Please note: I am indebted to the original page owner, esteemed SP contributor Dave K for all of his hard work laying the foundation for this page. Special thanks also to RyanS who contributed valuable background information on the peak.
Wasson Peak is the high point of the west unit of Saguaro National Park. Located in the Tucson Mountain Range, Wasson Peak provides an excellent view of Tucson and several surrounding mountains, including Mts. Lemmon and Wrightson and Baboquivari, Kitt and Picacho Peaks. Because of its accessibility and outstanding views, Wasson Peak is a popular destination. It’s a great way to experience Saguaro National Park and the Sonoran Desert. There are several trails leading to the summit.
Saguaro National Park
As development in the Tucson area continues to spread, Saguaro National Park is an increasingly important refuge for many Sonoran Desert species. Originally established as a national monument to protect examples of the Sonoran Desert and several outstanding stands of saguaro cactus, it became a park in 1994.
The park has two units. The West Unit, where Wasson Peak is located, consists primarily of Sonoran Desert vegetation and contains part of the Tucson Mountain Range. The larger East Unit, which abuts the east side of Tucson, contains the higher Rincon Mountains and encompasses a wide variety of ecosystems, from Sonoran Desert to Douglas fir forest near the ridge tops.
Wasson Peak is located in the Arizona Upland subdivision of the Sonoran Desert, which is a relatively wet part of the Sonoran Desert. The Tucson Mountains receive fourteen inches of rain per year, mostly during the winter and summer.
This area contains many species of cacti. Most notably, the saguaro (pronounced “suh-wah-roe”) cactus dominates much of the area. To many, this tall cactus, with its long, upturned "arms," epitomizes the desert southwest. Saguaro cactus has a broad geographic range and is common in hilly areas of the Sonoran Desert. In addition, there are several other cactus species, including the south-leaning fishhook barrel, and several species of cholla (including teddy bear, pencil, staghorn, buckhorn, and hanging fruit), hedgehog, pincushion, and prickly pear cacti.
Besides cacti, there are several other distinctive Sonoran Desert plant and animal species. Foothill paloverde trees, mesquite, ocotillo, jojoba, several agave species, including sotol and shindagger, and other desert plants are quite common. There are also several animal species, including the pig-like javelina, bighorn sheep, coyotes, snakes (including several venomous species), lizards, cactus wrens, canyon wrens, Gila woodpeckers, phainopeplas, Harris’ hawks and northern mockingbirds.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is adjacent to the park on the way to the visitor center when traveling from Tucson, is a great place to learn about and appreciate the Sonoran Desert.
Profile picture by RyanS.
The west unit, or the Tucson Mountain District, of Saguaro National Park resides 15 miles to the west of Tucson, Arizona in Pima County. To get to the Saguaro National Park Visitor Center, travel west on Speedway Blvd., which will eventually become Gates Pass Road. Gates Pass Road ends at its intersection with Kinney Road. Proceed north (right) on Kinney Road about four miles, passing the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, until reaching the visitor center about one mile inside the park.
No permits are required. Camping is not allowed in the backcountry of the west unit. The Park charges the following fees:
• $10.00/private car - 7 Days
• $5.00/individual - 7 Days
• $25.00 - Annual Saguaro National Park Pass
Fees are payable at the visitor center or at one of the self pay stations.
Weather & Seasons
As with most lower elevation hikes in the Tucson area, hiking Wasson Peak would be most comfortable in the fall, winter or spring. March and April are primo wildflower viewing months.
Summer temperatures in this part of the Sonoran desert can be worse than uncomfortable; they can be downright dangerous! According to the United States National Weather Service, the record high temperature for Tucson, Arizona, set on 26th June 1990, was 117 degrees Farenheit / 47 degrees Celsius.
Camping & Lodging
The only nearby campground is the 130-site Gilbert Ray Campground, located in Tucson Mountain Park.
The proximity of Cat Mountain to the Tucson Metro area means lodging options are virtually unlimited. Visit the Trip Advisor site covering Tucson, AZ, for more information about area accommodations.