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Saguaro National Park (p. 5)


Saguaro National Park

Park History

Saguaro Cactus

East Section

Eastern Mountains

West Section

Western Mountains

Bajada Loop

Signal Hill

Trails

Plants & Animals

References


Bajada Loop

One of the most interesting areas in the west section of the park is Bajada Loop. This 6 mile loop is made up largely of two unpaved roads--Hohokam Road and Golden Gate Roads. The shot below shows Hohokam Road with Apache Peak in the background.





From Bajada Loop some of the major features of the park are visible--dense stands of saguaro cactus, Amole Peak, Apache Peak, and Signal Hill.



Off Hohokam Road is the Valley View Overlook Trail (described in more detail below) which leads to a small promontory which provides a view of the extreme western portion of the park.



Another picture of this view is shown here.



Signal Hill

Of particular note and considerable historical interest in the western portion of the park is Signal Hill. This hill, which is a fairly small promontory, stands alone in the western portion of the park not far from its western border. Below is a view of the hill from a distance away, looking northwest.



The hill looks a little different when viewed from its base, as seen below. The top of the hill is covered with boulders, which contain the petroglyphs discussed at greater length below. The rocks along the path to the top of the hill are inhabited by rattlesnakes, which love extremely rocky areas such as this.



There is a short trail which leads from a parking lot and the picnic area to the top of this hill. The end of this trail can be seen below, with Panther and Safford Peaks in the background.



The view from the top of Signal Hill provides a panorama of the western portion of the park. The view below is from the hill looking north where the Twin Peaks outside the park are visible.



Looking east from the hill toward the mountainous section of the park provides a very satisfying view. That's Apache Peak in the middleground of the picture below.



The stands of saguaro are relatively thick here, and with the other desert vegetation the view seems remarkably green for a desert scene. This seems especially true in evening light.



Signal Hill is covered with a number of boulders and rocks, as can be seen below at the top of the hill.



One of the major features of interest at Signal Hill is the petroglyphs found on the rocks at the site. Some of these rock drawings can be seen in the picture below, looking toward the Tucson Mountains in the southeast.



The drawings are carved on the visible sections of quite a few of the rocks.



A variety of patterns can be seen in these petroglyphs, such as the spiral shown below. It is likely that the rock art was created by the Hohokam people between 700 and 1300 years ago. Their purpose is not really known.



A closeup of some of the petroglyphs can be seen in the photos below. In the first, the figures might be antelope or deer.



These figures are more difficult to decipher, but may include the sun, a flower, and other figures.



Trails

Desert trails are a delight. They are often flat, clear of obstructions, and provide wonderful views of the desert and surrounding mountains because of the lack of thick forests. The view below is from the vicinity of the Cactus View Nature Trail off of Cactus Forest Loop in the eastern section, where there exist about 100 miles of trails available for visitors to explore.



One of the most interesting trails is the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail, also in the eastern section. This trail begins not far from the Cactus Forest Loop near the Javelina Picnic area and climbs up from the desert along Tanque Verde Ridge. If followed all the way to the east it provides access to the highest areas of the Rincon Mountains where the hiker can find 100 miles of hiking trails. As the trail climbs along the ridge it provide beautiful views of the desert on the valley floor, as seen below. Also visible are a variety of desert plants, including ocotillo, prickly pear cactus, and of course saguaro. The Santa Cruz Valley where Tucson is located can be seen in the background toward the left of the picture.



Garwood Trail is found in the extreme northwest corner of the Tucson Mountain district. There is an elaborate network of trails in this region, including the Desert Spring Trail which penetrates the interior of the park and leads to higher altitude areas of the Rincon Mountains.



There are excellent trails in the eastern section of the park as well. King Canyon Trail is found in the southwest border of this section. The trailhead is found across Kinney Road from the famous Arizona Sonora Desert Museum. The trail climbs up into the canyon and leads eventually to Wasson Peak



Another enjoyable trail in the western section is Valley View Trail in the Bajada Loop area. This 1.5 mile trail was built in the 1930 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It leads through stands of saguaro cactus to a small hill which provides views of the western section of the park and the Avra Valley to the west.



These trails are flat but occasionally rocky, not difficult to hike when the temperature is not too high.



The hill at the end of Valley View trail is not high but nevertheless provides excellent views of the western portion of the park. The picture below shows this view.




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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

  • Comments and other remarks can be sent via e-mail to parkvision@shannontech.com