Hiking Wasson Peak at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona

Looking to hike Wasson Peak in Saguaro National Park? This hiking guide covers all of the details for the hike, including the different route options, what to expect, and more!

On our most recent trip to Saguaro National Park, we spent one full day in the western part of the park and hands down our favorite thing we did was hike up Wasson Peak. 

This hike not only gave us a glimpse at tons of the park’s famous saguaros, but also had killer views of the mountains and surrounding area, combining some of Tucson’s best features into one hike! And if you’re like us, you may get some gnarly wind to make it extra exciting too!

Watch us hike to the top of Wasson Peak and see how we spent two days in Tucson.

In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to hike Wasson Peak, including the different routes to the top, when to hike, parking, what to expect, and other details so you can experience this hike for yourself!

Looking for more things to do in Arizona?

Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!

About Saguaro National Park & Wasson Peak

King Canyon Trail Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is located in Tucson, Arizona and is named after the 2 million saguaro cacti that it was created to protect. These saguaro cacti (pronounced “sa-wah-ro”) are the nation’s largest cacti and can only be found in Southern Arizona, as well as western Sonora, Mexico.

The park is split up into two separate sections, the Rincon Mountain District, which is east of Tucson, and the Tucson Mountain District, which is west of Tucson. Wasson Peak is the highest point in the Tucson Mountain District at 4,687 feet. 

From the top, you’ll have views of the saguaros below, multiple mountain ranges, and you can even see part of Tucson! 

Looking for more things to do in Saguaro National Park West?

In our Saguaro National Park West guide we share other fun things to do on this side of the park, plus where to stay nearby and some other suggestions of things to do in Tucson.

Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!

These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors. 

The Different Routes to Hike Wasson Peak

There are a handful of different trails you can take to the summit of Wasson Peak, all of which are definitely more on the moderate side, with 8+ miles and 1,800+ feet of elevation gain. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll definitely get a decent workout from this hike!

Wasson Peak via King Canyon and Hugh Norris Trails

Miles (round trip): 7.9
Elevation gain: 1,863 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

This is the route we took and we highly recommend it! It is a loop that combines the King Canyon Trail, part of the Hugh Norris Trail, and Gould Mine Trail, so you won’t see the same trail scenery twice, which we always enjoy when hiking. 

Why we chose this route:

  • The Kings Canyon trailhead has a good sized parking lot 
  • Since you take different trails up and down, you’ll get different views
  • It is close to the entrance of the park, so it’s a great starting point 
King Canyon Trail Saguaro National Park

Tips + things to know for this route

If you choose this route, we recommend doing this trail counterclockwise, going up King Canyon and down Hugh Norris. Hugh Norris felt less steep to us and was a bit smoother, making it easier for us going downhill. 

One thing to be aware of is that when starting on the King Canyon Trail, you’ll see a peak straight ahead and like us, may assume this is Wasson Peak. But it’s not and we felt duped by this false summit. Thankfully the Wasson Peak summit isn’t too much further or higher than this peak, but it may help to know this in advance so you aren’t surprised.

Also, some have complained that this trail isn’t very well maintained and rocky, but we personally didn’t think that. However, we have hiked many rocky trails, so maybe we are just used to it at this point. 

Short on time?

You could also take the King Canyon Trail out and back, which makes the hike 6.7 miles. 

Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park

Hugh Norris Trail

Miles (round trip): 8.9
Elevation gain: 2,398 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

This route takes you up and back down Hugh Norris, and is the steepest route option, with a big incline in the first mile. Similar to the route we did, you can expect lots of views on the entire hike, but make sure to start this route early, as the parking area is pretty small.

Via Sweetwater Trail

Miles (round trip): 9.3
Elevation gain: 2,093 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

This route approaches Wasson Peak from the northeast, connecting with King Canyon towards the end. This trailhead has a decent amount of parking (but not tons), so plan to arrive early to ensure you get a spot. 

Via Sendero Esperanza Trail and Hugh Norris Trail

Miles (round trip): 12.7
Elevation: 2,155 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions

This is the longest option to hike up Wasson Peak. On this route you’ll follow the Sendero Esperanza Trail for about 4.3 miles, take a left onto the Hugh Norris Trail, and then finally reach the spur trail to Wasson Peak.

When to hike Wasson Peak

King Canyon Trail Saguaro National Park

Time of the year

Due to its desert terrain, Saguaro National Park West can get VERY hot in the summer and there is zero tree coverage to provide shaded relief. We recommend visiting between November to March, when the temperatures are more bearable. 

We have visited in both January and February and both times had good weather. But even with cooler temperatures, the sun was pretty intense and made us feel a lot hotter than the actual temperature was. So we cannot imagine what it is like in the summer!

However, if you want to see the saguaro flowers (which look gorgeous!), these start to flower in late April, with peak bloom in mid-May to early-June. You can also see wildflowers around the park between late February-early April, so even if you do not make it for the saguaro flowers, you’ll still get to see some colorful blooms. 

Pick a weekday & start early!

Since Saguaro National Park is located right in Tucson, it is a pretty easy park to visit, which means it can get busier, especially on the weekends.

If you can, try to hike on a weekday to have more solitude, as some spots in the park do not have very large parking lots. We also HIGHLY recommend starting the hike early to beat the heat. With zero tree coverage and many sunny days, even on a cooler day, the sun beating on you can feel very hot. 

Plan to do Wasson Peak first thing in the morning (we hiked at sunrise on a Friday) to enjoy some cooler temperatures and less people. We only saw 1 person on the entire hike up!

What to Bring to Wasson Peak

Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park

To see everything we take hiking, check out our hiking gear as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. But for this specific area, we have a few items we really want to stress bringing with you.

Sun protection

There is no tree coverage on this hike and very limited shade (mostly in areas where the sun has yet to pop over the mountains), so you’ll definitely want to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from its rays. 

Water

Make sure to pack lots of water! There are water fountains at the Visitor Center if you need to fill up, but our 3L Camelbak bladders helped ensure we had enough water throughout the day.

Food and snacks

Unless you want to leave the park, we suggest bringing food to eat in the park, as there are no restaurants inside the park. 

Things to know before hiking Wasson Peak

King Canyon Trailhead Wasson Peak

Entrance Fee

There is a $25 entrance fee per car to enter Saguaro National Park, which covers 7 days in the park. There are a few ways to pay, including self-pay stations, online, and at the Visitor Center.  Unlike some parks that have a booth to drive through and pay, they do not have this at Saguaro National Park, so it’s up to you to pay the fee.

We recommend getting the America the Beautiful pass, which is $80 per year and gets you into all National Park Service managed sites and federal lands for free.

Parking

In this guide we are focusing on hiking to the summit via the King Canyon and Hugh Norris Trails. And for this route you will park at the King Canyon Trailhead parking lot. This is a pretty large parking area that can fit probably 30 vehicles. When we started the hike at sunrise, we were the first car there, but when we returned it was about 75% full.

Restrooms

We do not recall seeing restrooms in the King Canyon Trailhead parking lot, but the Visitor Center down the road has some!

Dogs are not allowed

Like most national parks, dogs are NOT allowed on many trails in Saguaro National Park, including on the trails to Wasson Peak. The only areas they are allowed are on the unpaved Bajada Loop Drive, the paved Desert Discovery Nature Trail, and on the portion of Golden Gate Road to the east of the Bajada Loop Drive. 

Learn how we travel with a dog and what we do with Kona when she cannot join us on our adventures.

Our Experience hiking Wasson Peak

King Canyon Trail Saguaro National Park

King Canyon to Wasson Peak

We arrived at the King Canyon trailhead just before sunrise on a Friday and were so pumped to see we were the only car there. It was still somewhat dark out, but not dark enough that we needed headlamps, and we hit the trail right away to take advantage of some guaranteed solitude for a bit.

Getting to see the sunrise on the trail was magical! In our opinion, this park (plus the desert as a whole) looks the best at sunrise or sunset. The golden light on saguaros and other plant life is just beautiful! We also got lucky and got to see a bunch of deer on the trail, which was unexpected, and we spent a few minutes just staring at them, while they stared back at us.

This part of the hike is pretty straightforward. It is a pretty steady uphill climb from the beginning and the trail has some rocks on it, but nothing too crazy or that we felt made it extra challenging. It is also well marked, with any turnoffs having signage, so you always know where to go, but we were still glad to have the AllTrails map downloaded to double check.

As we mentioned earlier in this guide, one thing we loved about this hike is that although we were hiking it for the mountainous aspect of it, we also got to see tons of saguaros, which only made the hike better! So if you only have half a day to spend in the park and want to get a good hike in, plus see some of its iconic cacti, this would be a solid choice.

King Canyon Trail Saguaro National Park

About 2.4 miles into the hike you reach a saddle where the King Canyon trail connects with the Sweetwater trail. You will want to go to the left here to make the final 1+ mile hike to the summit. This is where things got interesting for us. 

Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park

We suddenly were getting blasted with some gnarly wind and while we do not know the exact speed, it was so windy that we couldn’t even breathe at times due to too much air hitting our faces, our eyes were watering, and we were getting pushed a bit.

Summit of Wasson Peak

But we powered through, holding down our hats so they didn’t fly away, and made it to the top!

We had the entire summit to ourselves (we saw one person coming down right before we made it to the top), but unfortunately our time up top was super short lived, as the wind was just too unbearable. We snapped a few photos and soaked up as much of the views as we could, but another perk of this hike is that you are able to see many of the views on the hike up and down, although just not as high up. So we didn’t think we missed out too much at the summit!

The hike down: Hugh Norris, Sendero Esperanza, & Gould Mine Trails

Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park

The hike down was very straightforward, with some junctions to pay attention to just to make sure we didn’t go down the wrong trail. We found the majority of the way down to be less steep and easier terrain, so we were happy with our choice to do this hike counter clockwise. 

All of these trails on the hike down will take you through many more saguaros and give you views that you didn’t have on the way up. And the best part? Since most people seem to do this hike counter clockwise like we did, we hardly saw anyone until the parking lot!

Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park

When we got back to the parking lot about 4 hours later, the parking lot was much fuller, with many hikers hitting the trail. We were very glad to start early so we had more time to explore the park afterwards! 

Looking for more things to do in Saguaro National Park West?

In our Saguaro National Park West guide we share other fun things to do on this side of the park, plus where to stay nearby and suggestions of things to do (and places to eat) in Tucson.

Ready to hike to Wasson Peak?

Pin this guide to hiking Wasson Peak at Saguaro National Park to help plan your trip!

about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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