Four More Desert Playgrounds

Arizona: Saguaro National Park

Dec 13, 2004
Outside Magazine
Rancho de la Osa

Dude Spa: antique charms at Rancho de la Osa, near Sasabe, Arizona   

This two-part park to the east and west of Tucson is made for winter hiking. Head to the 66,621-acre Rincon Mountain District, in Saguaro National Park's eastern section—15 miles east of the city—for more than 120 miles of trails threading pines, at higher elevations, and saguaros, on the desert floor.

The graceful saguaro is one of the world's largest and slowest-growing cactuses, reaching up to 50 feet over the course of two centuries. Hiking among them is the quintessential desert experience—especially at dusk, when the giants are silhouetted against purple twilight.
SLEEP: Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, an elegant cross between a spa and a dude ranch, is set on 600 acres just north of the Mexican border near Sasabe, an hour southwest of the park. The 19 guest rooms, laid out in single-story adobe wings, are decorated with Mexican antiques. Take one of the ranch's 50 horses on a trail ride, then visit the new fitness center and spa for treatments like Swedish or hot-stone massage. (Doubles, $360–$450, including meals and riding; 800-872-6240,
PLAY: Sky Island Treks (520-622-6966, leads day hikes, or if you're on your own, stop at the park's visitor center.
EAT: The dinner show at Saguaro Corners (520-886-5424,, a steakhouse across from the park entrance: javelinas, coyotes, or deer—seen through floor-to-ceiling windows—munching their supper as you eat yours.