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Desperado Loop

A delightful bite-sized hike in Sweewater Preserve

Hiking Easy

6.2 km
82 m
82 m
1-2 hrs
Low Point
733 m
High Point
781 m
Desperado Loop Map

Sweetwater Preserve protects an 880 acre parcel of the Sonoran Desert that’s filled to bursting with towering saguaro cacti. This open space area is located just half a mile from Saguaro National Park “and a biological research preserve owned by the University of Arizona,” according to PIMA.gov. Tucson Mountain Park is also located just to the south. With so much protected space surrounding this small preserve, after hiking a short distance, you can feel like you’re in the middle of the desert, even though you’re right on the outskirts of the city!


This network of trails offers the opportunity to hike just a short couple of miles or to spend the better part of the day wandering through the desert. The route mapped here offers a short bite-sized 4-mile hike on the Desperado Loop. Conveniently accessible directly from the trailhead, this route provides a delightful dose of Sweetwater Preserve that just about anyone can handle.

While the trail tread at Sweetwater Preserve is non-technical overall, the Desperado Loop may be the smoothest and easiest trail in the network. All of the climbs and descents are quite mellow, so the only thing that could really pose a challenge out here is the heat of the sun.

Regardless of the exact route you choose, you’ll find yourself immersed in the Sonoran Desert’s magical beauty. The saguaro cacti tower high above the trail, and when you gain the top of a rise and look out over the preserve, you may be shocked at the density of the massive cacti in this area! Some people find themselves underwhelmed by Saguaro National Park… but it’s tough to be underwhelmed by the beauty and immensity of the desert here at Sweetwater Preserve!

Source: https://webcms.pima.gov/cms/one.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=1531



Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.


1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Picturesque
  • Family friendly

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area