VI: Saguaro Nat’l Park, Douglas Springs


A couple of weeks ago Patrick and I decided to hike to Bridal Wreath Falls in Saguaro National Park East. Most people don’t realize that there are two Saguaro National Park “districts” in Tucson, one to the east of the city and one to the west. The hike follows Douglas Springs Trail and then veers off to reach Bridal Wreath Falls for a total of 6.2 miles roundtrip. It was a pretty easy hike, especially after all we’ve been doing lately, and many people were on the trail with us.

The parking lot here is very small for the amount of hikes that are offered, and people begin parking on the street early in the morning. We got lucky and found a relatively close space along the street. Douglas Springs Trail takes you to the Douglas Springs campground in about 12 miles roundtrip, but we cut our trip in half by turning back at Bridal Wreath Falls.

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The hike begins on flat land for the first 0.5-0.75 miles. Although we didn’t encounter any, horses are allowed on these wide parts of the trail.

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We’ve been lucky lately with several animal sightings – here’s a typical desert lizard. They’re most easily spotted by their movement out of the corner of your eye, and if you freeze you might catch a look at one of them before they completely hide.

After those first ~0.75 miles we began our climb, and this is where the hike becomes “moderate.” The trail is quick and steep at places, and we along with the other hikers took several breaks.  The first part of the climb looks over east Tucson for some beautiful views; after passing over a ridge however, the views toward the city are much more sparse.

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Looking down over east Tucson and toward the Santa Catalina Mountains. Clouds are already gathering over them hinting at another rain storm later in the day. Thankfully, we had brilliant clear skies.

The halfway point came relatively quickly, and after that the climb continued, albeit at a more gradual rate. I’d guess that most of the ~1000-foot elevation gain occurred in 1.5 miles of the hike. After it evened out again, we had a bit further to go until the trail split and took us to Bridal Wreath Falls. Once we got to the falls, I immediately wanted to try something new with a camera filter, and almost walked headfirst into a squirrel. No harm done, it didn’t run away; the size of the squirrel indicated that it was clearly used to humans.

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Almost walked headfirst into this squirrel before Patrick grabbed me and got me to look! As you can see, he didn’t look the slightest bit perturbed, and even walked closer to us in hope of getting some food.

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Although we didn’t feed the little guy, he certainly seemed used to getting food from humans. Just a few minutes later we saw him munching on some, I kid you not, Reese’s Pieces.

Once the squirrel realized we weren’t going to share our food, it moved onto some other hikers and we took our first good look at the waterfall.

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Trying to work with a neutral density filter, but the lighting was extremely harsh between the direct sunlight and the shade of the waterfall.

I feel like I keep raving about all of the natural water you can find in Tucson, and it’s because I’ve never realized how much there is to find in the wilderness out here! I think these falls are running year round, but we got lucky and hiked the day after a moderate rainstorm (remember, good for desert waterfalls), which was followed by clear skies and warm, but not hot temperatures.

From the first waterfall (shown above) we climbed up to eventually reach two twin falls, and a bit higher than that is where we stopped for our snack. The best way to climb higher is to start on the lefthand side of the falls – you can see where thousands of people have climbed before you. These waterfalls are reminiscent of Seven Falls; they just seemed to continue the further up you climbed.

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Bridal Falls

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Another, slightly better attempt with the neutral density filter, still in pretty harsh sunlight.

After climbing back down we stopped for just a few more minutes to check out the back of the waterfall, which you could reach without getting wet.

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From behind the waterfall, looking out toward Tucson.

The hike back was quick going downhill. With all of our breaks, and our climbing adventure at the falls, we took about 4 hours roundtrip.

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Overlooking central Tucson on the way back.

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The Cholla Cactus, very common around Tucson.

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The Prickly Pear Cactus – another common sighting in Tucson

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Finally saw some horses on our way down!

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One of the nicer pictures taken on the descent. Dozens of different desert wildlife can be seen in the foreground, and the city of Tucson lies in the distance.

Bridal Wreath Falls has now become another highly recommended hike in the Tucson area. We’ve gotten lucky with our choices so far. If this continues, I’ll have to go back and redo the rating system to be a little more picky! Stay tuned, a trip to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum is up next!

3 thoughts on “VI: Saguaro Nat’l Park, Douglas Springs

  1. I hiked to Douglas Springs once, long ago, in the summer, blood hot return trip. What really struck me was how quiet it was, no aircraft, just the breeze. On the journey up I encountered two young women descending, one of whom I knew professionally, what a coincidence.

  2. Howdy are using WordPress for your blog platform?
    I’m new to the blog world but I’m trying to get started and create my own.
    Do you require any html coding expertise to make your own blog?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • This is hosted by WordPress. You can edit pages visually or on an html basis, which gives you a small introduction to that language. Overall it’s a very easy format to get used to. Good luck!

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