Saguaro National Park – Tucson Mountain District (West Side)

After a lunch stop in Tucson (one convenient aspect of having a city in the middle of a National Park) we headed into the West side of the park, the Tucson Mountain District. It was approximately 45-60 minutes between the two halves, but we were able to get some sightseeing in along way, including a stop at Old Tucson Studio, the place where most of the famous old western movies were filmed. We would’ve loved to go in and see all the old movie sets, but we were pressed for time and it cost $18 per adult to get in, which wasn’t worth it for how long we could stay. My whole family added it to our list of things we need to return to Arizona for though!

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I bought a tiny saguaro cactus in the gift shop…

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The view of the studios from outside – all you could see without paying the entrance fee:

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And then into the park! The visitor center in this half of the park was much larger and more developed. After popping inside for a minute to do some shopping and talk to the rangers about what we should do with our limited time in the park, we set out along the scenic drive. And honestly, I found it to be less impressive than the East side of the park. The cactuses were growing more densely in this half, but there wasn’t anywhere to stop along most of the drive, so we had to stay in the car and take pictures through the windows. In addition, I felt that the East side had more diverse scenery along its loop. However, one huge plus to the West side is that towards the end of the scenic drive, there is a picnic area where you can park your car and take a short hike to see some petroglyphs! And as I am mildly obsessed with ancient art and archaeology, this was very relevant to my interests!!

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The hike to get to the petroglyphs was short, but completely exposed and had some uphill parts to get to the top where the petroglyphs are located. Definitely not bad though, and anyone reasonably in shape could do it without a problem. From the petroglyphs, there are options to branch off onto other trails, so we hiked around for a bit.

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After a long day of exploring this amazing park, it was time to hit the road and head back to LA. And of course I had to get some snacks for the journey…

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I love desert sunsets… they are seriously some of the most beautiful skies in the world.

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Annnndd a photo of one of my favorite road signs along the 10 freeway… Gotta love whoever decided to build a prison and a rest stop on opposite sides of the freeway, off of the same off-ramp.

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Saguaro National Park was a really beautiful park to visit. I like to think I will return one day to do more hiking, but if I never do, I am also ok with that. Spending a full day there is more than enough to feel like you got to see the park and all its top sights.

Author: Natalie Bates

LA-based freelance writer | Blogger | Craft beer drinker | Rock 'n roll girlfriend | Adventurer | Lover of tattoos, red lipstick, and popcorn | World traveler | Compassionate human | Photography enthusiast | Eco warrior | Celtic babe ❤️

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