A hike in Saguaro West can be a stroll on a nature trail or a day-long wilderness trek. Within 1 mile of the information center are 2 nature trails.
- The Cactus Garden Trail, located at the center, follows a level paved walkway through a collection of desert plants.
- The Desert Discovery Nature Trail loops 0.5 mile along the gently sloping bajadas at the foot of the Tucson Mountains.
- Valley View Overlook Trail is a 1.5-mile roundtrip with spectacular views of mountains and desert scenery and extensive Saguaro forests.
There are 2 picnic areas in Saguaro East, both located along the Cactus Forest Drive. Each has picnic tables, fire grills, and pit toilets. They do not have drinking water.
The 8-mile Cactus Forest Drive winds through the heart of an extensive saguaro forest and offers a close leisurely look at a variety of Sonoran Desert life. This one-way road, which begins at the visitor center, is paved.
About 128 miles of trails wind through the desert and mountain country of Saguaro East. Short hikes will introduce you to the plant and animal life of the Sonoran Desert.
The 1/4-mile paved Desert Ecology Trail, located along Cactus Forest Drive, provides a brief explanation of water's role in the desert. This self-guiding trail is accessible to the disabled. Many other trails along the scenic drive are suitable for short hikes into the nearly pristine desert environment of this area. For information on these trails, stop at the visitor center.
Several longer hiking trails penetrate the vast wilderness of the Rincon Mountains and their foothills. This is part of the park few people experience because is it accessible only by foot or on horseback. It is quite unlike the lowland cactus deserts. In the Rincon Mountains, woodlands of scrub oak and pine and forests of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, similar to those of the northern United States and southern Canada, prevail.
Because many of the trails of Saguaro East intersect one another, trips of varying length can be planned. Horseback riding is permitted on all trails except the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail, Miller Creek Trail, and the Rincon Peak Trail. Before hiking or horseback riding into the Rincon Mountains. Check with a park ranger for trail conditions.
Backcountry camping is allowed but only at designated sites. Backcountry use permits must be obtained at the visitor center in advance of an overnight trip.