Exploring Saguaro National Park with Kids

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The world-famous saguaro may seem common, since they are in our neighborhoods and along roadways, but they are actually unique to our Sonoran desert. Even one saguaro is impressive, so a visit to the dense forest of cactus in Saguaro National Park was spectacular to behold.

Again, as we were with our visit to Casa Grande National Monument, we were surprised at how an hour and a half had transported us to such a unique landscape. Before we even entered the park, we were already seeing residences with yards full of massive saguaro. 

 

We visited the Red Hills Visitor Center in the Tucson Mountain District (just east is another visitor center in the Rincon Mountain District). Inside is the ranger station, where we picked up our Junior Ranger booklets. There is also a desert life display, a theater with a film about the park and its importance in Native American culture, a sitting area equipped with some children’s puzzles, and a gift shop.

 

 

Our family with twin seven-year-olds and a four-year-old spent a few hours exploring the park and working on our Junior Ranger booklets. Here is what we were able to do with kids:

 
  1. We took the Cactus Garden Trail, that even little kids can manage, to see a variety of cactus and even some animal life (lizards and birds, for us).
  2. We made the short hike to Signal Hill to see petroglyphs. It was fun trying to decipher the messages from the ancient Hohokam people and making symbols of our own in the booklets.
  3. We watched the 15-minute “Voices of the Desert” film about the park and its cultural connection. It wasn’t very engaging for the kids, but they did get some appreciation of the saguaro from it. (Stay until the screen goes up after the film so you can see the view from the theater room.)
  4. We drove the Cactus Forest loop in our minivan. (At our visit, the unpaved Loop Drive was dry. Our minivan may not have been able to travel it if wet.)
  5. We learned to point out several types of cactus (saguaro, barrel, tree cholla, jumping cholla, and prickly pear), that there are 19 different varieties of rattlesnake in the park, that the saguaro cactus has an unexpectedly small seed, and that the average person uses and tosses 167 water bottles a year. 

 

 

We are glad we brought reusable water bottles to fill in their complimentary fountain and were ready to hike with plenty of snacks. Our visit really helped us find an appreciation for the iconic saguaro and the excitement that we did find our park.

 

The additional beauty is that it is a park for everyone and a great place for families to visit. The U.S. National Park Service designated 10 free entrance days in 2017 and invite everyone to find your park– there are parks and monuments nearer than you may think.

 
Saguaro National Park
 
Saguaro National Park Junior Ranger program
 
National Park Service 10 Fee-Free Days in 2017

 

Jodee is a full-time mom to three playful boys. She was raised in the desert, educated in the Rocky Mountains, and the lived in Midwest before returning to the “dry heat.” She is passionate about learning, culture, and nature. When she isn’t shuttling her boys from school to activities, she is either planning out their next family adventure or playing Duolingo to avoid folding laundry. She dreams of visiting all of the National Parks with her family and to finding the cure for homework battles. You can peek into her life and family outings on Instagram @thatsmoxie.

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January 19, 2017
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19 Comments

  • Reply Randee Beimer

    We love nature and will add this to our list!

    February 15, 2017 at 3:48 am
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      We do too! And we have so many awesome National Parks and Monuments here in AZ! So lucky!

      February 15, 2017 at 4:14 am
    • Reply Jodee

      It is so great that you are instilling a love of nature in your kids! There is so much unique beauty to appreciate right here in AZ. Teaching children to appreciate these will ensure that such wonders continue to be preserved for generations to come. I hope you enjoy your trip to Saguaro NP!

      February 16, 2017 at 3:03 am
  • Reply Margo

    We are new to AZ and always looking for new adventures

    February 16, 2017 at 6:27 am
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      Welcome! So happy you are here – AZ is the place for adventures that is for sure. I’ve lived here all my life and still am finding new and exciting things to do with my kids. Our blog has WHERE TO and TRY THIS for inspiration and also an online calendar with daily, local events – tons of them free!

      February 16, 2017 at 6:03 pm
  • Reply Becky s

    Thanks for the information. We have thought about going several times but wasn’t sure if the kids would enjoy it

    February 16, 2017 at 4:02 pm
  • Reply Stephanie Stocker

    Would LOVE to go!! Thanks for all the info!!
    =)
    Stephanie Stocker

    February 17, 2017 at 12:55 am
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      You are so welcome! Our travel expert Jodee Horton makes it easy – with tips and ideas and what to expect. Here is link to all her posts – many about our National Parks 🙂

      February 17, 2017 at 2:49 am
  • Reply Tammy Catterton

    I hav e not explore all of Arizona here thanks for sharing this I will have to check out Saguaro National Park. I lived here now over 10 year

    February 17, 2017 at 6:34 pm
    • Reply Katrina Sherk

      For sure! There are SO many amazing National Parks and Monuments in Arizona – I think we are in the 10 top for states with most parks. We adore Walnut Canyon outside of Flagstaff, have you been to that one? A treasure. A fun hike (lots and lots of stairs though) to ancient dwelling that you and your kids can go inside!!!

      February 18, 2017 at 3:19 am
  • Reply Yadhira Chaparro

    I look forward to trying one of these parks with my son soon! Before weather gets too hot !

    February 22, 2017 at 8:53 pm
  • Reply Danielle R

    It would be great to visit more of AZ as a family. Thank you for sharing the info.

    February 25, 2017 at 12:27 am
  • Reply Kaitlin Butler

    We will have to check this out. I had no idea we had a saguaro national park and I’ve lived here all my life.

    February 25, 2017 at 12:47 am
  • Reply Megan

    My kids would love doing a hike like this!

    February 25, 2017 at 4:05 pm
  • Reply Richard Brighoff

    So many great things to see and explore!

    February 27, 2017 at 10:36 pm
  • Reply Krista Z

    We love taking the kids out to the natural places int eh state. Always take water and nice to get away from a TV screen. Sad the weather won’t cooperate much longer!

    February 27, 2017 at 11:15 pm
    • Reply Jodee

      Don’t let the weather limit you. We went in August! Lots of water, refreshing snacks like cold apple sauce and grapes, and we did just fine. The visitor center is cool enough that you can duck out of the sun. Also, this is a pretty quick activity. We were not out in the blazing sun for very long. Whenever you go, I hope you enjoy your visit!

      February 28, 2017 at 5:17 am
  • Reply Millie

    Sounds nice! Thanks for the info.

    February 28, 2017 at 12:05 am
  • Reply Deb M

    Another good one to add to our list!

    February 28, 2017 at 1:41 am
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