This eight-mile paved loop weaves among giant saguaro cactus in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains about 16 miles east of downtown Tucson. The drive begins just past the visitor center, where you can see exhibits, consult the information desk, and peruse the bookstore's collection; the Cactus Garden just outside identifies desert plants. After about 2.2 miles on the one-way loop, you'll pass the road to Mica View Picnic Area on the left. Desert Ecology Trail, a paved quarter-mile loop, illustrates how plants and animals live in their desert home; it begins on the left 0.3 mile beyond the picnic area turnoff. Freeman Homestead Nature Trail winds past huge saguaro and along a mesquite-filled wash to an old homestead site in a one-mile loop; the turnoff is 200 yards down the spur road to Javelina Picnic Area.

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Expert Review of Cactus Forest Drive

Active and Adventure Review of Cactus Forest Drive

Away Travel Expert: Bill Weir
expert favorite Active Expert Favorite
ActiveExpert Rating 5.0 out of 5 Recommended for:
Day Hiking,Mountain Biking,Road Biking,Trekking and Backpacking,Walking
Active and AdventureExpert Tips & Helpful Hints
  • About 40 miles of interconnecting trails in the Cactus Forest Trail System can be accessed from trailheads on the north side of the Cactus Forest Drive. Possibilities include Mica View Loop (two miles round trip) from Mica View Picnic Area and Loma Verde Loop (three miles round trip) from the Loma Verde Trailhead. You can get a free map at the visitor center and the park's website.
  • Tanque Verde Ridge Trail heads high into the Rincon Mountains from Javelina Picnic Area in 11.5 miles one way. You can make a long day hike on this trail or continue higher on other trails, best done in two or more days. Camping requires a permit and must be in established sites.
  • Mountain bikers may ride the 2.5-mile segment of the Cactus Forest Trail that's located within the Cactus Forest Loop Drive. This is the only trail within the park that is open to bicycles. It can be ridden in either direction, but cyclists may not ride against traffic on the one-way section of the Cactus Forest Loop Drive.

Rincon Mountain District
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, Arizona 85730-5601
Parking: 7 a.m. to sunset daily
Price: $10/vehicle, $5 on foot or bicycle; receipt is valid for 7 days

Visitor Information

Telephone Number: 520-733-5153
Fax: 520-733-5183
Transportation: Car or bicycle
Neighborhood: Tucson
Price Information: $10/vehicle, $5 on foot or bicycle; receipt is valid for 7 days
The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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