Saguaro Trail in Tonto National Forest Hiking Guide

Since moving to the huge city of Mesa, Arizona in November, I knew that I would be blessed by some beautiful landscapes really close to me. I’ve hiked around Arizona a lot and used to travel an hour and a few minutes over to these landscapes and now I’m a lot closer to some of the prettiest places like the Superstition Mountains and Tonto National Forest, the largest national forest in Arizona. I discovered Saguaro Trail from stumbling upon it on the AllTrails app and found this hike to be really cool.

About Saguaro Trail

GPS Coordinates to Saguaro Trail: 33.51736, -111.67413

Located in Tonto National Forest, Saguaro Trail is just right across a significant sandstone formation called Red Mountain (also known as Mount McDowell). This trail is super gorgeous though with beautiful views all around! You’ll also get views of the Salt River from where Red Mountain is at.

With the name of the trail, yes, you can find Saguaro cacti here too. This trail also has a variety of other cacti too like barrel, prickly pear, and cholla. This trail is considered moderate and it is 2.4 miles long with an elevation gain of 472 feet and it has an out-and-back route. Some parts of this can be challenging with climbs, narrow trailways, and loose gravel and dirt (especially as you walk down).

On this trail, you’ll come across a lot of bikers too as it’s also a popular bikeriding trail. Occasionally, there will be horse riders too.

Hiking Saguaro Trail

You’ll start off parking on a parking lot right across the trailhead. The parking lot will be a lot closer to Red Mountain and then you’ll cross the road to get to the trailhead. The trail starts off with a slightly steep climb and it gains elevation as you walk ahead and it flattens out at certain points. The trail has many repeated steep climbs that flattens out and some switchbacks. 

The trail then becomes more narrower as you hike more up, so watch your footing and for bikers biking across. (I almost got hit by a speeding biker as I was hiking down here, good thing for my quick reflex!)

There’s a good spot before it flattens out and it overlooks some peaks and the Salt River altogether (see below). I love sitting on this spot and just reflecting at the beauty of these views and it’s definitely a spot if you want to “meditate” on.

As you keep going through the trailways and you reach towards the end, it takes you to the other side by a trailhead near a wash on Bush Highway. So, if you parked on the other side, you would have to retrace your steps and hike it back.

Other info on hiking Saguaro Trail

Hiking Saguaro Trail in Tonto National Forest

I always advise people not to hike during the scorching summer days. The temperatures in Arizona can get very high and it’s best to avoid hiking during those high-temperature days for your safety! 

The best time to hike this trail is from October through June (even June can be superrrr hot). If you really want to hike it, always leave early in the morning when temperatures are still low. Always bring plenty amounts of water, electrolytes, and sun protection.

To see how green it is like through my pictures here, the best time to also go hike this trail is during this time in February and March, especially after it rains. The desert plants become green after rain and they also start blooming slowly around this time.

How you can help Tonto National Forest

A non-profit called Friends of the Tonto National Forest helps in the effort to assist the forest with its natural and cultural resource management, made up of dedicated volunteers. There are these invasive species that can be found in the area: the buffelgrass, fountain grass, sahara mustard, and stinknet. These invasive species increase the potential for wildfires, outcompete native plants for water and nutrients, and change the fire patterns in the areas they invade. If you’d like to help, you can sign up to volunteer or donate towards Friends of the Tonto National Forest on their site.

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