You may think that you’re unfamiliar with saguaro cactus but there is a good chance that if someone showed you a picture of a stately green saguaro with sturdy upturned arms—you would recognize it immediately. Even though saguaro cactus only grow in a relatively compact region of the Sonoran Desert, the giant prickly cactus which can grow over 60 feet tall has become an enduring symbol of the American West.
Southern Arizona is home to virtually every saguaro cactus that grows in the United States. Saguaro National Park—which is located just 10 miles outside of bustling Tucson, Arizona—is dedicated to the beauty and majesty of the West’s most beloved cactus. Visitors can spend hours hiking among saguaro cactus that are so grand that they appear to have been constructed out of the finest materials for use on a movie set.
If you visit Saguaro National Park from mid-April through late June there is a good chance you will see the majestic cactus in full bloom. During the spring, saguaro cactus sport robust white blooms. At the height of the summer, the white blooms transform into red fruit which splits open and serves as food for birds, bats, and butterflies. Many humans are quite fond of the savory flavor of the fruit and seeds of the saguaro cactus. Saguaro fruit can be made into jam, cakes, or even alcoholic beverages.
In addition to fields of iconic cactus, Saguaro National Park is also home to several hiking trails which offer panoramic views of some truly arresting desert scenery. The Sendero-Esperanza trial offers a sweeping view of the peaks and valleys of the Sonoran Desert. The Garwood trail offers visitors a view of the Garwood Dam—which is one of the few pools of water that hikers who don’t visit during the summer monsoon season can expect to see.
If you’re searching for the ultimate Wild West immersion—no visit to the land of red rocks, abandoned mining towns, and wide open spaces is complete without a trip to Saguaro National Park. It is impossible to appreciate the true tenacity of the plants and animals who dwell in one of the driest regions in North America until you stand in the shadow 0f a 40-foot cactus that is nearly 200 years old. The saguaro cactus is emblematic of the American West because it continues to flourish in an unforgiving environment where countless lifeforms have succumbed to the elements.