The Nature trails at Tohono Chul offer visitors an easy to traverse exploration of Tucson’s desert. With multiple trails to choose from, visitors will learn about the fascinating vegetation and wildlife of the Sonoran Desert through our easy to understand interpretive signage.
SAGUARO DISCOVERY TRAIL
One of Tohono Chul’s major objectives is to illustrate for Tucson visitors the interconnectedness between the plants and people of the Sonoran Desert. In no other instance is this connection more evident than in that between the saguaro cactus (ha:sañ) and the Tohono O’odham people.
Less than 1/4 mile in length, this gently sloping trail winds past saguaro nurseries nestled under protective palo verdes and juvenile and mature saguaros marching up a graveled hillside. Interpretive signage for the trail features original watercolor illustrations by Tohono O’odham artist, Michael Chiago, and offers a cultural view of the saguaro from the perspective of the original desert people, as well as a naturalist’s answers to many of the most frequently asked questions about this iconic desert cactus. This trail is wheelchair accessible.
The Saguaro is the iconic “figure” of the Southwest. To learn more about their history and significance peruse the trails’ signage:
Saguaro Discovery Trail
“Strange saguaro” has no odd parts
Tohono O’ odham – the desert people
Saguaros are people, too
Growing up saguaro isn’t easy
Saguaros are good neighbors
Saguaro harvest begins the New Year
Saguaro fruit was a summer feast
Saguaros helped sing down the rain
Rain means survival for desert dwellers
Bountiful rains brought bountiful crops
SOUTH LOOP TRAIL
A pleasant walk through washes, up a slight incline and past indigenous vegetation, on this trail (1/5 mile) you will see Tohono Chul’s largest grouping of saguaros. Although saguaros grow throughout Tohono Chul, they prefer this area because of the ideal soil conditions, climate and rainfall. Be sure to take in the Saguaro Discovery Trail which leads to the South Loop and don’t miss the crested saguaro at the highest point of the loop trail. Crested saguaros are a rare mutation, occurring in one out of every two hundred thousand saguaros.
The South Loop is also home to many of the Tohono Chul’s more than 300 native night-blooming cereus (Peniocereus greggii). The cereus is a spindly plant that more closely resembles a cluster of dead sticks or creosote branches than a typical cactus. But, for one night each summer, the “Queen of the Night” makes her appearance and the plants flower in a spectacular fashion with large, white, fragrant blossoms. This flowering event occurs typically in June or July. Tohono Chul stays open late, inviting visitors to stroll luminaria-lit paths and experience one of the desert’s miracles. This trail is partially wheelchair accessible.
DESERT VIEW TRAIL
Meant for the more adventuresome, this trail meanders through a beautiful, undisturbed quadrant of Tohono Chul. We recommend you take water on this trek, especially if you travel it during the summer months. Approximately 1/2 mile in length, the trail is a favorite of birders and those looking for the Sonoran Desert in its more natural state. The trail cuts through one of the main “highways” used by animals travelling through Tohono Chul. Bobcats, coyotes, and javelina all traverse the dry washes in this area. The majority of Tohono Chul’s 300+ Night-blooming Cereus (Peniocereus greggii) are found along this trail and the South Loop Trail.
Along the trail are meditations on the unique character of the desert. Read them here.