Look no further for some of the best camping in Saguaro National Park, plus tips to enjoy your stay from The Dyrt Ranger team the Switchback Kids.
Most Popular Campgrounds in Saguaro National Park
Icon of the American Southwest and North America’s largest cactus, the saguaro is a well-recognized and imposing plant whose uplifted arms give it a regal presence. An entire army of these majestic sentinel-like cacti are protected by Saguaro National Park and are the park’s centerpiece. Split in two and separated by the city of Tucson, Saguaro National Park embraces the Rincon Mountain District in the east and the Tucson Mountain District in the west. Both sections offer plenty of trails and desert flora but differ in terms of size and climate.
While there are no developed campgrounds in the area, these three sites are your best bet for exploring Saguaro’s natural beauty.
1. Molino Basin Campground, AZ
Located 5.5 miles from the base of Mt. Lemmon and about a 30-minute drive from Saguaro National Park, Molino Basin Campground is nothing short of a convenient spot. It also has plenty of hiking and mountain biking opportunities amongst scenic mountain surroundings. There are six cleared tent pads, as well as one accessible tent site and a large group area. Sites are on a first-come, first-served basis, and there is no available water source. So, be sure to arrive early and pack plenty of water.
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2. General Hitchcock Campground, AZ
Located about 20 miles from Saguaro National Park, General Hitchcock Campground is a small, sheltered campground just off the Catalina Highway. There are 11 sites that are spaced fairly close together, so the privacy isn’t great. But, the sites are nestled under a thick canopy and some are located right along Bear Creek among large rocks, which more than makes up for it. While there are restrooms at this campground, there is no access to drinking water, so come prepared.
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3. Gilbert Ray Campground, AZ
Located just outside the Saguaro National Park, Gilbert Ray Campground is a perfect base camp for exploring the area. One of the many benefits of camping at Gilbert Ray is its affordability and the amazing opportunity to camp among the saguaros. This campground can fill up fast so booking well in advance is key.
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Being up close and personal to these desert giants is an experience like no other. From scenic drives to hikes and fascinating ranger led programs, this unique desert ecosystem has so much to offer.
The Dyrt’s Ranger duo the Switchback Kids, who spent a year visiting all 59 National Parks, have put together this incredible video to document their firsthand experience in Saguaro with the hopes of improving the visit of others.
Switchback Kids Ranger Tip: If you decide to backpack in the eastern unit, be prepared with plenty of layers for the cold evenings in higher elevations.
Find more campgrounds in Arizona by browsing The Dyrt’s campsite reviews.