Petrified Forest and Saguaro Tour
2 Day Itinerary
The following is a suggested itinerary, further customizable based on guests’ priorities:
Petrified Forest and Saguaro Tour Overview
The Petrified Forest and Saguaro tour could almost be considered 4 separate parks, as Saguaro is divided into very different East and West units on either side of Tucson, and the north and south portions of Petrified Forest are incredible unique. Guests will get a true feel for the southwest, ranging from cactus covered deserts to alpine mountains to barren painted landscapes that may as well be on Mars.
Saguaro East and West
Starting our Saguaro tour early, the West Unit of Saguaro will allow us to watch the sunrise over a field of cacti leading into the city of Tucson. Giant saguaros, and numerous other types of catci, stretch as far as the eye can see. After driving the scenic loop and a morning warm up hike, we’ll grab lunch and head to the East unit.
While still containing cacti, the portion of our Saguaro tour focusing on the East unit primary features the Rincon Mountains, adding a bit of elevation in the middle of the desert. We will be able to do everything from the easy to extreme, with stunning overlooks and alpine hikes at our fingertips. ECA will ensure guests are prepared before our Saguaro tour for all kinds of conditions, having everything from sunscreen and lip balm to extra gloves at our disposal.
After exploring Saguaro through sunset, we will head north towards Petrified Forrest. We will dispersed camp in a National Forest/BLM land outside of the Apache Reservation, and finish the drive to Petrified Forrest first thing in the morning. With the right conditions, the Petrified Forest and Saguaro tour often treats guests to some of the most stunning night sky views in the country. When there’s no moon, high visibility, and no clouds, the universe above will make you feel insignificant in the best of ways.
Petrified Forest, while connected, can also be broken into two distinct areas: The Painted Desert of the north and the large hunks of petrified wood in the south. As of this time, there is road construction and we will have to do the north portion, drive around the park, and then do the south portion. It’s worth it.
The desert seems to cover every color from red to blue, making it feel more like an alien landscape than Arizona at different points. In addition to the sweeping views of the painted deserts, the north offers a sunning expanse of a desert wash that seems to go on for as far as the eye can see.
It should be noted that Petrified Forest is not a forest. It used to be, centuries ago. What makes this so unique, outside of the landscapes, is how over centuries the climate calcified the wood from that former forest into stunning, colorful pieces of petrified wood.
This is an area where we absolutely must practice “Leave No Trace” principles, including not taking a piece of Petrified Wood, no matter how small. NPS staff stop and search vehicles on the way out. Also, there are numerous opportunities to purchase pieces of petrified wood from private land at gift shops on the way out.
The Petrified Forest and Saguaro tour is completely customizable to each guests preferences and can be completed in either order. It should be noted that the Petrified Forest area offers stunning night sky conditions, with ECA fully capable of silhouette shots behind the Milky Way, star trails, and time-lapses.
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