Saguaro National Park Wilderness Permits Overview
There are no campgrounds accessible by vehicle (including RV) within Saguaro National Park. For fit hikers interested in backpacking a minimum of 4.4 miles into the rugged Rincon Mountains, 6 wilderness campgrounds are available.
The Rincon Mountains in Saguaro National Park rise out of the Sonoran Desert to over 8000 feet in elevation and host vegetative communities ranging from desert cacti, desert grasslands, and oak woodlands, to mixed conifer forests.
In 1976, congress designated 57,930 acres of the Rincon Mountains within the park as the Saguaro Wilderness managed as "an area where the each and its community of life are untrammeled by humans, where people themselves are visitors who do not remain."
Without question, water will be your most important concern while visiting the Saguaro Wilderness. Surface water is generally scarce during most of the year. At times, it is non-existent. Start your trip with plenty of potable water. Know where water sources are located and plan your trip according to water availability.
It is recommended that you treat/filter all water used for human consumption.
All campgrounds within the Saguaro Wilderness are situated next to intermittent streams or springs. During dry seasons, water may not be available. The water source at Manning Camp is a spring surrounded by chain link fencing. Please do not enter the fenced area. Water may be obtained a short distance downstream. The water tap at the Manning Camp Cabin is not for public use and is usually turned off.
If your itinerary calls for you to exit on the same trail you entered, you might consider caching potable water along the trail. This will assure a source of drinking water on your way out. We recommend sealed water containers with your name and the date written on them.
For current water reports, inquire at the visitor center - (520) 733-5153.
Temperatures and weather can vary greatly across the Saguaro Wilderness and is largely dependent on elevation.
Manning Camp is located at an elevation of 8,000 feet, and the visitor center is at an elevation of 3,080 feet.
The average high temperature at the visitor center in January is 63 degrees and the average low temperature is 38 degrees. For the same month, the average high temperature at Manning Camp is 44 degrees and the average low is 25 degrees.
In June, the average high temperature at Manning Camp is 77 degrees and the average low temperature is 48 degrees. For the same month, the average high temperature at the visitor center is 98 degrees and the average low temperature is 67 degrees.
Winter Rainy Season: The typical winter rainy season occurs from December through February. Rainfall is generally light and gentle but may fall for extended periods. Expect snow at higher elevations.
Summer Rainy Season: The typical summer rainy season occurs from July through September. Rainfall can be intense and heavy. Lightning and flash flooding are common - extra caution is advised.
When to Go
Summer temperatures in the Sonoran Desert regularly exceed 100 degrees and can reach 115 degrees. Higher elevation areas such as Manning Camp can receive significant winter snowfall.
Spring and Fall can be ideal times to backpack in the Saguaro Wilderness but it is still important to pay attention to projected weather. If the predicted high temperature at your trailhead is between 80 and 95 degrees, plan your trip so that you arrive at higher elevations by early afternoon. If the predicted high temperature is between 95 and 110 degrees, leave the trailhead early enough that you can arrive at elevations over 7000 feet by 10 am - leaving the trailhead before sunrise is recommended. And, if the predicted high temperature is over 110 degrees, consider cancelling your trip.
At any time of the year, backpackers should plan to leave their trailhead by noon. Backpacking in the Rincon Mountains is a difficult endeavor. Later starts frequently lead to camping illegally in areas other than designated campgrounds.
All visitors to the Saguaro Wilderness should have the necessary orienteering and map reading skills to safely get around. We suggest that you carry National Geographic’s “Trails Illustrated Map”, which covers the entire park in one waterproof, tear-resistant map. The map is available at the visitor center.
If you would like to purchase the map to aid in planning trip, by mail or phone prior to your arrival contact the Western National Parks Association bookstore.
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, Arizona 85730
Livestock. Limited overnight livestock pack trips are permitted in the park. Please contact 520-733-5153 for additional information.
The 70,000 square mile Sky Island region of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northwestern Mexico is globally important because of its rich diversity of species and habitats. These mountain "islands", forested ranges separated by vast expanses of desert and grassland plans, are among the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The Rincon Mountains of Saguaro National Park are the largest roadless sky island in the region.
Charges & Cancellations
For more information on cancellations or changes, visit https://www.recreation.gov/rules-reservation-policies.
Directions to Campground
Trailheads Five trailheads lead into the Saguaro Wilderness. To help you plan your trip, we have separated these trailheads by the level of difficulty it takes to reach a particular trailhead. Access to the Saguaro Wilderness is available from the south boundary of the park, at Camino Loma Alta Trailhead. There is NO public access to Madrona, which is permanently closed and is not staffed at any time. Access to the Saguaro Wilderness via the Miller Creek, Turkey Creek and Italian Spring Trailheads is through United States Forest Service (USFS) lands. For information about the Coronado National Forest, call (520) 670-4552. Trailhead Elevation Douglas Spring 2,750 feet Tanque Verde Ridge 3,100 feet Miller Creek 4,200 feet Turkey Creek 4,250 feet Italian Spring 4,800 feet Easy Access The Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead is located of the park’s scenic loop drive, within the Javelina Picnic Area. Vehicle access to the Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead is available from 7:00 a.m. to sunset daily. The scenic loop drive is closed and locked nightly. The Douglas Spring Trailhead is located at the east end of Speedway Boulevard and is accessible 24 hours per day. Due to this easy access, vehicle break-ins have occurred at this trailhead. Do not leave valuables inside your vehicle - visible or otherwise. Many wilderness users choose to have a friend drop them off and pick them up rather than leaving a vehicle at this trailhead. Moderate Access Both the Miller Creek and Turkey Creek Trailheads are located on USFS lands and are generally accessible by light truck or car. However, during or after heavy rainfall, access to these trailheads can be restricted or impassable. You must hike an additional 1.5 miles on either trail to reach the boundary of Saguaro National Park. To reach either of these trailheads ,take Interstate 10 to exit #297 and head north. The road is paved for the first two miles and graded gravel for the remainder of its length. When you enter the Coronado National Forest, the road is named USFS Route #35. The turnoff to the Miller Creek Trailhead is 16 miles north of I-10. The Turkey Creek Trailhead turnoff is one half mile beyond the Miller Creek turnoff. Look for USFS Route #4408 and turn left. Vehicles without high clearance and 4-wheel-drive will not be able to negotiate the last 1.6 miles of road leading to the Turkey Creek Trailhead. The Loma Alta Trailhead is at the north end of Camino Loma Alta, north of Old Spanish Trail. Horse parking is at pavement end; hikers may proceed one half mile further on a dirt road. Difficult Access The Italian Spring Trailhead is the most difficult trailhead to access. To reach this trailhead, drive east on Tanque Verde Road. At the intersection with Wentworth Road, Tanque Verde Road will change names to Redington Road. At the boundary of the Coronado National Forest, the surface of Redington Road will change from pavement to gravel. While the gravel portion of Redington Road does not require 4-wheel-drive, high clearance is recommended as it is not regularly maintained and is usually in poor condition. From the beginning of the gravel, travel 9.6 miles to USFS Route #37 and turn right. Vehicles with 4-wheel-drive and high clearance may drive an additional 2.6 miles to the Italian Spring Trailhead. This trailhead is located on USFS lands; you must hike an additional 5.1 miles to reach the boundary of Saguaro National Park.