My Favorite Short Trail In Saguaro: Desert Discovery Nature Trail

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On my first visit to Saguaro, I didn’t get to do the Desert Discovery Nature Trail but I wanted to. So when I went with my parents in the fall, I made sure we did it.

It actually worked out that there was only one car in the parking lot so we didn’t have to go back later! We went right after stopping at the visitor center since it’s right by it.

saguaro cactus on desert discovery trail saguaro national park

The whole trail is flat and dirt making a loop through the desert to teach you about the flora and fauna in Saguaro National Park. There are signs along the way describing plants nearby, animals that live here, and some other fun facts.

We started out going to the left on the loop, so clockwise. I think something that made this trail more fun for me was using the app Seek by iNaturalist. This isn’t sponsored, it was just really fun and I use it all the time now.

You open it up to scan plants (and animals!!) and the app will tell you what it is! It can take a while sometimes and sometimes it just can’t figure something out but it’s still really fun to use.

This trail probably took way longer than it needed to because I was stopping so much to scan and take pictures. There are SO many different kinds of plants on this trail, I love it.

christmas cholla cactus on desert discovery trail saguaro national park
Christmas cholla

I did like the first half of the loop better but the whole thing was good. It wasn’t crazy hot while we were here but it was fairly warm. Probably in the 80s.

There isn’t any shade on the trail so it’s a little extra warm. This is a very straightforward trail since it’s short and there are no forks but it’s a good one.

I would definitely recommend taking 20-30 minutes to hike this short but sweet trail before heading over to the Hugh Norris Trail, Valley View Overlook Trail, or Signal Hill Petroglyphs.

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variety of cactus on desert discovery trail saguaro national park

Plants to see on the Desert Discovery Nature Trail in Saguaro

  • Saguaro cactus (obviously)
  • Brown spined prickly pear cactus
  • Mesquite bushes
  • Buckhorn cholla
  • Christmas cholla
  • Arizona pencil cholla
  • Triangle leafe bursage
  • Ocotillo
  • Little leaved palo verde
  • Desert ironwood
  • And so much more!
cactus on desert discovery trail saguaro national park

Where is the Desert Discovery Nature Trail in Saguaro?

The Desert Discovery Nature Trail in Saguaro is just one mile down N. Kinney Rd on the west side of the park, the Mountain District. From the visitor center, it will be on your left. It’s a fairly small parking lot so you may have to come back for it if it’s full but I think it’s worth it. I love all the plants though.

cactus on desert discovery trail saguaro national park

How long is the Desert Discovery Nature Trail ?

This is a very short trail at just 0.4 miles and it’s a loop which is even better. The trail isn’t paved but it is flat so it’s super easy. This shouldn’t take too long to do, maybe 30 minutes but can be longer or shorter depending on how fast you walk and how much you stop.

cactus on desert discovery trail saguaro national park

Is the Desert Discovery Nature Trail worth it?

Yes! It’s just a short interpretive trail, basically, but I loved it. It’s pretty and great for seeing a pretty good variety of Sonoran plant life. It doesn’t take much time and makes a wonderful first hike in the west side of the park.

Have you done the Desert Discovery Nature Trail in Saguaro? What did you think of it? What is your favorite hike in Saguaro? Do you want to do this one?

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