After the great experience at Chiricahua National Monument, we only had to drive a short distance to Tucson in the afternoon, where we planned to visit Saguaro National Park the next day. The park consists of two parts, and we opted for the eastern part. I had read that the "Cactus Forest Drive" is an absolute highlight in the Park and therefore just the right thing for a drive with our van.
But first, we headed back to the interstate and on to the Tucson / Lazydays KOA where, unlike last night, we stayed with all the amenities of a KOA resort. This campground even had a pool and laundry rooms, but we were unable to take advantage of this due to the shortness of our stay. We were still able to check in during daylight hours and had no trouble finding our site with the description provided at the front desk. The place had full hook up, that is all connections, such as water, electricity, TV, and sewage directly on the site to connect to our camper.
We had settled quickly, and since it was still relatively early in the evening, we decided to look for a restaurant for dinner. What was closer than here, in the very Mexican influenced Tucson, to look for a tavern that serves tacos, fajitas, and margaritas. It did not take very long and we had found the perfect place, not even far from the campground. After a hearty dinner and some fine margaritas, we headed back to the KOA and found the perfect sleep so we could face the next day's adventures rested.
After a pleasant night's sleep and a home-cooked breakfast, we left early to get to the National Park in time before the crowds. But first, we took the opportunity to empty our waste water tanks at the campsite and also filled up the RV with enough fresh water for the next days. Finally, after a short drive through Tucson, we reached Saguaro National Park on the outskirts of town. With our National Parks Card, we once again saved the entrance fee and were able to drive directly into the Cactus Forst Drive.
At first, the drive was a bit disappointing, but the further we drove into the park the more impressive the cacti standing at the roadside. It was an absolutely extraordinary experience to drive between the meter-high cactus trees. Numerous turnouts and viewpoints invited us to stop and admire the cacti.
The Cactus Forest Drive is a 17-mile loop with one-way traffic. In addition to motorized vehicles, this is also a popular excursion for bicyclists, who sometimes ride the loop in groups or individually. In addition, there are numerous hiking trails, and we did not miss it, first the 0.5 mils short "Desert Ecology Trail", and then the "Cactus Forest Trail North" leading further into the backcountry. The first was a bit crowded with visitors, but a good opportunity to take photos and selfies.
The "Cactus Forest Trail" is the more challenging trail and we followed it for about 45 minutes off the road into the desert until the sun was high in the sky and we decided to take the way back to our van. We had not taken enough water with us and did not want to exert ourselves too much. However, this path was for us the highlight of the park because it opened indescribable landscapes and views.
After this extensive hike, it was finally time for us to set off. Our goal for the day and also the actual goal of this trip was Sedona, which we should reach later today. We were still relatively early, so we decided to make two more short stops on the way there. We had heard that if you were in the Tucson area you should at least make a detour to Mission San Xavier del Bac. The Mission is an old Spanish mission church built in the 18th century and originally belonged to the territory of Mexico. Unfortunately, renovation work was underway on one of the towers and, to our annoyance, masks were required to enter, so we only had a short tour of the outside.
After this somewhat disappointing stopover, we continued towards Phoenix, which was directly on our route. the town is known for its orange production, and Pooneh had read that there are groves where you can pick the fruit straight off the tree. Unfortunately, when we googled the place, we had already missed the exit. However, it was worth the detour to find the plantation. In fact, we arrived, only to find out that the orange season was just ending and picking was no longer possible. So we had no choice but to buy fresh oranges to take with us on the trip in the attached shop.
But now it was time to move on. Sedona was waiting for us. After all, we wanted to do some epic hikes there and our RV park for the next few days was already pre-booked.