Hiking the Loma Verde Trail in Saguaro National Park

On Pink Hill Trail

On Pink Hill Trail © 2011 Bo Mackison

The day was a deep blue sky day in Tucson and I was primed for a desert hike. When I asked Mr. Friendly Park Ranger if he would recommend a hiking trail no longer than three miles, please, he smiled a convincing smile and replied, “Well, the best trail in the park is 3.6 miles long, only a half mile more. Wanna try that one?”

It didn’t seem that much longer, so I agreed. He pulled out a map with a few squiggly lines on it. “So,” he said, “if you take the Loma Verde trail head, follow Loma Verde, make a right at Squeeze Pen, a left at Pink Hill, follow the jog right on Loma Verde North and finally a left on Loma Verde South. You’ll be back at the trail head in two hours.”

Two hours? Knowing I had my camera along, I added another hour onto the estimated time. I could manage a three hour hike, out in the desert, by myself. Sure. Why not? It was 11 o’clock. I’d be back at the car by 2:00, 2:30 at the latest. No matter it was the warmest time of the day. The temperature wasn’t supposed to break 70˚ It was the perfect temperature for exploring the desert.

Tree of Thorns

Tree of Thorns © 2011 Bo Mackison

At the trail head, I emptied my camera backpack of all unessential equipment, then added two bottles of water and some trail bars. By the time I’d gathered my hat, hiking stick, and sun glasses, I was past eager, and ready to be on the trail. The sun was dodging in and out of cloud cover, and a mild breeze was blowing. Perfect hiking weather!

I had never hiked this part of Saguaro National Park, and so everything was new and exciting. There was plenty that needed photographing. There were thousands of saguaros begging to be photographed. And the mountains in the background. And the dancing clouds. Heck, I even took photos of the thorns and the bare branches. There is something about all of the elements of the desert that thrills me.

Cholla Forest

Cholla Forest © 2011 Bo Mackison

One of my favorite parts of the hike was when I entered this little cholla tree forest. Aren’t they cute? Well, they are cute–unless you get too close to one of them. If you brush against one, they “jump” on you. I carefully kept my distance.

Of course, I got lost. Several times. The trails looked well marked until I was out there with no one else in sight, and the name of the trail I was to follow wasn’t on the trail marker. I turned around more than once. And added another mile and a half to an already long-enough hike.

I wasn’t worried about the extra distance, but I did worry about the time. Rangers close the park gates at five. If they found my car on the Cactus Forest Loop after closing time, they would come looking for me. That wouldn’t do. The last mile and a half I put my camera away (sigh!) and hiked back to the car using fast feet.

It was a simply perfect hike (except for the back tracking parts) and I pulled my car out of the park at 4:30. Plenty of time to spare. Next time, I’ll start earlier and take fewer photographs.

Well, I’ll start earlier. I’ll have to re-think that fewer photographs part!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is living in Tucson for two months, exhibiting her photography in art shows, taking photographs, and blogging about photography, art fairs, and living life “solo.”  She is discovering much more than she ever had anticipated.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. These cactuses (or cactii??) are absolutely gorgeous. What a stunning landscape. Sounds like a wonderful hike..a perfect day!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Traditionally it’s been cacti, but I hear cactuses more and more, so I imagine either works. It was a pretty fine day, too!

  2. Ha! Yes, start earlier and take MORE photographs!!! Great hiking tale, babe! Love your photos!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Oh you know me too well! Taking fewer photos–ha ha ha! It will never happen, Debi. Yep, I’m going to have to get out there earlier.

  3. Donna Hull says:

    Hiking in Saguaro National Park is such a photographic experience for those bringing along a camera. I enjoyed reading about your hike and viewing the resulting photos. Welcome to Tucson!

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks for visiting Donna, and commenting. And yes, I am more than enjoying myself in Arizona. Thank you.

  4. The first photo is absolutely gorgeous! That’s the way I remember the park.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It’s a lovely park, Montucky. A place I could hike every day if I were here all year round. Though I suppose in summer, I’d have to hike at 3 in the morning or it would be too hot.

  5. Gandalf says:

    Great photos, and it sounds like it was a wonderful hike.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Come join me. You’d love this kind of hiking. The sun is almost always out–no running for cover from thunderstorms. At least not in February!

  6. I love your photos, and it sounds to me like you had quite an adventure. (I bet you don’t take fewer photos. lol!)

    • Bo Mackison says:

      It would be unnatural, Robin, me taking fewer photos. I can’t seem to stop myself from popping that shutter.

  7. P.S. I really love that first photo. I’ve come back to look at it a few times.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      Thanks. It’s one of my favorites, too. I could stand in the desert and just look around for hours. There is always something new that I see.

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