Every year make the trek to “The Old Pueblo” to visit family. One of our favorite activities while visiting is taking a desert hike. We are sharing a few favored local hikes. So lace up those shoes, grab water, and smear on the sunblock—we are going exploring!
Finger Rock Trail/Santa Catalina Mountains
We start this list with one of the most popular hiking trails in the area. The first few miles of the Finger Rock Trail is pretty family-friendly, although rocky and steep in some areas. The trail starts at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains and if you make it the 10 miles, it provides you with vistas of the Tucson valley below.
Saguaro National Park
Located outside of the Tucson city limits and divided into to sections: the Rincon Mountain District to the east of the city and the Tucson Mountain District to the west. The lower levels of both parks feature the typical Sonoran Desert, rolling hills, aired and multiple species of cactus. The Rincon Mountain District features a temperate coniferous forest at higher altitudes of the Rincon Mountains. Both sections of parks are removed from the city and feature vast open spaces and dramatic contrasts between the tan dry desert floor and the open and blue sky above.
Pima Canyon Trail/Santa Catalina Mountains
Located at the Northwest side of Tucson, this trail is only accessed by foot (no bikes) and has breathtaking views of the Tucson valley. Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the desert flora and possibly a big horn sheep herd that roams the area.
Honeybee Canyon/Tortolita Mountains
Located north of Tucson in Oro Valley, the trail is located in a somewhat urban area. Once down the trail to the dry river you loose all thoughts that you are in an urban area. Our kids love this hike. It’s flat and easy with most of it along a dry river bottom. There is even a stone dam built by sheepherders in the 1800’s further down the trail and fun to explore.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area/Santa Catalina Mountains
This is by far the easiest “hike” you can do in Tucson. This desert oasis required a parking fee, but the views and beauty are worth the price. The park features a tram that you can take to the top of the canyon and then roam down the paved road at your leisure. Some parts of the year there is even water in the arroyo that runs along the road.
Sentinel Peak/Tucson Mountains
Located just west of downtown Tucson and home to the large University of Arizona whitewashed “A” on the side of the mountain. This hike can be done on foot or by car. There is a road that passes the foot of the “A” and continues on to a parking lot. From the parking lot, there are several short trails that lead to the vista points along the peak providing an expansive view of the Tucson valley. If you’re adventurous there is a parking lot at the bottom of the road, but you have to walk along the shoulder of the road to reach the top.
Gates Pass/Tucson Mountains
West of Tucson and passing through the Tucson Mountains, this mountain pass road curves it’s way through the mountain to the crest of the ridgeline. From a parking lot there, several short trails lead off in to the mountains. The location is VERY popular in the evening for its sunset views and can be treacherous for very young hikers due to the road’s proximity and steepness of the trails. The views and sunsets are the best in the area and well worth the trip.
Do you have a favorite hiking spot in Tucson? We love to connect with others, so feel free to leave us a comment! (Note: Above pictures were taken over several trips. )