Saguaro National Park West
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Up Close with a Desert Icon
Few things are as evocative of the American Desert Southwest as the saguaro cactus. One of the best places to get up close to these spiky giants (as tall as 60 ft, as old as 200 yrs, as heavy as 2 tons!) is near Tucson. Arizona's second largest city is flanked on both sides by Saguaro National Park—East and West. A few driving routes are available, but plenty of hiking and horse trails should get you out of your car and into the foothills and canyons of the Tucson and Rincon mountain ranges. The Western division of the park is the better of the two for sunsets; the Eastern division leads to higher wilderness trails, and also hosts an annual 8-mile-loop Labor Day run. When the wind whips around these anthropomorphic cacti, you can hear the "whoosh" through the needles. May and June are hot, but you'll be rewarded with the spectacle of their waxy blooms—a favorite snack-source for bats and doves. And Gila woodpeckers excavate their nests high up in the "trunks"—look for their red-capped heads peaking out... For more info: www.nps.gov/sagu
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