Many Tucson, Arizona hikes feature the Saguaro cactus that give Saguaro National Park its name. However, these cacti grow in a relatively small range of altitudes, and mostly disappear around the 4000 foot mark. Here are two hikes that take you above that zone, into some different landscapes.

Looking back at Tucson on the Douglas Spring Trail

DOUGLAS SPRING CAMPGROUND: Many Saguaro NP East hikes start at the eastern end of Speedway at the Douglas Spring Trailhead (for example, Bridal Wreath Falls). A more strenuous destination is the namesake campground, which features water (usually) at the spring. This hike’s one-way distance is 6.3 miles, with an elevation gain of 2360 feet.

The Spring itself is in the bushy valley in front of Marcy. Because of the water, it’s more lush than the surroundings.

Camping here (permit required) would be lovely and private, but it’s also a nice turnaround destination for an ambitious dayhike.

Tanque Verde Peak looks close by from the campground, but it’s another few miles and a lot more elevation.

The weather at higher elevations is surprisingly different. The picture above features snow, but 4000 feet below that we were comfortable in T-shirts.

The Saguaros are still there when you go back down.

AGUA CALIENTE HILL is a hike in the Coronado National Forest between Sabino Canyon and Saguaro National Park East. It’s accessed by driving through a prosperous neighborhood at the eastern end of Fort Lowell Road.

Some of the houses near the start of the Trail.

Agua Caliente Hill is not initially visible from the trailhead. The trail features many switchbacks, winding direction changes, overlooks to the city and some small canyons. There are views throughout the hike. Around mile 2 you reach Cat Track Tank, a pond.

Cat Track Tank

Another mile and a lot of uphill attains “the Saddle“, which divides two canyons. There is a trail intersection with “Forest Road 4445” at this point. From there you can see a hill that looks like a final destination, but which is not the actual Agua Caliente Hill.

So it’s literally called “False Hope Hill”.

We went most of the way to False Hope Hill, about 3.5 miles and then returned the same distance. Getting to Agua Caliente Hill is a 9 mile roundtrip and about 3000 feet of elevation gain. Some other time.

This hike has similar statistics to Wasson Peak in Saguaro NP West, but is more of a local’s destination.

I recommend both of these.