Sprouting in the shade of another desert plant, the saguaro cactus grows only a few inches in its first five years of life and a few feet in its first 30 years. At age 75 the cactus stands 15 to 20 feet tall and begins developing its first branches as it absorbs water through an extensive root system. A mature cactus can live up to 170 years, often measuring in at over 30 feet tall, weighing 6 to 10 tons, and holding one ton of water. The saguaro is truly king of the Sonoran Desert.
Saguaro Wilderness is situated within the Saguaro National Monument preserves thousands of acres of saguaro cacti. Divided into two units by Tucson, the western Tucson Mountain Unit is relatively flat and the eastern Rincon Mountain Unit rising steeply in places from 2,800 feet to 8,666 feet on Mica Mountain. Most of the park has been designated Wilderness.
The Tucson Mountain Unit receives mostly day-use visitors and the Rincon Mountain Unit attracts both day-use hikers and backpackers. Saguaro's Wilderness trail system contains approximately 127 miles of maintained trails, but overnight camping is limited to six sites in the Rincon Mountains. Water is usually available.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Saguaro Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
(No official title, designates National Park Service wildernesses) - Public Law 94-567 (10/20/1976) To designate certain lands within units of the National Park System as wilderness; to revise the boundaries of certain of these units; and for other purposes.