Top Ten Parks for Spring

Saguaro National Park
Only-in-springtime view: Saquaro cactus in bloom
Activities: Hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, scenic driving

The park is named after the Saguaro cactus, which blooms brilliant in the burgeoning heat of spring. In a way this is two parks in one; it is halved by the city of Tucson. The Rincon Mountains are perhaps the most prominent wilderness on the east side of the park. The Tucson Mountains are where you go to get away from it all in the West.

Saguaro is a great hiking park. Some 128 miles of trail explore it, with the usual full range of difficulty levels and length. The Hugh Norris Trail is the longest trail in the Tucson Mountains, a relatively modest 9.8 miles round-trip. The trail takes you to the top of Wasson Peak for a find-your-religion view of the Tucson valley.

Saguaro is top-notch for viewing wildlife. Before it was designated a national park, Saguaro was a national monument. It has been protected for years from everything except the ravages of cattle grazing. Among the satisfyingly adapted plants to experience are the leguminous mesquites and paloverdes, pears, chollas, hedgehog cacti, creosote bushes, ocotillos, and catclaws. April to June is cactus flowering season; saguaro blooming is at its peak in April. Hundreds of bird species either pass through the park or live here year-round. The reptiles and small animals bring a close-to-the-ground dimension to the ground.

And close-to-the-ground is frequently the most fascinating place of all.

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