Saguaro National Park is named after the giant cactus that are native to the Sonoran Desert. These impressive plants live as long as 150 years or more, and may take between 75-100 years to grow their first arm (if they grow one at all!).
This minimally visited park is located just about 2 hours south of Phoenix, yet it only draws around 800,000 visitors each year. Sure, this park is relatively small (just over 91,000 acres) and easily ranks in the bottom-half of parks by size. Though this park lacks in size, there is a great deal to do and explore.
Petrified Forest National Park is one of the most car-accessible national parks in the country. There are several short hikes that are “must dos” if you have the time and energy. The Blue Mesa Trail in Petrified Forest National Park is one of these hikes. Coming in at just one-mile (round trip), the Blue Mesa Trail allows hikers to get immersed in the scenery in a way that just can’t be matched by only stopping at the overlook.
If you are planning to travel on Interstate 40 between Flagstaff and Albuquerque, Petrified Forest National Park is well worth the slight detour, as it is located just off the highway. Most visitors take the 28-mile drive through the park, just stopping briefly at overlooks and viewpoints to snap a few photos. However, we think this park is best appreciated by getting out of your car and exploring on foot. We recommend at least a half day, if not more, to explore all that Petrified Forest National Park has to offer.