Dogs No Dogs
Trails in Saguaro National Park's Tucson Mountain District are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Pets are prohibited beyond parking and picnic areas. Bicycles are not permitted on any of the National Park's trails; however, the adjacent Tucson Mountain Park offers areas open to cyclists.
Many trails in the Tucson Mountain District are rocky and rugged. Veteran trail runners will rise to the challenge without much trouble, but less-experienced visitors should pace themselves until becoming used to the terrain. Trail shoes are recommended.
The western section of the park is entirely within the desert, and appropriate precautions should be taken. Avoid the hottest portions of the day during the summer months. Flash flooding is a possibility during the rainy season, so while this is the best time to catch the plant life in bloom, plan around thunderstorms. Regardless of the season, bring plenty of water and make sure someone else knows where you'll be, and when you should be back. Cell phone reception is poor through most of the district. Running after dark is not recommended and is outside of official hours.
Steer clear of the many open mine shafts nearby the trails. Signed and fenced off by barbed wire, they are usually uncovered and are not safe to explore.
Leading to the center of the northern Tucson Mountain District's trails, Brittlebrush is a winding path leading around a foothill and through a wash.
Brittlebrush begins just before Thunderbird
hits the mile and a quarter point. It's missing the trail sign that marks most intersections in the park, so look for a rock cairn by an easy to spot singletrack heading uphill. The path is a narrower version of the rocky portions of Thunderbird
, with similar issues of close-growing cacti.
Head around a small boulder pile on the left and push a quarter mile up to the crest of a hill. Thousands more saguaros cover the valley ahead, making for a vivid scene. The descent from the top is similar to the climb; relatively low grade but bumpy.
As Brittlebrush reaches the bottom, it'll cross a washout around the half mile point before joining it another tenth of a mile ahead. Most of the remainder of the trail will be in the wash. Users accessing the trail from the north side will find it about the same as Picture Rocks Wash
: sandy, gritty, and tiring to run through. Sticking to the firmer earth around the edges, at least where it exists, can help.
After making a distinct U-shaped curve around a raised section, some brief respite can be had on a hard packed segment to the left. It only lasts for a few hundred feet, heading right back to the wash before ending at the intersection with Picture Rocks Wash
. A trail sign, facing northeast, marks the split. Turn right onto Picture Rocks for a few hundred feet to reach the hard-packed Ironwood Forest
on the opposite side, a welcome relief from the sandy slog.
Flora & Fauna
With both desert and mountain areas, including the sky island of the eastern district, Saguaro National Park is home to an impressive number of plants and wildlife.
Over four hundred plant species call the Tucson District home. The most prominent are the saguaro cacti which give the park its name. Living well over a hundred years and growing forty to sixty feet tall, they live exclusively in the Sonoran Desert and can be seen by the thousands here. Arms won't grow until the plant is 75-100 years old. Ocotillos, cholla, prickly pear, creosote, mesquite, and palo verde are common sights.
Many animals associated with the desert can be found on the trails. Visitors may see roadrunners, horned lizards, Gila monsters, kangaroo rats, and collared peccaries. Owls and woodpeckers may fly overhead, with some making their home in the saguaros. Tortoises are uncommon, and give a wide berth if coming across one of the park's six species of rattlesnakes.
Shared By: Brendan Ross