Dodging Rattlesnakes at Saguaro National Park

About a month ago, I made my first trip to the Southwest on travel to Arizona for work. Driving around, I noticed how flat and short Phoenix and Tucson are. Traffic wasn’t too bad, and mountains appear along the horizon.

During some free time in Tucson, I visited Saguaro National Park. The drive into the park was entertaining: it started to feel like a roller coaster with its frequent and short dips. Entry to the park is $15, but it’s good for a week. As I was visiting alone, I was (somewhat) irrationally concerned about rattlesnakes and thus didn’t do any of the more intense hikes. I started with the Valley View Overlook Trail and then tried the Signal Hill and Desert Discovery trails.

Having never visited the southwest, I was struck by the dry heat, and the it actually felt really pleasant because I didn’t feel like I was moving through soup (though I did have to fill my Nalgene a lot). The Valley trail was the most beautiful and longest, and throughout the hike I was completely surrounded by cacti, which I’d never seen in the wild before. Signal Hill is famous for petroglyphs, and I almost made it out to them but turned around when I saw a sign for a rattlesnake area. The Desert Discovery Trail isn’t very strenuous or long: it’s a paved path with educational placards about desert habitats and inhabitants, but I walked through before sunset and the light was really gorgeous over the desert.

During my drive out of the park and into Tucson for the night, I pulled over at David Yetman West Trailhead when I saw a sign for a scenic outlook and noticed that the sun was setting. People sat on the hoods of their cars with drinks and watched as the sun set and painted the desert sky and pinks and blues.

Saguaro National Park flanks Tucson. With limited time, I visited the western portion as I was coming from Phoenix. If you go, look for great tacos at La Santisima (Phoenix), coffee at Cartel (Tucson, Phoenix) or Copper Star (Phoenix), and something called a tsoynami at Nami (Phoenix).

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