Saguaro National Park is an excellent hiking destination for families with kids.
The park is split into two sections, on on the east and one on the west side of Tucson and is home to the nation’s largest cacti! We will focus our attention on Saguaro National Park EAST, which in our opinion is more kid friendly. It is home to some amazing kid-friendly hikes. In addition to hiking the park also offers scenic drives that follow dirt roads through the park (no 4×4 needed). These a great options if a certain somebody needs a nap!
Saguaro National Park offers a wide range of hiking and other activities that are kid-friendly. In this post we highlight just our favorites. If you are looking to visit the park and do not want to do a ton of research, just pick one or two below. You won’t be disappointed!
And we apologize for not having pictures yet for this post. The last time we hiked here was before we started our blog and frankly didn’t take any worth sharing!
What is Saguaro National Park and where is it located?
Saguaro National Park is is an icon of the American west. You have two options, Saguaro National Park East and Saguaro National Park West. We prefer the west because in our opinion it is more kid-friendly, includes Wasson’s Peak, and is right next to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
The West side of the park, also called the Tucson Mountain District, is open to vehicles from sunrise to sunset. It is also open every holiday except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. The Visitor center is open daily from 9AM to 5PM.
Be sure to check out the National Park Service Website for up-to-date park information and contact information. They also do a great job mapping out what you can expect depending on the season you visit.
What amenities does Saguaro National Park offer?
Saguaro National Park offers may of the amenities that you would expect from America’s wonderful National Park System. The park charges an $25 fee for each private vehicle, which covers the vehicle and all of its passengers. Thankfully the pass is good for seven days. Credit cards are accepted and purchases can be made ahead of time online.
The Visitor Center on the western side of the park is called the Red Hills Visitor Center. It is worth a stop as the park rangers are very helpful and you can learn a lot about the unique geology and flora of the park. It also has a bookstore, park maps, hiking guides, and a great patio overlooking the Red Hills and Saguaro cactus forest.
Bathrooms and drinking water are available.
In addition to hiking, Saguaro National Park offers opportunities to camp, bike, and experience a variety of guided programs. There always seems to be something going on at the park.
Kid-Friendly Saguaro National Park (West) Hiking Options
Saguaro National Park is home number of great hikes for kids of all ages, even if they need a stroller. We have broken them down by age to help you pick out the best for your family. This handy guide provides a full map of all hiking options and is available at the visitor center. The visitor center also hosts a Junior Ranger program!
Hiking in Saguaro National Park with Babies & Toddlers – Stroller/Wheelchair Accessible
Desert Discovery Trail
This is a 0.5 mile long paved trail with interpretive signs posted throughout. It is the perfect starter hike, especially with a stroller! It is located right up the park road from he visitor center.
Bajada Loop Drive
This is a drive, not a hike. That being said, it is a good option for little ones. The entire drive is about 6 miles long on a graded dirt road (no 4×4 necessary). There are plenty of spots to stop and run around, including Signal Hill Trail below. The drive is also a great way to orient yourself with the park.
Signal Hill Trail
The Signal Hill trail is a short and easy hike that is accessible from the Bajada Loop Drive. The hike takes about 20 minutes and the highlight are dozens of petroglyphs carved into the surface of the rock from the 13th and 14th centuries. There is also an adjacent picnic area that is a fun spot to refuel.
Hiking in Saguaro National Park with Little/Medium-sized Kiddos
Whether your kid falls into this category or not is all dependent on your family’s hiking style. Our kids lived in baby carriers until about four years old. We were used to the weight and they were used to sitting and looking around. If you fall into this category, some of the advanced trails in the next section could be options. If your kids are new to hiking or just aren’t ready a long or steep trek, then these Saguaro National Park trails will be perfect.
Wild Dog Trail
This 1.8 mile hike is perfect for beginning hikers. It cuts through the Bajada Loop Drive, starting at the Valley View Trail and ending at the Signal Hill picnic ground. You will either have to retrace your steps back to your car or have someone swing around and pick you up. This is a good option if you have some hikers (or sleeping kids) with you.
Cactus Wren/Encinas/Manville Loop
This is another fun hike although longer at 3.2 miles that starts from the Signal Hill Trail area. Start on the Cactus Wren trail for 1.0 mile, then take a left the Encinas Trail. After hiking for about 0.4 miles take a left on the Manville Trail which after 1.9 miles will take you back to your car. There are a number of options for longer/shorter hikes using these three trails. This is the shortest option that is a full loop.
King Canyon/Gould Mine Loop
Start on the King Canyon Wash Trail off of Kinney Road. Then run left on the Sendero Esperanza Trail for 0.4 miles before turning left again on Gould Mine Trail. The entire loop is 2.4 miles in length. Part of this hike follows a dry wash which is fun. There is also a slightly shorter version that starts on King Canyon Wash Trail and comes back on King Canyon Trail, which is an old mining road.
Hiking in Saguaro National Park with Older Kids and Adults
There are a ton of other hiking trails in Saguaro National Park (West) that are good for older kids and adults. Given the overwhelming number of options, we’ll focus our attention here the one with the greatest views, Wasson Peak. All of the hikes we list can be found on the park’s hiking map.
Sendero Esperaza to Wasson Peak
The hike starts at the Sendero Esperanza trailhead, which has bathrooms. Take the Sendero Esperanza Trail 1.7 miles until you reach the Hugh Norris Trail. Turn right and continue for 1.9 miles until you reach the spur trail up to Wasson Peak. That spur trail is only 0.3 miles long.
Wasson Peak is the highest point in the Tucson Mountains, which are a small range of mountains covered with cactus at 4,687′. The hike is about 8 miles in total and does have some steeper sections. Your family will definitely feel a sense of accomplishment once you reach the summit. The panoramic views are some of the best in the area and really give you a good sense of how expansive the Saguaro cactus forest really is!
Why do we love Hiking in Saguaro National Park with Kids?
Saguaro National Park West is all about one thing, Saguaro cacti! It is also very close to Tucson which makes trip planning much easier.
The one downside to this park is that it has less options for those with strollers or needing ADA accessible hikes. If this is you, Sabino Canyon or Madera Canyon might be better options.
And again, there are A TON of hikes in Saguaro National park. We know how overwhelming it can be to visit a park with young kids and wanted to provide you with a curated list of our favorites! We hope you enjoy!
Let us know if the comments if you took any of these hikes and what you thought of them!
Other Hiking Options in Tucson
Looking for other options for hiking with kids in Tucson? Here are some of our favorites!
- Best Hiking in Sabino Canyon with Kids
- Best Hiking in Madera Canyon with Kids
- Best Hiking in Catalina State Park with Kids
- The Ultimate Guide to Canoa Hills Trails Park with Kids
- Ultimate Guide to Canoa Ranch Conservation Park with Kids
- Ultimate Guide to Desert Meadows Park with Kids
- Ultimate Guide to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum with Kids