Garwood Loop Trail – Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park is practically in my backyard. And by practically I mean about 10 minutes from my backyard. I love hearing stories about how the park came to be and about the homesteaders that originally occupied the land. Can you imagine owning 480 acres with a house smack dab in the middle of what is now the national park? That would be an absolute dream. That’s no longer possible for anyone, but one day that was someone’s life.

That someone was Nelson Garwood. Garwood purchased the land in 1945 from the original homesteaders. Several years later he built a home, a dam, and a water tank. Later on, he learned to fly airplanes, bought a plane, and built an airstrip on the property. Over the next 15 years he sold off pieces of the property, some of which went to expand Saguaro National Monument, and in 1959 sold the remaining piece which contained the house. The house eventually became vacant and in the early 1970s vandals broke in and burnt down the house. The Park Service ended up taking over the property by right of eminent domain and it became part of the national monument (which later became a national park). If you’d like to read a more detailed history or see pictures of the property and house click this link.

After I read the story of how the area came to be I wanted to see it firsthand, so we hiked the Garwood Loop in Saguaro National Park East. If you are not familiar with Saguaro, there are two sides to the park – East and West and they are on opposite sides of Tucson. The Garwood Loop is 5.6 miles with 730 feet of elevation gain and consists of the Garwood, Carillo, and Douglas Spring Trails. There are so many trails and intersections within Saguaro National Park. If you go be sure to take a map/park brochure. I always have a hard time reading the placards. The arrows never seem to point in the correct direction. Or maybe I just don’t know how to read placard arrows. 😉


The start of the Garwood Trail, looking out towards the Tanque Verde Valley

The Garwood Trail follows along what was once the road to Garwoods’ house. The area is absolutely beautiful and the hike starts with a gentle incline.

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This is the cutest saguaro family I’ve ever seen! Saguaros are never close together and these guys are BFFs.


Crested Saguaro on the right


Cactus sparkling in the morning sunlight

The dam is still intact but visitor are asked not to walk on it. There happened to be an Africanized honey bee hive near the dam when we visited so we did not get to hang out.


Looking towards the Garwood Dam


Backside of the Garwood Dam looking towards Tucson

After you pass the dam the elevation starts to steadily increase. There are several connector trails after the dam so you have the option to keep climbing or go back down. I will say though…the views just keep getting better. At one point we could see the parking lot where our car was and I was amazed at how far we had hiked. Visual reminders of how far you’ve gone are always fun.

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There is hardly any shade on this trail so get started early and be sure to stay hydrated.

img_3468 img_3484 img_3485This hike almost felt like a treasure hunt. Waiting to see where the house was, the dam, the landing strip. I definitely recommend this trail and had so much fun hiking and imagining living in the area.

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