Saguaro National Park Offers Busy Schedule Of Programs This Month

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A Sonoran sunset in Saguaro National Park. NPS photo by John Williams.

February can be a great month to visit Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona. Moderate temperatures make for perfect hiking conditions, and the park staff offers plenty of programs -- including sunset and moonlit hikes -- to catch your attention.

Here's a look at the programs on tap for the month:

Naturalist Programs at Tucson Mountain District (West, 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, Ariz.):

* Feb. 10 2:30 p.m. Wasson Peak Moonlight Hike

6½-7 hours, 8 miles. Climb 1,700 feet at an easy pace to the highest point in the Tucson Mountains, enjoy the 360° sunset views, and descend by the light of the moon. The hike is considered difficult due to gaining elevation and hiking after dark. Reservations required; 520-733-5158

* Feb. 11 4:30 p.m. Twilight Glow To Moon Shadows Hike

3½ hours, 2½ miles roundtrip. This easy hike bridges sunset and darkness. Hikers will experience the desert both in the twilight glow and in moon shadows. Reservations required; 520-733-5158.

* Feb. 12 4:00 p.m. Sunset Hike Hike

3 ¾ hours, 3 ½ miles roundtrip. This moderate hike gains 700 feet with most of the elevation change in switchbacks near the ridgeline. Hikers will watch the sunset before descending under moonlight. Reservations required; 520-733-5158.

* Feb. 13 4:45 p.m. Moon Take Night, Make Day Hike

3 hours, 2 ½ miles roundtrip. Visitors will enjoy the sunset before returning in the moonlight. This hike is considered easy but includes a few high-stepping rocky outcroppings in the wash. Reservations required; 520-733-5158.

* Feb. 14 6:45 p.m. Moonrise Over The Mountain

Campfire talk, 45 minutes. Celebrate Valentine’s Day by listening to Native American flute music while viewing the full moon rising over the mountains at the Red Hills Visitor center. Bring a lawn chair and warm clothing to enjoy this informal campfire program. No reservations required.

* Feb. 8, 15, 22 10:45 a.m. Living With Giants

Talk, 30 minutes. The saguaro celebrates events and faces challenges throughout its life. A biologist explains how it provides shelter and substance for wildlife; when it flowers; its growth patterns; and how it fights for survival against drought, lightning, frost, and other dangers. Call 520-733-5158 the day of the program to confirm. Wheelchair accessible.

* Feb. 13, 20, 27 2:15 p.m. Geology of the Tucson Mountains

Talk, 45 minutes. The Tucson Mountains used to be part of the Santa Catalina Mountains. A geologist explains how they separated and what is shaping the Tucson Mountains today.

* Feb. 8, 15, 22 2:15 p.m. The CCC in Saguaro National Park

Talk, 45 minutes. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a Great Depression-era work program that greatly influenced national, state, and county parks. Saguaro’s trails, picnic areas, and scenic drives were established during this program. Old photos and movie clips illustrate a brief history of the CCC in this area. Wheelchair accessible.

Naturalist Programs at the Rincon Mountain District (East, 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, Ariz.):

* Feb. 8, 22 2 p.m. Wilderness Ramble

1-mile guided walk. Here’s your chance to take a walk with a ranger with 20 years’ experience in the Sonoran Desert. Bring your favorite question or topic, or just enjoy the best stories of the day: wildlife, wildflowers, or wilderness, as the weather permits and the seasons change. Sturdy shoes and water are recommended.

* Feb. 9, 16, 23 8:30 a.m. Desert Bird Walk

1-mile guided walk. Join volunteer naturalist Vicki Powers for an easy 2-hour walk in search of desert birds. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring water.

* Feb. 9, 16, 23 2 p.m. Walk with the Past

1-mile guided walk. Join park staff as we step into the past to learn about the lives of the prehistoric Hohokam. Sturdy shoes and water are recommended.

* Feb. 10, 17, 24 10 a.m. Walk with the Saguaros

1-mile guided walk. Join a naturalist for this 2-hour, 1-mile easy walk to discover the many fascinating facts about the Saguaro cactus. Sturdy footwear and water are recommended.

* Feb. 11, 18, 25 2 p.m. Reptiles & Amphibians of the Sonoran Desert

Illustrated talk. Join volunteer naturalist Bob Brandner for this 30-minute presentation to discover the fascinating world of reptiles and amphibians. Wheelchair accessible.

* Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28 1:30 p.m. Ranger’s Choice/Visitor’s Choice

1.5-mile guided walk. Here’s your chance to take a walk with a ranger with 20 years’ experience in the Sonoran Desert. Bring your favorite question or topic, or just enjoy the best stories of the day: wildlife, wildflowers, or wilderness, as the weather and the seasons change. Sturdy shoes and water are recommended.

* Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28 3 p.m. History is a Work in Progress

Presentation. Join us in the visitor center auditorium to explore the almost forgotten names of people and places from the late 1800s in the area of the Rincon Mountains. Wheelchair accessible.

* Feb. 7 & 21 7 p.m. Night Walk

1-mile guided walk. Join a park naturalist for this easy two-hour hike to explore and experience the Sonoran Desert at night. Dress for the weather, wear comfortable walking shoes, and bring water and a flashlight. As space is limited, advanced reservations are required, and can be made by calling 520-733-5153.

* Feb. 13 2 p.m. Secrets of the Spotted Cats: Jaguars & Ocelots of the Southwest

Presentation. Join Pinau Merlin, Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the UA/USGS Jaguar Survey and Monitoring Project, in the visitor center auditorium to explore the mystery, beauty and power of these magnificent spotted cats.

* Feb. 20 7 p.m. Star Party Illustrated Program & Activity

Join park naturalists for an introduction to astronomy and a look at the desert night sky. Telescopes and binoculars will be available. Reservations required. Call 520-733-5153. Wheelchair accessible.