If you are heading to Saguaro National Park, you will most likely will be heading to the west side of the park along North Kinney Road where you will find the Gould Mine Trail. Along the way you will most likely see many pullover spots, and this hike is not to be missed if you want to really be immersed into Saguaro National Park. You may even be lucky enough to hear the animals from the nearby Arizona Senora Desert Museum while you are hiking, adding to the ambiance!
The Gould Mine Loop Trail is a moderate hike that includes a junction to the trail to Wasson and Amole Peaks and the Mam-A-Gah picnic area. While this trail isn’t short and certainly isn’t for everyone, it is definitely a great hike if you have the time when visiting Saguaro National Park.
The Gould Mine Trail is a small part of what there is to see and do in Saguaro National Park. In our downloadable itinerary for Saguaro National Park, we also cover the best hikes, recommendations on where to stay, what to pack and what else to do in the area. Be sure to download it ahead of your trip!
PARKING AND TRAILHEAD FOR GOULD MINE TRAIL
King Canyon Trailhead parking area, courtesy of the National Park Service
The trailhead for the Gould Mine Trail area is located off the scenic North Kinney Road. The trailhead is shared with longer King Canyon Trail hike. The parking area is located right across from the Arizona-Senora Desert Museum.
- Directions from Tucson to the Gould Mine Trail (nearest non-camping lodging). Traffic could be a problem leaving the city but should not be too crazy once you get closer to the park. Plan for a 25-minute drive.
- Directions from North Visitor Center (Red Hills). This route should take approximately five minutes.
This parking lot is quite small, and there is only room for about 20 vehicles. Finding a spot on a prime hiking day might be hard. We recommend hiking this early in the morning to avoid the crowds at the trailhead. Plus, it will be much cooler if you happen to hike when it’s warm during the day.
Since this trailhead also providing access to the hike to Wasson Peak (which is a much longer hike), it is often common to see cars parked in the lot for long periods of time.
Restrooms are not available at the Gould Mine trailhead, so it is a good idea to use the restroom before the hike at the visitor center or before you leave your lodging.
GOULD MINE TRAIL: TRAIL SURFACE AND ACCESSIBILITY
- Trail surface. The trail surface is packed sand. However, since the trail does have parts on old riverbeds, hiking shoes are very much recommended.
- Accessibility. The trail is not wheelchair accessible and is a hike recommended for those with good balance and endurance.
PREPARATION FOR HIKING THE GOULD MINE TRAIL
This hike is short, and since Saguaro National Park has quite hot midday temperatures, you don’t need to pack in tons of equipment. There are a few essentials that we recommend:
- Water. It is very dry at Saguaro National Park, and with a lack of shade on this trail it can be dangerous in hot temperatures. With a hike of this length, we recommend having at least 1.5 liters of water. One key element to preventing heatstroke is being hydrated the day before you hike to ensure you don’t start the trail with your body already low on water.
- Sun Protection. You should wear sunscreen or bring a hat with you, even though you’ll only be on the trail for a short time. For people who don’t like to apply sunblock to their body, long sleeve shirts and pants with performance sweat wicking fabric are recommended. Remember, sunburns can happen fast on this trail and will affect your enjoyment of hiking for future days so wear sun protection!
- Shoes. This trail is moderate in grade and difficulty so any ventilated summer mid-ankle hiking shoe should be just fine.
HIKING THE GOULD MINE LOOP TRAIL FROM KING CANYON PARKING AREA
Gould Mine Loop Trail map, courtesy of the National Park Service
After exiting your car and preparing for the hike, you’ll have to decide which way to go. While you can choose to hike this loop in any direction, we recommend hiking this trail in the counterclockwise direction so you can really take in the views to the south on your descent.
If heading counterclockwise, take the King Canyon Trail. For the first 0.1-mile, the trail is rather flat as it heads to the north. The trail then begins to climb with a gradual slope for the next 0.8 miles until you hit an intersection. You should head to the left to the Mam-A-Gah picnic area next on the trail which is about 0.1-mile away. If you are heading to Wasson Peak, continue on the King Canyon Trail (but be advised that this adds a considerable distance and elevation gain onto this hike!).
We were able to hear coyotes in the morning and also saw a great horned own on a large saguaro cactus.
This intersection has many branches and you can take a wrong turn if you are not careful. Keep a map or a picture of the trail map on hand so you don’t have to worry about taking the wrong trail or getting lost.
While many people stop at the Mam-A-Gah picnic area for lunch, it does not have any shade and will not be a place that you’ll want to sit for any period of time. While it might be too hot to eat lunch here in the midday sun, this spot has a good view of the nearby hillsides and of the tall Saguaro cactuses.
Once you pass through the picnic area, the trail continues for 0.3 miles until you get to the next intersection. This is where the old Gould Mine is located. This mine was originally created in hopes of finding precious metals, but they discovered copper in the area instead. The mining company with high hopes of making a lot of money overspent on the project and quickly went bankrupt.
In the area you can see remnants of an old powder house which is commonly mistaken as a miner's residence. You’ll also see foundations of a blacksmith shop and a mess hall. This area was originally going to become a copper pit mine in the 1950s, but the park was expanded to include the Gould Mine area and preserve the beauty of the Saguaro wilderness.
After reaching the mine, take a left and continue down the slope for 0.9 miles. Nearby the mine you should be able to see the mine tailings of the side of the trail. The views on the way back to the parking area are particularly striking.
In total, this hike has an elevation gain of 380 feet with a total length of 2.3 miles.
ABOUT THE SAGUARO CACTUS
This species of cactus is the tallest growing species in the country growing to 40 feet or more. These species are up to 90% water and are key in producing food and shelter to the ecosystem around it.
They are easy to recognize, with their characteristic shaped arms. Our kids loved trying to find the cactus that is the tallest or has the most branches. The prickly pears were also fun to see growing on the side of the trail. Please do not pick these, these fruits are key food sources for the animal residents of the park.
GOULD MINE TRAIL: TOP LIKES AND DISLIKES
- Amazing Views. This hike has expansive views of the desert, and this is amplified if you visit it in the early morning during sunrise. There’s just something about a sunrise on the Sonoran Desert!
- Wildlife. This trail is a great opportunity to see hawks, owls, skinks, lizards and coyotes. Keep in mind wildlife is more active during dawn and dusk so hike in these times to increase chances of a wildlife encounters.
- Saguaro cactuses. Theses tall cactuses stand tall on the mountainsides and create owl nesting locations. These also create an awesome contrast in the morning while taking sunrise photos.
- Lack of Shade. Midday on this trail could be dangerous due to the heat and lack of shade during the hotter months of the year. Hike this trail in the morning or on the evening to avoid heatstroke.
- Lack of Bathrooms. Staying hydrated often means many bathroom trips so make sure to use the facilities before getting to the trailhead and heading out on this trail.
THINGS TO DO NEAR THE GOULD MINE TRAIL
Most of the great things to do in Saguaro National park are often weather dependent so here are some options to escape the heat while waiting for the temps to cool down.
- Visit the Arizona Senora Desert Museum. This museum offers a great opportunity to view many of the natural animal species in the local area.
- Take a drive along Kinney Road. Sometimes staying in the car with AC on and going on a scenic drive is the best option when temps are particularly hot.
- Check out the nearby Red Hills Visitor Center. This recently remodeled visitor center has terrific exhibits as well as access to rangers for the latest information and the opportunity to complete the Junior Ranger program.
FURTHER INFORMATION ON SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK FROM JUST GO TRAVEL STUDIOS
- Our time is Saguaro National Park was full of great adventure! You can read more about things to do in Saguaro in our blog Saguaro National Park - What to See and Do. There is also one other hike that we cover in detail as well: Valley View Overlook Trail in Saguaro National Park
- If you like Saguaro National Park, you’ll also want to check out our blogs on the nearby area of Sedona.
- If you are looking for a good way to remember your trip to Saguaro, check out our WPA Style Saguaro National Park Poster.
- After your trip, send us a photo and we’ll create a vintage-style travel poster from one or more of your photos. If you love remembering your trips, this is a great way to do so forever!