The United States Congress designated the Saguaro Wilderness (map
) in 1976 and it now has a total of 70,905 acres
All of this wilderness is located in Arizona
and is managed by the National Park Service.
The Saguaro Wilderness is bordered by
the Rincon Mountain Wilderness
to the east.
Sprouting in the shade of another desert plant, the saguaro cactus grows only a few inches in its first five years of life and a few feet in its first 30 years. At age 75 the cactus stands 15 to 20 feet tall and begins developing its first branches as it absorbs water through an extensive root system. A mature cactus can live up to 170 years, often measuring in at over 30 feet tall, weighing 6 to 10 tons, and holding one ton of water. The saguaro is truly king of the Sonoran Desert.
Saguaro National Monument was established in 1933 and given national parkland status in 1994. The area contains 84,000 saguaro-preserving acres. Divided into two units by Tucson, the western Tucson Mountain Unit includes just over 21,000 relatively flat acres and the eastern Rincon Mountain Unit almost 63,000 acres, rising steeply in places from 2,800 feet to 8,666 feet on Mica Mountain. Most of the park has been designated Wilderness.
Traversed by well-maintained dirt roads, the Tucson Mountain Unit receives mostly day-use visitors. Although it offers a visitors center, the Rincon Mountain Unit is primarily roadless, attracting day-use hikers and backpackers. Saguaro's Wilderness trail system contains approximately 127 miles of maintained trails, but overnight camping is limited to six sites in the Rincon Mountains. Water is usually available.