In addition to checking out the city of Tucson, we made sure to get out into the Sonoran desert garden. Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by mighty saguaros and many other fabulous desert plants. During this visit,we were super excited that we were going to be in the desert during the springtime bloom for the first time ever.
Tucson Mountain Park is a 20,000-acre county park that is adjacent to Saguaro National Park West (there is a Saguaro National Park East on the other side of town). Offering many outdoor opportunities on the West side of town. Hiking and biking are popular.
Our friend Jean knows a TON about the native plants and we always learn new things from her about the diverse vegetation that is everywhere. Our problem is we can’t remember it all! But we are getting better at it.
Gate’s Pass is a mountain pass in Tucson Mountain Park that has lots of scenic overlooks and is a popular sunset spot. Several trails lead from the main overlooks to higher points for wider vistas.
We headed up there one afternoon with Angel and walked up to a couple of higher points to take in the views. Although it was a pretty evening, it was not a very intense sunset (compared to other desert sunsets we have seen). But there were already lots of flowers and lots and lots of buds waiting to open. And we got a peek at the moonrise as well.
Another afternoon we drove to Saguaro National Park West. Once again the sunset was not too intense. We were not having great luck with the sunsets, but the desert garden did not fail to amaze us once again with more beautiful blooms.
And lots and lots of wise old saguaros. Saguaros are the largest cactus in North America and can live to 175-200 years old and 70 feet tall. The first branches or arms only start to grow after they are about 75 years so most of these giant ones with many crazy arms waving all around have been around a very long time.
We returned to Saguaro National Park West on the evening of the full moon to watch the moonrise. That evening we spotted a gorgeous kestral on a saguaro skeleton, lots cactus wren and other birds flitting about. And even more flowers.
Just before we left Tucson we visited Sabino Canyon, part of the Catalina Mountains, which are located in the Coronado National Forest. There is a gravel road that you can hike easily, but we had a short amount of time so we took their tram – which can drop you off at various points – to the end of the line at the top.
The desert and mountains were all around us. We saw lots more water than we had seen in these parts, pools of water collect there after rains, and there were rivulets and flowing streams. Which makes for a lush desert garden. And there are lots of great little picnic spots along the path. We hiked a bit at the top and walked part of the way down the path.
This was our last time in the Sonoran Desert for a while and we could not have made a better choice. Sabino Canyon has it all – cactus, trees, flowers, birds, mountains, water – a stunning little piece of the vast and colorful Sonoran Desert garden.
What a beautiful post. I was just saying to Todd the other day how much I miss the desert. Thanks for taking me back there. Stunning photographs from Hector as always.
Thanks, Russ. He works hard on his photography. Come back to the desert!
what a wonderful write up of some beautiful places…I love going out in the desert in the Spring to see all the blooms…Hector certainly captured the essence of what the desert has to offer….I look forward to more reporting as you look at Albuquerque…
Thanks, Jill. The flowers were crazy and we didn’t even catch the peak, I understand that is May or June. It must be gorgeous. We’re further north now in Utah, Where there are some gorgeous vistas but I am missing the flowers. We will be in Albuquerque in May.
Different and unique. Thanks!
It’s not the typical desert that people think of.
Very different landscape than 6 months ago! Lovely.
Yes, it is, and we have moved to yet another different one in Utah. What a beautiful country.
Hector’s photos are just spectacular. I love the close-ups of individual blooms wherein the inner details are right there as if looking thru a magnifying glass. Wow! Your timing for this visit was perfect.
Thanks! Actually, we supposedly missed the peak (we are now in Utah), it is supposed to be in May or June. But we still caught some spectacular blooms.
I love the photo with the moon. Sabino Canyon is beautiful and the trams are an excellent idea. Can you imagine what that place would be like if they allowed everyone to drive their cars into it.
Hi! We try to go out and see the full moon anytime that it isn’t cloudy. I believe they used to allow cars in Sabino Canyon – not sure about that. In any case, that is no longer the case, and the trams ARE a great idea. You do have to pay, though. Or walk or bike. There are options, which is nice. And yes, it is beautiful.
Mark’s aunt and uncle live in the mountains outside of Tucson. They have lived there forever and love it. She is a wonderful potter and he is a pianist. If you decide to make Tucson your home you will have to meet them.
Hi, Sandra! We would absolutely love to meet them, we will let you know. Hi to Mark, hope you two are well.
I love it when the desert is in bloom…
We will definitely plan to spend time in the desert at this time of year in the future.
Lucky you to be in the desert as it was coming alive! We were in Apache Junction last year for the bloom and it was spectacular. This year we seem to be a couple weeks ahead of the full bloom. We’ve never caught the saguaro in bloom. It is just too warm when they do their thing. One day we will stay long enough to watch the saguaro bloom. Thanks for sharing my other love, the desert:) Beautiful photos of the birds and flowers, Hector!
Everyone should take the tram at least once in Sabino Canyon just for the information. We did during our first visit to the area. The Nature Garden tour behind the VC is spectacular. There is an unbelievable crested saguaro out there.
We love the desert flowers. Sabino Canyon left us longing to go back for sure. And of course you would have found a crested saguaro 🙂
Awesomely gorgeous photos of the desert, birdies and flowers! Beautiful inspiration about where to go! You both have me excited! I’m heading to Tucson on Friday to visit Barbara, Cindy and Debbie (stepmom and sisters). Dad and Barbara used to live near Sabino Canyon before he passed away. I have fond memories of that special place. : ) Thanks oodles as always!
Hope you are enjoying Tucson. Should be even more flowers in bloom now.