Saguaro National Park Wilderness Permits

Saguaro National Park

The six wilderness campgrounds in the Rincon Mountains are the ONLY campgrounds in Saguaro National Park. For fit hikers interested in backpacking a minimum of 4.4 miles (7 km) into the rugged Rincon Mountains, six wilderness campgrounds are available.   

The Rincon Mountains in Saguaro National Park rise out of the Sonoran Desert to over 8000 feet (2438 m) 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 (23,443 ha) within these Mountains 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."  

None of these wilderness campgrounds is accessible by vehicle (including RVs). For car or RV camping, the only options in the immediate area are private or commercial campgrounds. Further away, there are campgrounds in the Coronado National Forest, some of which may be available to book on 

Primitive Campground Amenities:

Need to Know

Natural Features

The 70,000 square mile (18,1299 sq. km) 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"--which include the Rincon Mountains—are --forested ranges separated by vast expanses of desert and grassland plans and , 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.  

You can help us catalog the diversity of plants while you hike! There is still so much to learn about the park's exceptional biodiversity, particularly in remote backcountry areas, and you can assist park monitoring efforts! In the last 5 years, our staff has documented over 40 plant species never recorded in the park. Some were found right along trails! If you make a free iNaturalist account (or download the iNaturalist app ) you can submit photos of plants that you see while hiking. Our staff and other plant experts will help identify them! We are especially seeking observations from the less traveled higher elevations of the Rincon Mountains. For more information, check out our iNaturalist project Plants of the Saguaro NP High Country or contact our botanist Dan Beckman at A big thank you to Wild Tribute and Western National Parks Association for supporting our project! 


Solitude awaits you on these cool, forested slopes. A strenuous hike and the solitude of the wilderness are the primary forms of recreation in the Rincon Mountains. From cactus-covered desert to pine-cloaked mountain heights, the Saguaro Wilderness Area in the Rincon Mountains protects the last roadless ‘sky island’ mountain range in Southern Arizona. All within sight of the sprawling city of Tucson. Limited overnight livestock pack trips are permitted in the park. Please contact 520-733-5153 for additional information.  

Plant and wildlife viewing is also popular...a hike to any of the six wilderness campgrounds in the Rincon Mountains provides a stark chronical of plant and animal life as you climb from saguaro cactus forests at your trailhead to grasslands, manzanita and scattered juniper at Douglas Spring (minimum 6 miles/9.6 km and a 2000 foot/609 m climb) to a full stand of juniper trees at Juniper Basin (6,000 feet/(1829 m). By the time you reach Manning Camp at 8000 feet (2438km) you’re in a ponderosa pine forest with reliable water year-round except in the very driest years.  


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 (2438 m), and the visitor center is at an elevation of 3,080 feet (939 m).  

The average high temperature at the visitor center in January is 63° F (17° C) and the average low temperature is 38° F (3° C). For the same month, the average high temperature at Manning Camp is 44° F (7° C) and the average low is 25° F (-4° C).

In June, the average high temperature at Manning Camp is 77° F (25° C) and the average low temperature is 48° F (9° C). For the same month, the average high temperature at the visitor center is 98° F (37° C) and the average low temperature is 67° F (19° C).  

When to Go

Summer temperatures in the Sonoran Desert regularly exceed 100° F (38° C) and can reach 115° F (46° C). 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° F, plan your trip so that you arrive at higher elevations by early afternoon. If the predicted high temperature is between 95° and 110° F, leave the trailhead early enough that you can arrive at elevations over 7000 feet (2133 m) by 10 a.m. -- leaving the trailhead before sunrise is recommended. And, if the predicted high temperature is over 110° F, 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.  

Livestock. Limited overnight livestock pack trips are permitted in the park. Please contact 520-733-5153 for additional information.

Topographic Maps

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. 

WNPA Bookstore

3693 South Old Spanish Trail

Tucson, Arizona 85730

(520) 733-5155   

Changes & Cancellations

If you cancel your reservation, a $10 cancellation fee will be withheld from your refund. If the $10 cancellation fee is greater than the amount you paid for the reservation, you will not receive a refund, but no additional cancellation fees will be charged. 

Review Rules and Reservation Policies for details about changes and cancellations. 

Contact Information



3693 S Old Spanish Trail Tucson AZ 85730

Phone Number

For campground inquiries, please call: 520-733-5153

Rental Options

Learn more about gear rental options for your trip

Driving Directions

This is not car or RV camping! There are no campgrounds accessible by vehicle (including RVs) 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 six campgrounds within the Saguaro Wilderness are accessed only by hiking a minimum of 4.4 miles (7 km).  

Trailhead Driving Directions

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 US Forest Service (USFS) lands (driving directions below). For more details, visit the Coronado National Forest Hiking web page. 

Trailhead Elevation

Douglas Spring 2,750 feet (838 m)

Tanque Verde Ridge 3,100 feet (945 m)

Miller Creek 4,200 feet (1280 m)

Turkey Creek 4,250 feet (2343 m)

Italian Spring 4,800 feet (1463 m) 

Easy Access

Moderate Access

Difficult Access

Available Campsites

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