Take on the Southern Arizona outdoors on your own terms
Southern Arizona’s landscape—from saguaro-studded desert to aspen-laden slopes— seems custom-made for stoking our spirit of adventure. Whether you go for rock climbing, mountain biking, trail trekking, or sailing through the crystalline sky, our region is one huge, heart-thumping adventure we call Extreme Arizona.
Rock climbing only seems to grow in popularity each year, and our diverse geology— mountain, desert, and bluff—has made Southern Arizona a mecca for the sport. The Santa Catalina Mountains alone offer more than 1,000 climbing routes, ranging from simple scrambles to full-blown technical challenges. Try an area called the Ridgeline, where climbers of all skill levels will find a perfect fit on steep granite slopes.
Or boulder away your day among the rock mazes of Cochise Stronghold, in the Dragoon Mountains south of Tucson. You’ll quickly discover why Apache chieftain Cochise was able to endlessly outfox the U.S. Cavalry in these Byzantine, low-slung hills.
Perhaps you’d like an expert to help you explore. Try Rocks and Ropes, a Tucson business with guided tours to tip-top peaks and skill-honing boulder fields. Warm up for the adventure beforehand at Rocks and Ropes’ premier indoor climbing facility, where colorful handholds dot the walls and seasoned climbers offer lessons for first-timers.
Do you prefer to explore with both feet on the ground? Then check out Southern Arizona’s amazing mix of hiking trails along aspen-shaded ridges and through otherworldly saguaro forests. To add a dash of glamor, travel the Golden Gate Trail in Tucson Mountain Park. Towering above Old Tucson, Golden Gate Mountain has been the backdrop for countless iconic movies, from Arizona—filmed here in 1939— to Rio Bravo, starring John Wayne.
Take a drive up Mt. Lemmon, where a potpourri of pleasant trails lead you through pine forests and hushed glens. Or head south to Madera Canyon, where a gentle trail ascends through oak woodlands populated by deer, wild turkeys, and shimmering trogons.
If you’d like to hike with an experienced guide, make a call to Southwest Trekking. Based in Tucson, Southwest hosts journeys up into the Santa Catalinas or among exotic rock formations in the Tortolita Mountains.
Top-shelf bike trails proliferate in Southern Arizona. Here you’ll find everything from flat, easy glides through Honeybee Canyon and the old Rail X Ranch—past windmills and petroglyphs— to a stamina-testing journey along Samaniego Ridge in the Santa Catalinas. For more desert trails near Tucson, check with Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists.
Road riders will find 500 miles of dedicated bike lanes dissecting Tucson, and nearby routes that vary from desert floor to elevations of nearly 9,000 feet. Experience the Loop Trail running throughout the region, and contact the Greater Arizona Bicycling Association for more paths.
Want to boost your performance? Check out The Cycling House, a Tucson-based company offering weeklong camps from winter to spring, with rides through the Santa Catalinas, Saguaro National Park East, Gates Pass, and Madera Canyon. Gear up for your ride at TriSports, a local retailer offering road and triathlon bikes and accessories. Or for rentals, phone Broadway Bicycles. You’ll find a solid selection of road and mountain bikes, with complimentary helmets, air pumps, and water-bottle holders.
Get airborne at Skydive Arizona in Eloy, the world’s largest skydiving center, with state-of-the-art facilities and top-flight instructors. First-timers will go through a short briefing before making the jump from 13,000 feet. Then you’re off, free-falling for up to one minute in what ranks among life’s most sublime experiences—all the while strapped to a seasoned instructor. Below spreads the vast Sonoran Desert, with the soaring Santa Catalinas visible over your shoulder.
Not quite ready for that kind of leap, but still have the urge to fly? Try SkyVenture Arizona, also in Eloy, which boasts a 150-foot-tall, 14-foot-wide wind tunnel. Inside, a quartet of 400-horsepower fans suspends you mid-air, simulating a free fall at speeds topping 150 miles per hour.