This hike in Saguaro National Park is part of three interconnecting trails, but it was one of our favorite trails in the park. We did this hike first thing in the morning, which probably helped us appreciate it a little more. The turns can be confusing, so we will explain how we hiked this loop trail. We recommend the Scenic/Passey/Packrat Loop hike in Saguaro for families and kids.
The Scenic/Passey/Packrat Loop begins in a separate area of the park that is not connected to the main area where the Visitor Center and Scenic Drive are located. This trail begins at the end of Scenic Drive near Tucson, Arizona. You will pass a facility called Sanctuary Cove, and then continue until the end where there are a few parking spots on the side of the road. The trail begins on the unpaved area.
This hike begins with a small climb, which is hardly noticeable as you walk on the Scenic Trail. After about 1/4 mile you will come to a junction. You can go either direction, but we chose to go right on the Scenic Trail. The Scenic trail then heads down the hill and walks among the many different types of cactuses.
At the next junction, you will need to head left along the Passey Loop. You will only follow this trail for about 0.3 mile, and then you’ll turn left onto the Packrat Trail. This leads you back to the first junction where you will be able to see your car. There were signs that helped us along the way, and you can use this map from the National Parks site to help you, too (Scroll down to the Hiking Guide for the West section). We picked up the hike guide at the Visitor Center, or you can print it out online.
The overall distance of the hike is 1.7 miles roundtrip. This short loop has beautiful views of the mountains, especially Stafford Peak. We loved walk along the base of this mountain. There are also great views of the city of Tucson. There are short climbs at the beginning of the hike and the end as you go around the small hillside in the middle of the hike.
We loved the variety of plant and animal life along this hike, too. There were many cactus types, including the large Saguaro. We saw a variety of birds along the way, and we enjoyed watching the Cactus Wren and Gila Flicker among the cacti. We did not see any packrats despite that being the name of the trail, but keep your eyes open. And there were only two other parties that we passed along the way, so if you are looking for a trail that is less traveled, the Scenic/Passey/Packrat Loop is definitely the place to visit.
Saguaro National Park is a beautiful place and we loved every minute exploring this park. Check out our family guide to this park, as well as our Saguaro Kid-Friendly trails.