Your Saguaro National Park Camping Guide

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View of Saguaro national park while camping

Southeastern Arizona offers some unique scenery in the country. The Sonoran desert sun beats down on visitors, but temperatures can be chilling at night. It’s a varied experience. But as long as you come prepared for the weather changes, your visit may be one of your most memorable. If you want to do some Saguaro National Park camping, here are some tips to help you plan. Let’s take a look.

About Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park, home to the largest cacti, lies in southeastern Arizona near Tucson. In 1933, President Herbert Hoover created the Saguaro National Monument, but later it received National Park status in 1994. 

A wide range of animals call the park home, from mule deer and horned owls to bobcats and diamondback rattlesnakes. At Saguaro National Park, visitors enjoy beautiful desert sunsets and miles of hiking trails.

Can You Camp in Saguaro National Park?

Camping is allowed in Saguaro National Park, but it doesn’t have accommodations for RVs. You need to obtain backcountry permits on Recreation.gov for $8 a night. You can stay at six campgrounds within the Saguaro Wilderness Area, and all require campers to hike in. Five of them have three sites, while Manning Camp has six.

Grass Shack requires a 10-mile hike in from the Loma Alta/Hope Camp Trailhead. Saguaro National Park camping requires trekking quite a ways to the backcountry sites.

View of Saguaro national park while camping

When Is the Best Time to Visit Saguaro National Park?

Even though you might not think of harsh winter conditions when you think about Arizona, the reality is that this part of the state does see snowstorms. At elevations above 5,500 ft, temperatures can drop to single digits. 

Visitors can also expect monsoons during the summer. These storms are very dangerous, so make sure to check the weather regularly. So, spring and fall are the prime seasons to visit Saguaro National Park for camping.

Your Saguaro National Park Camping Guide

When planning a camping trip to Saguaro National Park, check out popular hikes and available campsites. Remember, Saguaro National Park can only accommodate tent camping. And getting to the backcountry sites requires hiking miles of trails. 

But once you set up camp, you can enjoy beautiful vistas and miles of trails. If you want RV sites, you’ll need to check out areas near the park but outside of its boundaries. Read on to plan your camping trip, from hikes to campsites.

You might want to ass these three hikes within the national park to your list of must-do experiences. The park has two districts, so always pay attention to the trail’s location so you don’t drive to the wrong district.

Keep in Mind: Is Saguaro National Park the best in the USA? These are the best ranked national parks in the USA you need to see!

Bridal Wreath Falls Trail

This 5.7-mile out-and-back trail is considered moderate. It has an elevation gain of 1,095 ft. If you want to see the falls, plan to come before April because the falls may not have water in the mid-Spring. Along with spectacular views, you have a high chance of spotting a lizard or snake on the trail. 

Well-maintained paths lead you through the desert with huge cacti at every turn. This trail is located in the Rincon Mountain District. You can also experience beautiful wildflowers during the right time of year. Dogs are not permitted. Additionally, you’ll have an entrance fee of $25 per vehicle to enter Saguaro National Park.

A Saguaro National Park sign as you enter the park to camp

King Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak

This 6.7-mile out-and-back trail is considered moderate, also. However, it has a much higher elevation gain at 1,833 ft. There is very little shade, and the desert gets quite hot in the sun, even in April. 

Bring plenty of water as you relish in the beauty of the giant Saguaro cacti of the Sonoran desert. The trail has stunning views. The King Canyon Trail is located in the Tucson Mountain District. Dogs are not permitted on this trail either, and hikers must pay the $25 per vehicle entrance fee.

Mica View (Cactus Forest Loop Trail)

This 3.7-mile loop trail is the shortest of the three hikes. This easy trail has an elevation gain of only 121 ft. You can easily complete this trail before the sun gets too hot if you start early. However, you still need to bring plenty of water. 

Stop and take plenty of pictures to capture the Arizona desert. Hike Mica View for a family-friendly trail while camping in Saguaro National Park. You’ll find it in the Rincon Mountain District.

View of Cactus Forest Loop Trail while camping at Saguaro national park

The Best Campsites Near Saguaro National Park

If you want RV-friendly campsites, you won’t find them within the boundaries of Saguaro National Park. But you have a few options nearby. 

Catalina State Park and the Pima County Fairgrounds RV Park are closest to the Tucson Mountain District part of Saguaro National Park. Camping in an RV requires a bit more planning when visiting. Check out these three options.

Gilbert Ray Campground

Located on 8451 West McCain Loop Road in the Tucson Mountain Park, Gilbert Ray Campground offers sites large enough for RVs. RVers need to access the park by way of Ajo Highway to Kinney Road because of a weight restriction on Gates Pass Road. Gilbert Ray Campground is less than 10 minutes from the park entrance in Tucson. 

You have a seven-day stay limit here, but campers can return after leaving the campground for seven days. Tent sites cost $10 a night, and RV sites cost $20. You can’t use generators and the campground doesn’t have direct water hook-ups. However, the 130 RV sites have 30 amp electrical hookups.

Keep in Mind: Beat the Arizona heat with these 10 best battery-powered fans for camping!

Catalina State Park

Catalina State Park is about a 30-minute drive from Saguaro National Park and is closest to the Tuscon Mountain District of the park. If you need hook-ups, Catalina provides 120 electric and water sites for RVs. It has a 14-day stay limit but no restriction on RV length.

You’ll have a vehicle park entrance fee of $7 and the $30-$35 a night camping fee. It has paved sites, a picnic table, and BBQ grills for campers. While at Catalina State Park, enjoy one of the seven hiking trails.

RV camping at saguaro national park

The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds

If you need an RV park with full-service amenities, one of the few in the area is located at the Pima County Fairgrounds. Guests have access to a laundry room, two dog parks, a fitness trail, meeting areas, a seasonal restaurant, and more. 

This RV park is affiliated with Good Sam and the Family Motor Coach Association. You can get full and partial hook-up sites for $30 a night. Pima County Fairgrounds RV Park is about a 40-minute drive from the Tuscon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park.

Enjoy a Desert Adventure at Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is unlike any other in the country. With towering giant cacti and various wildlife, you can see and experience so much here. It’s a true desert adventure. 

So the next time you plan a trip near Tucson, Ariz., take a few days to explore this national park and the surrounding area. Even if you’re not an avid hiker, you can find some easy trails to enjoy the stunning views of the desert. And if you want a challenge, Saguaro National Park delivers.

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