Cactus Forest Drive
Cactus Forest Drive
4.5
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Eight-mile scenic drive in Saguaro East.
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4.5
222 reviews
Excellent
160
Very good
54
Average
7
Poor
0
Terrible
1

NYU62
Tucson, AZ17,704 contributions
Apr 2022
On Easter Sunday, we did think that there would be many visitors, but, decided to go anyway. As the Park is so close to where we live, we can go anytime, and we go often. On Easter, the line to drive in snaked all the way back to the entrance gates. We have never, ever seen it this crowded.

However, since the speed limit is 15 miles an hour, and the road has so many pullouts, there was not a problem. The picnic areas were full of happy families, and we saw many people coming back to their cars after a hike. There were many bicycles on the road, and many out of state cars. No cacti are blooming yet, and, this year, due to less rain, the wildflower season is of no consequence.

My husband has a senior pass, so we do not have to pay to get in. But, while waiting in line, I saw a bike rider lined up behind us, and wondered why. Then I saw the sign, which states that for walk ins or bicycles there is a fee of $15.00.

This is, always, a most enjoyable drive, whether it is crowded, or not.
Written April 21, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Grover R
Pensacola, FL17,681 contributions
Mar 2021
The National park service did a great job with this diving opportunity to experience the Sonoran Desert. I was somewhat skeptical of this before our visit. While a visit of both districts did confirm the West District is better for seeing more and better Saguaro Cactus, I really enjoyed the drive on this road. There were more Saguaro cactus than I expected. However, it was a great drive through the Sonoran desert which is vast different, more diverse, more abundant and simply more appealing, than other deserts like the Chihuahuan. After 6 days and 1,000 miles of Chihuahuan experience, the Sonoran was a welcome oasis. However, it is not just the flora, you are also ringed by Mountains, the Rincon and Santa Catalina. We actual visited twice, once on the first morning we were in Tucson and once at Sunset on our final night. Our hotel was on the east side and it was easy for us to get to the park. While there was visual incursion, I was impressed how the park could be so close to a metropolitan area and still feel wilderness. We did not see much wildlife other some birds and rabbits here, but at sunset it was amazing how much of it we heard, javelinas and coyotes. Really great drive in a national park; also made for bicycling.
Written April 1, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

jfd
Scottsdale, AZ1,648 contributions
Mar 2021
We visited after a night of snow which left the mountain tops white. Luckily the parking areas were not that crowded. We started at the visitor center where they limit the number of people inside. We bought a couple of things for the grandkids. We did the 8 mile loop stopping at several places and did the mica trail which is .7 miles. Lots of places for picture taking. Worth a visit if you are on the east side of town.
Written March 13, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Leanne D
21 contributions
Mar 2022
Went thru this drive twice as we loved it so much. My husband is handicapped and for us to be able to drive slowly, plenty of pull offs was fantastic. We didnt see much wildlife but figured March was probably like that. I walked a couple of trails that were great. It was bz but not slammed so i could hear birds, wind, ect. And enjoy the experience. Great staff at the center, nice little gift shop. We had been to the Sonoran desert museum the day before and appreciated the silence, the info at pull outs and little extras that pulled it all together.for us here. If you can only do one or the other by all means, this is the real deal.
Written March 23, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Suzanne
Pottsboro, TX127 contributions
Sep 2021
We chose this side of the Saguaro National Park because it is in a mountainous area and the scenic drive is paved. We enjoyed the wonderful drive through a few hours before sunset and it was just fantastic! Seeing the density of the saguaros spread out as far as the eye can say in some areas is quite stunning. I enjoyed having opportunities to get out and get close enough to "hug" some for photos as well! We coincidently were there at sunset and saw all the other people come in and set up at the prime locations to get good shots but we managed to get some ourselves. Very nice experience!
Written October 10, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

JourneyAwaits
Anderson, IN32 contributions
Jan 2020
The loop drive in Saguaro National Park East is a great way to see the landscape with plenty of Saguaros. For someone from the Midwest, this is very different from what we are used to seeing. The loop offers several pull offs to get a closer look and a few trailheads as well.
Written January 7, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

islandgurl2
Vancouver Island, Canada537 contributions
Feb 2023 • Couples
My husband and I loved this 8 mile drive through the mountains and desert of Saguaro National Park East! It’s only 8 miles but we took our time, stopping for photographs, and short walks along the way, it took us over 3 hours to get all the way around. The Saguaro are mystical, magical, and for me, spiritually moving. The desert forest is so very different from anything we’ve ever seen and we revelled in this discovery. I highly recommend it! I especially enjoyed the mica view picnic area, and suggest the short mica view trail hike for an easy, short hike, and immersive experience. Loved it!!! Don’t miss the crested saguaro to the left of the outhouse at the picnic area.
Written February 12, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

vcedell
Clyde, NY1,441 contributions
Sep 2021 • Couples
My husband and I flew into Tucson And drove to this park. It was in the afternoon and very hot out. This drive is a great way to see the park without having to get out into the heat. We did stop at the visitor center and two small hikes. Beautiful scenery.
Written September 20, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

NYU62
Tucson, AZ17,704 contributions
Apr 2015 • Couples
We live within five miles of Saguaro National Park East, and so have made many, many trips along Cactus Forest Drive. Have gone at different times of the day, and different times of the year, and have always appreciated the beauty and the grandeur of the landscape.

This paved road is eight miles long, and there are many turnout and pullouts for picture taking, or just stopping to take a deep breath in awe. The speed limit is 15 miles per hour, and all the times we have gone, other drivers have been respectful of that. You can drive slowly, and absorb the spectacular surroundings. To get the full effect, try not to catch up with the car ahead of you, as the road is narrow, and much of your vision front and center will be blocked by the other vehicle. Better to use a pullout, and let them put some distance between you.

This road is so calming, and for us has been therapeutic. When our hearts were breaking as a cherished pet, who loved going for car rides, was dying, we took him on his very last ride through the Park on November 14th. He still so enjoyed looking out the window. That drive calmed us for what was to come, and dear little Beau passed away the next day.

This Park is like a Sanctuary, a sacred and safe place, and the Cactus Forest Drive takes you right through it. One can find comfort and solace here.
Written April 8, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Bravaencore
Ann Arbor, MI1,118 contributions
On the last day of our recent trip to Tucson (from Nov. 15th - 20th), my husband and elderly father were getting tired of outings with lots of walking (the Desert Museum, Kartcher Caverns, UA's campus), so I suggested we try the 8 mile Cactus Forest Drive in Saguaro National Park East (Rincon Mountain District). After a disappointing visit to the washed out Sabino Canyon the day before, the Cactus Forest Drive turned out to be one of the highlights of our stay.

The ability to drive right up and through gorgeous scenery - and with more pull-off areas compared to the drive out Gates Pass to the Desert Museum - was breath-taking. Apparently, the drive was recently renovated and re-opened, and the results are magnificent. I loved being able to drive from spot to spot, yet stop frequently to get out, walk and explore in the natural desert beauty. My husband, the amateur photographer, was impressed to the point of feeling frustrated that he didn't know of this area earlier, as he would have wanted to go right when the park opened at 7 am to get the good light.

So now we're planning a return trip to Tucson for when the desert is in bloom and we're definitely going back to the Cactus Forest Drive.

Check out these sites for more info:
Scenic Drives at Saguaro National Park
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Friends of Saguaro National Park
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Written November 26, 2006
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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