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Saguaro National Park, AZ

Park Alert: Stay till the golden hour, when everything seems a bit more magical !!

We were 723-miles away from home. Got to say the drive from home (Sunnyvale,CA) to Phoenix, AZ is the longest we have driven in one day. We decided to drive our own dear-car, Honda Accord 2003, instead of renting a newer car. This car hasn’t disappointed us on our earlier month-long road trip. But, I still had some lingering nervousness of the car breaking down without warning.

After a quick sunset stop at Joshua Tree National Park, we drove straight to Phoenix outskirts and stayed at Super 8 motel.

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As I had mentioned earlier post “How to plan National Parks trip“, we don’t really plan the stay for the night until last minute. By the time we arrived at Phoenix, we decided it was time to stop driving for the day. So, I called the motel listings in the area to get the cheapest one and it was Super 8 that night.

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Next morning after the continental breakfast at the motel, we headed to Saguaro National Park, which was a couple of hours drive from motel.

As usual the first stop is Visitor center. Saguaro NP is slightly different that it has two different areas separated by the city of Tucson (approximately 30-miles apart).

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We chose to go to the west side of the park as this side has the most number of Saguaro cactus plants with easy access, short trails and one of the best sunset view potentials.

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Besides the short walks to appreciate these majestic plants, we also drove through the dirt road loop called “Bajada Loop Drive” with our car. 4-wheeler is not really required for this loop.

A very short hike to signal hill is one of the must do in my opinion at this park. Besides the pre-historic petroglyphs found at the hill, the view of the valley from the hill is worth it all.

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Since we decided to stay back at the west side till sunset, we did some short hikes in and around the Bajada loop.

We visited the park at the end of November and it was hot, sunny and dry. I can only imagine how it would be in the summer.

There is absolutely no water source on the trails. Well, it is a desert (Sonoran desert) after all.

To learn more about the Sonoran Desert, check out this link: https://www.desertmuseum.org/desert/sonora.php

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It was winter and the sun sets around 5PM, so we had to wrap up the hikes quickly and decide where to stop for sunset colors.

Gates Pass road that leads to Tucson from the park has an amazing overlook area for some of the best sunset views.

It gets crowded fairly quickly. Getting there on-time is a good idea to get a parking spot.

Once we got to the top of the pass, we had to walk around the hill to look for a tree that can be in the foreground for a sunset picture. Most of the people walked up the hill, we chose to go to the valley side of the hill in search or a foreground tree.

Mission accomplished !!