When we began this hike in the Saguaro National Park just outside of Tucson, I wasn’t super aware that I’d be hiking uphill more than not for half the hike. Admittedly, I didn’t ask many questions when my husband asked if I wanted to hike it. He knows my abilities and when I’m willing to be pushed further, so I grant him a lot of leeway in the planning of our adventures when there’s somewhere he wants to check out. I maybe should have asked if this was a semi-uphill or a majority uphill hike. Details.
Here’s a screen shot from my Garmin Connect App (I use the Garmin vivoactive and I love it!):
I probably asked no questions because I was just super excited to get out and be able to hike. I’ve been recovering from shoulder surgery and this was a great way to practice swinging my arm (sounds ridiculous, but it’s sadly true). The hike we did was the Hugh Norris trail and we hiked 5.38 miles round trip (2.69 each way) with a total elevation gain of 1,395 feet. Fairly uphill, I’d say. It was also extremely windy while we were hiking. We estimated that there were probably at least 30 mph winds. My hat wouldn’t even stay on my head and I had it as tight as it would go with my ponytail through the hole in the back. It made for a pretty hip hairdo when all was said and done (at least that’s what I told myself).
There are plenty of other hikes you can do in the park as well. In fact, if you wanted to you can even extend the hike that we did. Once we reached our designated turnaround point, the trail broke off into a handful of other trails. Two of them looped back to the same point and the other led you down and then you’d have to turn around and go back to where you came from.
As far as Saguaro National Park in general and the hike itself, the scenery was gorgeous and we came across what appeared to be an old mine entrance that was blocked off near the 2.5 mile mark. There were many viewpoints where you could look out and see as far as your eyes would allow. Mountain ranges in the background at the horizon, green acres of farmland off in the distance, and tons of beautiful blooming saguaros everywhere you looked. Seriously, they were everywhere. They certainly nailed it when naming this place.
Apparently, a flower on a saguaro blooms for less than 24 hours. The bloom opens during the night and stays open the next day to provide pollination opportunities. During the night, the flowers are pollinated by long-nosed bats and Mexican long-tongued bats. During the day, they’re pollinated by bees and birds such as the white-winged dove. If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing a blooming saguaro cactus in person, you are missing something special. The flowers are a frothy white and just provide a bit of elegance to an otherwise overwhelming species of cacti. Once they are successfully pollinated, the flower will turn into a red fruit that coyotes and cactus wren will eat. The seeds of the fruit survive the digestion process and will be scattered throughout the desert floor in hopes of germination and growth into a new cactus. Nature sure is fascinating.
While at the Saguaro National Park, we also took a scenic drive on the Bajada Loop after our hike. It looped around before taking us back towards the visitor center. On our way, we also stopped at a 1/2 mile nature walk, which was informative. There are little huts along the path offering tidbits of information about the area and wildlife. Take the time to take a stroll through and learn about the Sonoran Desert. It didn’t take very long. This would be really cool and educational for children.
While our photos don’t do enough justice for this incredible National Park, I hope you’ll go and visit it yourself sometime. We certainly are excited to go back and do a longer hike. I’ll bet it’s even more beautiful when several types of cactus are in full bloom and wildflowers are popping up. This is the perfect place to see what the Sonoran Desert truly looks like in all of its glory (because contrary to popular belief, not all of Arizona looks like this and it’s not all desert!)
Have a great week and let me know if you go! We’re off to the next spot.