Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Saguaro National Park West

Corona de Tucson

May 4, 2022

I don't know about other bloggers, but I refer to the blog often when it comes to questions like... "when did we do that?" and "what did we see?".  I have been wanting to take the back way to Saguaro National Park West for awhile and when I checked the blog, I realized why.  We have driven Gates Pass a few times, but had not visited the west side of the national park since 2016.  So Sunday, we headed north and slightly east (avoiding the interstate and major highways) in search for saguaro cactus blooms.  

I always enjoy the drive on Kinney Road once we enter the Tucson Mountain District. This day was no exception as I was excited at the prospect of seeing those beautiful saguaro blooms up close and not just out the window.

I only had a vague memory of the Visitor Center on the west side and was pleasantly surprised at how pretty it is.  

The front... 


and the back...

We did learn something new at one of the outdoor displays.  Did you know saguaros have boots? A hard shell of callus tissue, heavily impregnated with lignin that the cactus creates to protect the wound, is formed that the birds can use for nesting.  The hard shell is referred to as a boot.  We have seen many saguaro cacti skeletons, but never knew to look for a boot.  Now we know !

The cactus wrens were busy eating the bees and other insects swarming around the blooms and never noticed they had visitors.  

A Ranger told us about a short walking trail a quarter of a mile from the VC where we might find more birds.  It is considered to be a riparian area as it has water during certain times of the year.  

We saw a pair of White-winged Dove.  In the Sonoran Desert, nesting White-winged Doves eat mostly nectar, pollen, fruit and seeds from the saguaro and are nicknamed "saguaro specialists".  Both the saguaro and the dove benefit from the relationship.  

And we saw a Curved-billed Thrasher...well, most of him.

Our auto hike continued on to Bajada Loop Road...the only scenic drive on the west side.  It is a 6 mile graded dirt road with pullouts for photographs, hiking trails and picnic areas.  It is a combo two-way and one-way road that begins about 1 and 1/2 miles from the VC.  

 The prickly pear cacti were glowing...

and the buckhorn cacti were radiant.

The dainty hedgehog cacti always catch my eye.

And then there are the magnificent Saguaro cacti that can only be seen in the Sonoran Desert.

And finally ...a turned down arm and low enough for me to photograph...jackpot !

Bajada Loop, like Cactus Forest Drive in Saguaro NP East is a beautiful and fun scenic drive.  Both never disappoint !

From there we took a few left and right turns, and found ourselves on another favorite road...Gates Pass.  Sundays and auto hikes just seem to go together sometimes and this was a really nice day.  

I had started out with the intention of blogging about the whole week, but this is too long and I have run out of time so I will have to continue later. 

By the way, I still haven't figured out why google will not let me make comments signed in to our account like I have done for the past umpteen years.  I have checked, double checked and triple checked settings, visited the google help site numerous times, and all updates for google and chrome are up to date.     So for now and probably forever, I am ANONYMOUS.  

We enjoyed the long way home !  Until next time, 



  1. You made me homesick for the desert as we arrived in Montana today. Lovely that the saguaro are blooming! Was the visitor's center crowded? When we took Mike's son this March, it was horribly crowded.

    1. Can’t wait to see those beautiful Montana photos! Glad you made it to your summer home safe. The saguaros were pretty…not at their peak yet though. I was surprised that there were not many folks at the VC, but we got there just as they opened the door. Sunday would not be a good time to go otherwise.

  2. Beautiful pictures of the flowers!!!

    1. Thank you! It was nice day in the desert!

  3. Hope the toe is healed and you could wander among the cactus. A great day for a driving hike, pretty much in your own front yard.
    Nice fotos of the cactus blooms.

    1. Thank you Jeff. My toe is much better and we are getting in a few walks…including a short walk near the VC.

  4. I love the Tucson Mountain area and am looking forward to seeing the west side VC now that it's open again!! Wonderful bright pink blooms. We're still very much in the early stages of spring here in the mid-west - nothing blooming yet! Cracked up at the Thrasher with his head buried in the bloom :-))

    1. The desert and spring is my favorite time here Jodee. By the time you are enjoying spring, it will be scorching hot here. I have always preferred the east side because of the hiking trails. But when we were at Lazydays, hiking in the Tucson Mt area was our go to. It’s nice to have choices!

  5. Seeing the saguaro bloom is such a treat. Luckily, we have several here in town that I keep tabs on. So nice to see all the other cactus blooms, as well. Collecting boots from the saguaro is very popular. I've yet to find one. Hope you happen to be lucky enough to get one. They are very cool. Thanks for sharing your drive.

    1. You are very welcome Pam. I had not heard about the boots until that visit…I will definitely be on the lookout.