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."
A visitor camped in the Manning Camp Campground the week of 11/10/2020 reported a bear entering the camp and attempting to obtain food. It is imperative that campers store all food and drink regardless of packaging, along with trash, toiletries, and other scented items in the provided bear boxes. Food items should be stored in the bear boxes at all times unless they are within arm's reach of an awake person. Any bear encounters should be reported to SAGU_information@nps.gov as soon as possible.
Toilets at campsites are rarely visited by NPS staff. During the covid crises, all campers are strongly encouraged to carry and use personal hand sanitizer.
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.
Group size is limited to 6 people per campsite with a total group size of no more than 18. A wilderness permit is required for each campsite.
The Rincon Mountains range in elevation from under 3000 feet to over 8000 feet. Summer temperatures at 3000 feet regularly exceed 100 degrees and can exceed 115 degrees. During the winter months, snow is common at higher elevations.
At all times of the year, backpackers should plan to leave their trailhead before noon to ensure that they are able to reach their campsite. During hotter times of the year, hikers are advised to leave their trailhead early in the morning or before sunrise.
Water is a critical resource in the Rincon Mountains. Updated information about water sources can be obtained by calling 520-733-5153.
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.
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.
For more information on cancellations or changes, visit https://www.recreation.gov/rules-reservation-policies.
3693 SOUTH OLD SPANISH TRAIL TUCSON ARIZONA 85730
For campground inquiries, please call: 520-733-5153
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.
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