While both Saguaro East National Park and Saguaro West National Park have plenty to see, they do offer different experiences. The geology and natural beauty of each section of the park are a little different because Tucson separates the two sections. We definitely recommend seeing both parts, since they’re not especially large and it’s worth visiting both. However, if you’re short on time, here are some differences you can use to answer the question of Saguaro National Park East vs. West.
The western half of Saguaro National Park, called the Tucson Mountain District, is smaller but features more of the park’s iconic namesake: saguaro cactuses. These tree-sized cactuses are well-known as iconic symbols of the American Southwest, but they’re even more impressive up close. There are also some easily accessible petroglyphs that the indigenous Hohokam people left behind in the Tucson Mountain District. It’s also the more rugged of the sections, featuring dirt roads and mountainous vistas.
The eastern half of the park is called the Rincon Mountain District and is about three times as large as the Tucson district. While it has significantly fewer saguaros, the Rincon district has a wider range of hiking trails, bike paths, and other recreational activities. Backpacking is allowed only in the Rincon Mountain District, so anyone hoping to get off the beaten path and do some exploring should head straight for the eastern part of the park. However, the natural beauty of the Rincon district is a little bit less dramatic, so visitors with only a little bit of time might want to drive through the Tucson half instead.
To make the most of your next trip to Saguaro, check out our Saguaro East National Park Self-Guided Driving Tour, or sign up for Action+ to gain access to over 100 tours for a single yearly price.