FATMAP by Strava

Sweetwater Preserve

An idyllic preserve filled with towering saguaro cacti.

Hiking Easy

16 km
207 m
207 m
3-4 hrs
Low Point
733 m
High Point
818 m
Sweetwater Preserve 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 10-mile route mapped here traces the outskirts of the trail system to maximize the mileage with the least amount of backtracking possible. However, if you find this to be too long, you can easily cut off the extra loops to the north, the Desperado Loop to the east, or cross through the center of the trail system to dramatically shorten the route. The options are endless, so this is just one suggestion.

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!

Overall, the trail tread itself is non-technical, aside from some small rocks to step over or around. Some sections of trail are even completely devoid of rocks. All of the climbs and descents are quite mellow, so the only things that could really pose a challenge out here are the heat of the sun and the distance of the hike, if you complete the entire route as mapped.

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

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area