Most people have a life bucket list or a travel bucket list. While there are plenty of places in the world that we would love to visit, there are so many amazing places right here in the United States! Our travel bucket list is to visit all of our National Parks. We started before we had kids and we are continuing with them….they love hiking and camping too! There are 59 National Parks and so far, we have been to about 10 with 3 more planned this summer. We are chipping away at that list.
Our most recent trip was in March. We visited Saguaro National Park near Tucson AZ for my 30th birthday trip. I consider myself a mountain, forest kind of girl so I was not expecting to love Saguaro as much as I did. It just proves that there is beauty in everything.
For this trip, we stayed in the Tucson Mountain District of the park (there are 2 sides to this park, separated by the city of Tucson). Technically, there is no camping IN the park but we stayed at the Gilbert Ray Campground which is minutes from the park visitor center. The campsites are a good size but it should be noted that they are surrounded by cacti. Obviously, I should have been expecting that since we were in a CACTUS park but I just didn’t think of it. We strategically placed our coolers around the edges of our site to keep the kids from accidentally running or falling into a cactus. Mom was the only one who got stuck this trip.
The Red Hills Visitor Center was a really awesome place to visit. They have a few museum type attractions, including a mini desert habitat and cactus ‘bones’. There is also a walking trail around the visitor center that was really great to get the kids used to walking a lot and give them an overview of the different cacti and wildlife.
One of our favorite way to explore the National Parks with kiddos is doing scenic drives with small trails sprinkled throughout. At Saguaro, we did the West Bajada Loop drive. We got out and did the Signal Hill Trail to see the petroglyphs and had a picnic in what the girls dubbed “a three little pigs house”. We did one longer hike that we believe was “Panther Peak Wash” but it wasn’t marked so we aren’t 100% sure (the really huge cacti in the pictures above were on this trail). This was A’s first long hike by herself (not being carried in a backpack like K) and she did awesome! We did about 2 miles roundtrip.
Other places we visited this trip and highly recommend were:
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: They had a great program where the kids get a booklet to collect animal track stamps throughout the museum (it is more like a zoo with live animals) and if they complete it, they get a Nature Tracker Badge at the end.
Trail Dust Town: An old west kind of town. GREAT steakhouse. Gold Panning. A few small rides. Stunt show. It is free to get in and most attractions are free as well. [Old Tucson is a similar type place that is closer to the Nat’l Park but it is pretty expensive to get in and then all attractions are extra.]
Hiking and camping with kids is definitely different than it was pre-kids but we don’t let it stop us and you shouldn’t either!