With five mountain ranges surrounding town and a national park, Tucson is a great place to put your boots on.
If you enjoy hiking, you’ll love Tucson. Since the city is surrounded by five mountain ranges and bordered by two halves of a national park, there are seemingly endless opportunities to get out and experience nature, whether that’s 9,000 feet above sea level on Mt. Lemmon or a few steps away from a luxury resort; whether you’re an experienced hiker or just lacing up your boots for the first time. Here are ten hikes worth looking into in the Tucson area – just remember to bring sunscreen and more water than you think you’ll need.
1. Seven Falls
Located in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, the moderate hike to and from Seven Falls is accessed through the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area approximately 30 minutes from downtown Tucson, but also only a few minutes from restaurants and hotels. Yes, the “Falls” part of this area’s name does refer to waterfalls, which are running most of the year. Start up the Bear Canyon trail, turn at the sign and enjoy a half-day hike with a break for splashing in cool pools of water.
2. Tumamoc Hill
In the Tucson mountains, Tumamoc Hill calls to city-dwellers looking for a relatively-easy quick hike up a gently-sloped paved road. The 3.1-mile round trip offers a spectacular view of the city and – if timed right – a great vista of sunrises and sunsets.
3. Yetman Trail
Located in the beautiful Tucson Mountain Park (also the home of movie studio Old Tucson and spectacular zoo Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum), the Yetman Trail offers a moderately difficult hiking experience of about 12 miles round-trip on a well-maintained path.
Also located off the Bear Canyon Trail, Blackett’s Ridge is a more challenging excursion, but one that pays off with breathtaking views in nearly every direction of the city. While you do have to prepare yourself (and your calves) for the 1,700 feet in elevation gain over six miles, this is the sort of hike that inspires great memories (and great Instagram photos).
First, a warning: Walking through the trails around the various pools of Tanque Verde Falls, you might see some unexpected sights. Naked people. The Reddington Pass area in the Rincon Mountains east of the city is a haven for nudists, so the sight of someone wearing a hat, hiking boots and nothing else (although let’s hope lots of sunscreen) isn’t super uncommon. Even if you’d prefer to keep your clothes on, the pools of this area are a great sight and some of the waterfalls are around 100 feet tall.
The low elevations of the Tucson Mountains mean that the trails of this area aren’t ideal during Tucson’s summer months, but the rest of the year – especially in the winter – the hike to Wasson Peak is a spectacular opportunity to experience the best of the Sonoran Desert. Majestic saguaro are abundant on your trip up the Sweetwater Trail to the 4,687 feet height of Wasson Peak.
7. The Window
Of the trails on this list, this might be the most challenging with some steep switchbacks, but the payoff is well worth it. When you get to “The Window,” in front of a hundred-foot drop, the view is unparalleled, expanding towards the city below. If you’re staying at Loews Ventana Canyon, the tough journey will be rewarded with a tasty cocktail.
8. Romero Pools
It's no secret that water is rare in the desert. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why the reliable oasis at the end of this hike is so popular. Others might include the spectacular views, the ease of access, and the varied terrain, from vast plains to rocky canyons.
This is one of the easy ones and provides a nice leisurely trip for all ages through the eastern portion of Saguaro National Park from a trailhead at the end of Speedway Boulevard. If you want to get outside, wear uncomplicated footwear, be among the surprising amount of green and hopefully finish with a running waterfall at the end of your walk, Bridal Wreath is for you. The Douglas Springs trail that you'll take almost the entire way is well marked.
10. Mount Wrightson
With thick ponderosa pines, oaks, ferns and an environment that seems very out of place with the desert (yet still very green) biomes of the majority of Tucson area hiking trails, the Old Baldy Trail to the summit and back is about 11 miles round-trip and worth every foot.