Saguaro East vs. West

Saguaro National Park protects 91,400 acres of Arizona desert.  The park is divided into two districts: one that lies about 20 miles east of the center of Tucson, and another that lies about 15 miles west of Tucson.  There’s a healthy debate on the Web about which district is better.  My unscientific analysis of the debate shows that about 70% prefer the west district, and 30% prefer the east. 

Theresa and I both significantly favored the west over the east.  Of course, which district you prefer depends greatly on the criteria you use for your evaluation.  Most of all, we value quiet, solitude, and views.  Based on these criteria, the west kicks the east’s prickly butt.  But it’s a highly subjective decision, and both districts are beautiful and worth visiting if you have the time. 

Following is a summary of the advantages of each district:

 

Saguaro West

Saguaro West

(Click here for more photos of Saguaro West)

Advantages of Saguaro West:

  • More densely-packed Saguaro forest
  • Much more quiet and isolated
  • No city, traffic or train noise, and very little aircraft noise
  • Better views: mostly mountains instead of city
  • More scenic drives into the park
  • Adjacent to Tucson Mountain Park, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and Old Tucson film studio
  • Better wildflower bloom

  

Saguaro East

Saguaro East

(Click here for more photos of Saguaro East)

Advantages of Saguaro East:

  • More giant (40+ feet) Saguaros
  • More backcountry trails
  • Dense network of interconnected, flat hiking trails
  • More diverse terrain
  • Better, slower loop drive with pullouts and nature signs
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