2700 N. Kinney Rd., Tucson
HOURS: Daily 7 a.m.–sunset
COST: $10 per car, receipt valid for seven days, good at both Eastern  and Western sections
This is where the icon of arid America holds court. The split Saguaro National Park has a western section at the base of the Tucson Mountains and a larger eastern section  at the base of the Rincon Mountains. Both are worth visiting, but if you have time only for one go to the eastern section, which is older and larger.
Together they protect about 91,300 acres of magnificent Sonoran Desert landscape, including large and crowded saguaro forests surrounded by a thick underbrush of ocotillo, prickly pear, cholla, mesquite, and palo verde. If you want to see an accessible and wondrous example of the Sonoran Desert at its best, there are few better places to go.
The place to start your tour of the western park is the Red Hills Visitor Center (9 a.m.–5 p.m.), where you can learn about the ancient symbiotic friendship between the Tohono O’odham and the saguaro. Here you’ll find a guide to the park’s 40 miles of trails, and you can also book a tour with a naturalist and peruse the bookstore stocked with titles on local history and nature.
A good way to see the park, especially in the heat of summer, is to drive the six-mile Bajada Loop through a thick saguaro forest. The route is graded dirt and it can get dusty; you can also walk or bike the loop.
Or you can drive the loop and stop at the Valley View Overlook Trail, an easy one-mile round-trip trail off the loop road that rises to an expansive view of the Avra Valley, the saguaro-lined desert, and the skulking rock mountains. A half-mile round-trip walk to the Signal Hill Picnic Area offers a look at ancient petroglyphs. Both trails can be accessed off the Bajada Loop drive and are well marked.
There are also a few very short, paved walks around the visitors center featuring interpretive signs about the saguaro and other desert fauna.