javelina Rocks.
Know Before You Go
About the Mica View Picnic Area:
- Mica View Picnic Area is one of two picnic areas in the Rincon Mountain District at Saguaro East. The other is Javelina Picnic Area. Each picnic area has at least one picnic table with an overhanging end for wheelchair users and most have charcoal grills nearby.
- The picnic area is located off the 8.0 mile Cactus Forest Loop Drive at the end of the 6.0 mile unpaved Mica View Road.
- There is a vault toilet at the Mica View Picnic Area.
- You can begin the 2.0 mile round trip Mica View Trail at the Mica View Picnic Area or the Broadway Trailhead. The trail also heads southwest from the picnic area. When you include that portion of the trail in your hike, it becomes a 3.7 mile hike.
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.