Pets allowed
Not Allowed
Elevation Gain
507.00 ft (154.53 m)
Trail type
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Thunderbird Trail is a moderately difficult hiking trail located in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona. This trail is a popular destination for hikers who want to experience the stunning natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert. This out-and-back trail is 4 miles long and gains just over 500 feet of elevation. 

This hike begins at El Camino del Cerro Trailhead. From here, you will start hiking West on the Sweetwater Trail. After 0.2 miles of hiking uphill, you will encounter a junction. Turn right at the junction and take the Thunderbird Trail. Hike uphill for 0.1 miles more to reach the highest point of the trail.

From here, travel downhill amongst saguros, prickly pear, ocotillo, and various other Sonoran Desert plants. Along the way, you will pass by the abandoned Thunderbird Mine. About 0.5 miles past the mine, you will come to a junction with the Gila Monster Mine Trail. Stay left here to continue on the Thunderbird Trail.

A junction with the Brittlebush Trail is encountered after 0.3 miles more of hiking. Continue on the Thunderbird trail to the right. From here, you will enjoy 0.7 miles of mostly downhill hiking and come to a junction with Cactus Canyon Trail and Gila Monster Trail. This marks the end of the Thunderbird Trail. Retrace your steps and begin hiking uphill to return to the trailhead.

The Thunderbird Trail is open year-round and it costs $25 for a one-week vehicle pass to enter Saguaro National Park. Dogs are not allowed on this trail. This trail can get very hot and there are no opportunities for shade or water sources, so be sure to bring plenty of water. The Thunderbird Trail is a great option for those looking to explore the unique beauty of Saguaro National Park.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)




Parking Pass

National Park Pass

Open Year-round



Desert and mountain views.


No Shade.

Trailhead Elevation

2,796.00 ft (852.22 m)

Highest point

2,895.00 ft (882.40 m)


Historically significant
Big vistas

Typically multi-day


Permit required



Nearby Adventures


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