When was the last time you looked at the stars? An uninterrupted night sky is something that is becoming increasingly rarer to encounter. Saguaro National Park is a destination for dark and starry skies. In 2023, the International Dark Sky Association certified Saguaro National Park as an Urban Night Sky Place—only the ninth in the world and the second in the National Park system! Learn more about Saguaro's certification by reading our news release.
Why Protect the Night Sky?
By preserving darkness in the park, we are also preserving the livelihood of the ecosystem. All kinds of life rely on the natural cycle of light and dark. This circadium rhythm governs life-sustaining behaviors such as hunting, reproduction, sleep, and protection from predators.
Light pollution refers to human-made light that alters or disrupts natural light. If you are in an urban area, you will notice the affects of light pollution as a glow that grows up from the horizon. Light pollution is easy to see at night, and it is especially prevalent in urban areas. Light pollution affects wildlife, ecosystems, human health and climate change.
Life at Night
In the Sonoran Desert, many of our plants and animals become active when the sun goes down. Many species rely on the light of the moon and stars at night for survival. Darkness informs life in a number of ways, such as when humans know to go to sleep, when bats search for food, or when the saguaro cactus opens its flowers to be pollinated. Interruption of this natural light can have negative effects on the wildlife at Saguaro National Park. Many animals are adapted to the night, dawn, or dusk, and their reliance on darkness is crucial to their overall well-being. These are animals such as scorpions, javelinas, and mountain lions. Oh my!
Stargazing at Saguaro
Looking to experience the starry nights in the park? Both districts offer a number of locations you can visit to celebrate the night sky. While many of the park's trails are not accessible after the gates close at 8 pm, winters in the Sonoran Desert offer hours of darkness before the night gets late.
Rincon Mountain District
Cactus Forest Drive: Take a cruise on this 8-mile scenic loop drive! As you go, there are multiple overlooks and pullouts along the way where you can park to admire the stars.
Tucson Mountain District
Bajada Loop Drive: Driving along this 5-mile, unpaved route will give you access to wonderful views with pullouts and picnic areas to park along the way.
Dark Sky Events
Saguaro National Park offers a number of dark sky programs such as star parties and night hikes. Check out our calendar for a full list of events.
Last updated: November 15, 2023