If you’re looking for a new place to live or have recently bought a home in Tucson, this city is known for its scenic views of hills, valleys, and pristine mountains, which makes Tucson the ideal destination for outdoor activities. There are many different places in Tucson that you can travel to when you want to engage in outdoor activities, which include numerous parks that are perfect for nature lovers who want to spend more time outdoors.
Among the best aspects of living in Tucson is that you’ll be provided with amazing scenery in practically all areas of the city, which extend from the Sabino Canyon to the Tucson Mountain Park. The city is surrounded by four distinct mountain ranges, which include the Rincon Mountains, the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Santa Rita Mountains, and the Tucson Mountains.
You can travel in any direction and find a wonderful location that will allow you to enjoy the scenic beauty of Tucson in relative peace and quiet. While there are a myriad of parks and scenic areas in Tucson, the following is a guide to seven of the best nature parks and scenic views throughout the city.
1. Sabino Canyon
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Sabino Canyon is a wonderful recreation area that can be found at 5700 N Sabino Canyon Rd. in Tucson, which is where you’ll be presented with a large parking lot and some useful signposts that will give you more information about the activities and locations throughout the park.
The Sabino Canyon recreation area is known for providing visitors with majestic views of deep canyons and soaring mountains. For the best views, go biking or hiking on the Sabino Canyon or Bear Canyon trails. If you want to have a relaxing picnic, hike a trail, or look for birds, this area offers something for every nature lover. The visitor center at the park is open from 8:00AM-4:30PM every day. When there, you’ll need to purchase a day pass for $5 or an annual pass for $20.
2. Saguaro National Park
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Saguaro National Park is a vast national park that is separated into two sections that are located on either side of Tucson. The park itself is situated across 92,000 acres of land, which means that you can spend weeks here without discovering all that the park has to offer. If you want to view more of the Sonoran Desert landscapes, flora, and fauna, this park is the best place to go.
The two districts of this park include the Tucson Mountain District that’s located around 10 miles west of Tucson and the Rincon Mountain District that’s located around 10 miles east of Tucson. No matter which of the two districts you go to, you can travel through the park by biking, hiking, driving, or horseback riding.
When you visit the Rincon Mountain District, there are several trailheads that you can stop by along the Cactus Forest Scenic Loop Drive. These trailheads pave the way to scenic hiking trails as well as great parking opportunities. As for the Tucson Mountain District, the best way to travel there is via the Bajada Loop Drive, which will provide you with access to several picnic areas and hiking trailheads. Entrance fees to the park are $20 per vehicle or $10 per individual. Numerous campgrounds are available at a variety of different elevation gains.
3. Catalina State Park
The Catalina State Park is a spectacular state park that’s located at 11570 N Oracle Rd., which is at the base of the sprawling Santa Catalina Mountains. The park comes with an average elevation that’s upwards of 3,000 feet, which means that visitors to the park will be provided with some of the best views in Tucson. When you visit this park, you’ll likely spot many different species of wildlife as well as some beautiful saguaro cacti. In fact, this state park plays host to more than 5,000 saguaros. Entrance to the park is priced at $7 per vehicle or $3 per individual/bicycle. Ample parking can be found immediately after you enter the park.
During your visit, there are an array of exciting activities you can partake in, which include hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing. An equestrian staging and camping area is also available for anyone who wants to take their horse to the park. Complete equestrian facilities are provided as well. If you wish to camp at the park, the overnight campground comes with 120 separate camping sites, all of which are equipped with a grill and picnic table. Camping fees are $5 per night or $15 per night for an additional vehicle.
4. Tohono Chul Park
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The Tohono Chul Park is a wonderful destination that offers three distinct experiences, which include a nature preserve, a botanical garden, and a cultural museum. This park can be found at 7366 N Paseo Del Norte and comes with a sizable parking lot that’s certain to have some spaces available no matter when you visit. The gardens are the perfect place to be if you want some peace and tranquility. While walking through the gardens, you’ll spot many different varieties of hummingbirds and butterflies, which is why you should take your camera with you.
Whenever you want to grab a bite to eat, stop by the Garden Bistro, which is located just beside the park entrance. Along with the hummingbird garden, you should also visit such locations in the park as the desert palm oasis, the Spanish colonial courtyard, the children’s garden, the Sonoran seasons garden, and the riparian habitat. For some beautiful views of Tucson and the Sonoran Desert, there are three nature trails that you might be interested in, which include the Saguaro Discovery Trail, the South Loop Trail, and the Desert View Trail.
5. Tumamoc Hill
Tumamoc Hill is a natural reserve that’s currently among the more popular hiking destinations in Southern Arizona. While this three-mile hiking trail has an elevation gain of 738 feet, there are hardly any trees surrounding you during the hike, which means that you’ll be able to see for miles as you make the ascent. Once you reach the top of the hill, you’ll be provided with a 360-degree view of Tucson and many other surrounding areas.
Keep in mind that this hiking trail is moderately difficult, which is why you should take ample amounts of water with you. You can find this hiking trail just west of Downtown Tucson and Sentinel Peak. Most individuals who hike this trail complete it in around 1-1.5 hours. The trail is open to visitors every day from 4:00AM-10:00PM and is free. If you’re looking for somewhere to park, the trailhead is located on West Anklam Rd. Make sure that you park along the street just before you reach the trailhead.
6. Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Colossal Cave Mountain Park is a very popular park in Tucson that’s known for its distinct rock formations and beautiful butterfly garden. Likely the best aspect of this park is that they offer numerous exciting cave tours for visitors to select from, all of which you’ll want to experience during different visits. For instance, the classic cave tour is a half-mile long route that can take upwards of an hour to complete. During this tour, you’ll learn more about the legends, geology, and history of the cave while you view pristine cave formations like helictites, flow stone, stalagmites, and stalactites.
These tours are given on a daily basis with one tour occurring each hour while the park is open. Ladder tours and wild cave tours are also available if you want to see some of the portions of the cave that are considered to be difficult to navigate. Prices for these cave tours vary depending on age and the type of tour you want to go on. For instance, a classic cave tour costs $18 for adults and $9 for children between the ages of 5-12. On the other hand, the two wild cave tours cost $85 and $125 respectively. Both the intermediate and advanced wild cave tours are available to visitors who are 16 years old or older.
If you enjoy camping and love the location of the Colossal Cave Mountain park, spaces are available for RVs, trailers, and tents, which are priced at $7.50 for tent camping and $12 per night for horse trailer and RV camping. When you’re at the park, consider stopping by the petting zoo to spend some time with fun zoo animals. While the cave at this park is the main attraction, there are three trails that you can enjoy when hiking, biking, backpacking, and riding a horse. The entrance to this park can be found at 16721 E. Old Spanish Trail, which is where you’ll find a spacious parking lot to keep your vehicle.
7. Tucson Mountain Park
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The Tucson Mountain Park is a 20,000-acre park that’s located in the heart of Tucson and provides visitors with many thrilling and adventurous activities to partake in. This park offers an observation area known as the Gates Pass Overlook, which comes with historic structures and interpretive displays that will allow you to learn more about the history of the park. The views at this park are breathtaking and varied because of how large the park is. Many visitors will stop by the Gates Pass Overlook to watch the sun go down. There are 62 miles of shared-use trails throughout this park that are open to mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians, most of which offer amazing views of local wildlife, plant life, and rolling creeks.
If you’re visiting this park for longer than a day, consider staying at the Gilbert Ray Campground, which can be found at 8451 West McCain Loop Road. The parking lot at this location is the main parking area for anyone who uses the park. When you want to have a relaxing picnic, the three main picnic locations throughout Tucson Mountain Park include Ironwood, Brown Mountain, and Juan Santa Cruz. Along with the many miles of trails that can be used for hiking, biking, and equestrian activities, the park also provides a rifle and pistol range as well as an archery range for something more unique.
While there are no costs for getting into the park, some of the activities come with costs that you should be aware of. If you decide to go camping, the fees are set at $10 per night for a tent and $20 each night for RVs and trailers. The rifle and pistol range is located at 2405 S. Kinney Road and has a price point of $6 per shooter each day. There’s also some additional equipment that can be purchased to assist you during your time at the range, which includes everything from chamber flags and safety glasses to silhouette targets. These amenities can cost anywhere from $.25-$3.00. Entrance into the archery range is $3 per person.
Tucson, AZ offers many exceptional and stunning views throughout their parks and mountains that nature lovers are certain to enjoy. From Tucson Mountain Park to Sabino Canyon, these destinations are great places to visit when you want to get some fresh air and spend time outdoors.