When visitors arrive at Saguaro National Park looking for a family-friendly hiking experience, one of the top recommendations is the Valley View Overlook Trail. We’d read about it online during our trip research, and many of you recommended it in our Facebook and Instagram communities. As usual, your recommendations didn’t disappoint.
The trail ended up being one of the highlights of our time in the park. Because the temperatures soared the two days we were there, the Valley View Overlook Trail offered a quick hiking option we could still enjoy in the heat of the day.
It was our first chance to see a Saguaro sway in the wind, watch a dust cloud travel on the valley floor, and experience the beauty of the Sonoran desert after the summer rains.
So much color. So much life here.
Here’s a quick re-cap:
The Valley View Overlook Trail departs from the Bajada Loop Drive, one of two primary scenic drives in Saguaro National Park. Drive 3.5 miles north of the Red Hills Visitor Center, turning right onto Bajada Loop Drive.
On the north side of the road, you’ll find a generous parking area. A stone sign on one end marks the trailhead for the view trail. The trail leaves from the parking area. About half way through the hike there are options for additional spurs to check out more of the area around Bajada Loop Drive.
About the Valley View Overlook Trail
Distance: 0.8 miles round trip
Elevation Change: About 100 feet.
Trail Type: Out-and-back hike to an overlook of the Avra Valley
Suitable for kids or knee issues? Yes!
Our total hiking time: Under 1 hour
Terrain: The trail descends from the parking area into two different wash areas and then follows a ridgeline to the overlook.
Other Nearby Hiking Options: Desert Discovery Trail, Signal Hill Petroglyphs Trail; Wild Dog Trail; Bajada Wash Trail and the Hugh Norris Trail, the longest hiking trail in the Tuscon Mountain District
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What You’ll See
As mentioned above, the highlight of the Valley View Overlook Trail is the stunning view of the Avra Valley from the height of the ridgeline. Beyond the view, make sure you keep your eyes out on the trail for:
- Saguaro cacti of all ages. This area of the park offers a chance to see saguaro growing at all different life stages. Some of the giant cacti are over 100 years old here. Others are still getting their start under the protection of nurse trees. To read more about the life cycle of a saguaro, check out this guide from the park service: How Saguaros Grow.
- Reptiles & Birds. Be sure to keep your eyes open to the sky and to the ground when you’re hiking the Valley View Overlook Trail. Depending on the season you visit, you’re likely to meet at least a few interesting residents of Saguaro National Park on the short route to the overlook and back.
- Picacho Point. At the overlook point, you’re also offered a view of Picacho Peak and Picacho State Park to the north. Towering 3,374 feet above the desert floor,
PichachoPeak has been used as a navigation landmark since Pre-historic times.
Our Saguaro National Park Hiking Tips
Saguaro National Park was one of our first experiences in desert hiking. While we alway prep for our hikes, there are some extra ways we prepped for the Valley View Trail and the other hikes in Saguaro. Here are the tips, gear list, and tricks we think are important to know anytime you’re desert hiking in the National Park Service:
Drink Enough Water.
There are lots of different numbers floating around online about how much water you really need when desert hiking. For us, we try to drink at least half our body weight in ounces of water every day at home, so while hiking in Saguaro we went for our full body weight in ounces each day.
Watch your electrolytes.
Another tip we read a lot about during our prep for Saguaro and hiking the Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon National Park was replenishing your electrolytes. When you’re hiking in the heat, your body loses salt and minerals at a surprising rate. Add in all that water your drinking and it only compounds the electrolyte loss. We love Nuun tabs, but there are lots of choices on the market.
Don’t hike without a hat.
Apologize if these tips are starting to sound like your nagging mother or grandmother — but for real–keeping the sun off your head makes a giant difference in helping your body regulate temperature when hiking in the desert. We know we looked ‘ever-so-stylish’ in these hats we bought for our South African safari, but they truly do make a difference:
Hike early and late.
We mentioned this in our re-cap post about Saguaro a few weeks ago, but the park rangers here recommend hiking early (before 10 AM) or late in the afternoon (after 4 PM). During the heat of the day, find some shade and enjoy the view of the Sonoran Desert, check out one of the scenic drives or bum around the air-conditioned visitor centers.
Travel in the cooler season.
Winters in Saguaro National Park (late October to early May) are some of the best times to visit and hike in the park. Daytime temperatures average around 65 degrees Fahrenheit–comfortable for hiking at any time during the day.
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