Access to the Sonoran Desert section in the Rincon Mountain district of the park is via the Cactus Forest Loop Drive. This eight-mile paved loop weaves among giant saguaro cacti in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains about 16 miles east of downtown Tucson.
The drive begins just past the visitor center, where you can see exhibits, consult the information desk, and check out the bookstore's collection. The Cactus Garden just outside the visitor center identifies desert plants. After about 2.2 miles on the one-way loop, you'll pass the road to Mica View Picnic Area on the left.
Many photographic opportunities present themselves within 100 feet of the paved road. There is a pullout at the high point of the loop, about 5.2 miles out, that is ideal for a magnificent desert sunset shot, if the cloud conditions are present.