“A fast, flat singletrack leading from Contzen Pass to a saguaro-filled valley.
— Brendan Ross
Views · Wildflowers
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.
One of the two trails leading from Picture Rocks Road into the park, Ringtail splits off from Cam-Boh Trail
a short distance from the pavement. Look left for the path, narrowing from the wider wash down to singletrack.
Ringtail quickly leaves the sand behind for clean, packed dirt. The turn off for Mule Deer
is a little after a quarter mile in on the right. Look for a sign. The trail then winds through bushes and palo verde trees, making an easy ascent. There are great sight lines extend across the valley. With few challenges and a low grade, this is a fast route.
The only real challenge comes about a third of a mile into the trail, where it makes a moderate climb for a few hundred feet. Some short, bumpy segments alternate with the otherwise smooth trail here, though the rocks are more of a nuisance than anything.
The trail ends at a wide section of Picture Rocks Wash
. Continuing to the left will go to the dead end terminus of Picture Rocks, though there's not really any reason to do so. Connections to Cactus Canyon
, Ironwood Forest
, and Brittlebrush
are a short distance ahead to the right. If picking up Ringtail from this side, the sign is partially covered by overgrowth, so keep an eye out for a singletrack exiting the wash to the north.
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.