Hiking Wasson Peak at Saguaro National Park

Wasson Peak is shown

Wasson Peak is the highest point in Saguaro National Park’s West District. It rises high above Tucson and the Sonoran Desert below. There are few options for hiking to the summit. Some are out-and-back hikes, some require a shuttle, but you can combine the King Canyon, Hugh Norris, Sendero Esperanza, and the Gould Mine Trails to make an 8-mile loop.

Saguaros are shown on Wasson Peak

Wasson Peak rises 4,687 feet above sea level. The Wasson Peak Loop combination climbs 1,805 feet, but the elevation is gained in the first 3.5 miles along the King Canyon Trail. Once you summit Wasson Peak, it’s all downhill from there!

Falcon Guide has a good description of these trails. National Geographic also makes a great map.

Finding the Trailhead of the Wasson Peak Loop

This Wasson Peak Loop Trail begins in the Tucson Mountain Park on Kinney Road, about 2.2 miles west of the Red Hills Visitors Center, or just west of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Cactus forest is shown at Saguaro National Park

Because these trail combinations make a loop, they can be hiked either clockwise or counterclockwise. This trailhead is for both the Gould Mine Trail and King Canyon Trail. To begin on the King Canyon Trail, you will want to start your hike going to the right, or uphill.

You’ll immediately start climbing, and it doesn’t ease up until you get to the summit.

Trailhead to Mam-A-Gah Picnic Area

You begin the trail looking up toward Wasson Peak. It’s kind of nice to see it and know you will climb it. Take note at how thick the saguaros are at this point. The higher you climb the thinner they get.

Wasson Peak Loop is shown from the base

After about one mile, you will come to the intersection of the Sendero Esperanza Trail. The Mam-A-Gah Picnic Area is also here. It’s a beautiful spot to take a break or stop for a picnic lunch. There’s an old structure, which is neat to see.

During this section of the King Canyon Trail, you also have the option to hike up the wash (a riverbed that fills during rain), which runs alongside the trail. The trail is an old mining road. I chose to hike the road part because it looked a little easier for my feet and ankles.

Mam-A-Gah Picnic Area to the Sweetwater Trail

The Kings Canyon Trail continues to climb through the valley. It snakes around for a little bit, and you lose sight of Wasson Peak. It’s not a hard climb, but a slow and steady climb.

Saguaros are shown on the Wasson Peak Loop Trail

The vegetation is thick here. Saguaros, cholla, ocotillos, and prickly pears line the trail. As you get up higher, you can see the valley of Tucson and the mountains to the south, which are beautiful.

Around mile 2.4 the Kings Canyon Trail intersects with the Sweetwater Trail. At this intersection, you will want to go left or west to finish the climb to Wasson Peak.

Sweetwater Trail to Wasson Peak

I never figured out if this section of trail is the Kings Canyon Trail, Sweetwater Trail, or Hugh Norris Trail, but nevertheless, it takes you to the summit of Wasson Peak.

The mountains are shown to the east on Wasson Peak Loop

Here the trail gets steep as you begin climbing along the ridge of Wasson Peak. I thought I was pretty close to the top here, but it is a false summit. There are several sets of switchbacks, which makes the climb a little easier.

Be on the lookout for an old mine. You can spot it by the old rusty iron fence that acts as a marker.

An old mine is shown on Wasson Peak

As you climb higher, you begin to see the jagged peaks to the east and then over the tops of them. You can also look back to see the trailhead far away in the distance and take note of how far and high you’ve come.

Wasson Peak is shown from the trail

At mile 3.3 you come to the intersection with the Hugh Norris Trail. Here you want to go right, or north, to the summit of Wasson Peak. A 0.3-mile spur trail will take you to the summit.

After passing the intersection the trail follows a saddle. You can relax because the climbing is over. There’s just one little gentile slope to the peak at the end of the spur trail.

At the summit of Wasson Peak, you get 360-degree views of Saguaro National Park and Tucson. I also loved looking down over the other peaks of the surrounding mountains.

Wasson Peak to Sendero Esperanza Trail

From the peak, you will retrace your steps back to the Hugh Norris Trail Intersection. At this intersection, you will want to go straight, or toward the right. If you turn left, you will hike back to the King Canyon Trail.

Wasson Peak Trail is shown

The Hugh Norris Trail drops sharply off the peak through a series of switchbacks. It then swings around Amole Peak. As you drop in elevation, you will notice the saguaros become more numerous again.

Hugh Norris Trail is shown

Here, you have amazing views of Tucson and the valley below. I’m not sure what it was, but this side of the peak (the west side), seemed different. It seemed to have different grasses, giving it a more yellow feel. I passed a father and daughter hiking and heard them say the same thing. They thought it was drier on that side. Whatever it is, it was pretty neat to notice a difference in vegetation from one side to another.

Hugh Norris Trail is shown

At mile 5.9, the Sendero Esperanza Trail intersects the Hugh Norris Trail. Here you want to go left, or south.

Sendero Esperanza Trail to Gould Mine Trail

The Sendero Esperanza Trail continues to drop in elevation, and you get amazing views of the saguaros surrounding and towering over you. It follows the curve of the peaks and swings to the southeast.

A teddy bear cholla is shown with a bird's nest

This is a great place to look for wildlife. I found a beautiful bird’s nest tucked safely in a teddy bear cholla.

Gould Mine Trail to the Trailhead

As you near the Gould Mine Trail intersection, you can begin to see remnants and evidence of an old mine. At mile 6.9 the Sendero Esperanza Trail intersects with the Gould Mine Trail. Here you will want to go right, or south.

An old mine is shown

If you continue straight on the Sendero Esperanza Trail, you will end up at the Mam-A-Gah picnic area. I chose to do the Gould Mine Trail so I could see something new.

You can also see the remnants of the old mine. There is an old building, a gated pit, and piles of rock that were discarded from the mine. It’s interesting because it looks like it is part of the landscape, but something is off.

Mine scrap is shown

The Gould Mine Trail drops into a narrow valley and then levels out a little bit. Once you get to the road, the trail crosses the wash. You hike up the wash just a little bit before turning and climbing out of it back to the trailhead.

Wasson Peak Loop Trail

Combining these trails to hike to the peak of Wasson Peak, the highest point in Saguaro National Park’s West District is a great way to explore the park. I enjoyed seeing the west side of the park from many different angles.

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Hiking to the top of Wasson Peak, the highest peak in Saguaro National Park's West District, is a great way to see all the diversity of the park.

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Trail facts:

  • 8.1 miles loop
  • Elevation gain and loss 1,805 feet
  • Dogs not allowed
  • Backcountry camping not allowed

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