The first time I visited Saguaro was back in 2019, on a solo trip to Colorado and Arizona. I had visited the eastern side of the park on that trip, so this time around on Teddy and my 12 Day southwest road trip, we chose to do the western side of the park. If you only have a day in the park, our best suggestions are below.
Scenic Bajada Loop Drive
This is the best way to see the park if you don’t want to go on a long hike. It’s a 6 mile road that is one way most of the way. It’s a dirt road, but find for low clearance vehicles. The entrance isn’t far from the Visitor Center and many of the best things to do in the park are right off this road.
Valley View Overlook Trail
From the Bajada Loop Drive, you can access this trail. It has a small parking lot about 1/4 of the through the scenic drive. There’s a smaller parking lot for this trail on the left that can fit 6-8 cars. Since this part of the road is one way, if you’re not able to snag a spot initially, it’s worth another loop on the scenic road to check out this trail.
The trail itself takes you down into a wash and then up stone steps on the other side. There’s a variety of very different beautiful cacti along this trail. It’s about .8 miles out and back. We hiked a bit of it in the afternoon and then decided to come back for sunrise later that evening to enjoy the view from the top. It was incredible. If you decide you want to extend your hike, this connects to the Wild Dog trail which takes you through even more scenery in the park.
There are also some other longer hikes in the West side of the park. The King Canyon / Gould Mine Loop is about 2.4 miles which travels on a wash as well as an old mining road.
You could also go up to Wasson Peak (4,688 ft) via the King Canyon, Hugh Norris or Sendero-Esperanza trails. These hikes can range from 4-8 ish miles depending on the trails taken.
We didn’t have time to do either of these trails during our visit, but the next time we’re back we will check out at least one of them.
- It’s $25 to get into the park without a pass. I would highly recommend the America the Beautiful Pass if you plan to visit any other National Parks or state parks or recreation sites that accept the pass. I’ve purchased one every year for the last 3 years and wow has it paid off.
- Remember when visiting the park to take more water than you think you’ll need. It gets incredibly hot here in the summer. We were lucky to have visited in the winter and the weather was still in the 70s when we were there.
- If you’re spending more than a day in the Saguaro National Park area, there’s also the eastern side of the park to visit which takes an hour to get between the two. You can check out my blog from the last time I visited here. There’s a lot to do on both sides so a full day in each if you can swing it would be ideal.
And no matter what, have fun and enjoy your time exploring one of the beautiful parks we have in the US!