Even if you’ve never heard of saguaro (sa-WAH-ro) before, chances are you’ll immediately think of the American Southwest the moment you see one. The cacti’s stately silhouette is used to brand everything from Old El Paso food products to westerns filmed throughout the southwest. Only the saguaro doesn’t naturally grow within 250 miles of El Paso, TX or in most southwestern states, for that matter. The tree-like cactus makes its home exclusively in the Sonora desert, which covers parts of Arizona, California, and Mexico.
The incredible saguaro can live up to 200 years and grow to heights of 70 feet tall. It thrives in the harsh desert environment with a root system that usually only descends about five inches into the ground. But when it rains, the cactus absorbs so much water that it visibly expands. A fully hydrated saguaro can weigh over 4,000 pounds.
In 1933 President Herbert Hoover created Saguaro National Park to protect and display this iconic giant. The park has two distinct regions, separated by the city of Tucson, Arizona. Both districts are similar in features and both offer miles of scenic roads to travel and many more miles of trails to hike. Either one is a great choice for an up-close and personal encounter with this prickly, but loveable, beast.