Catalina State Park
A mere 30 minutes from downtown Tucson, AZ, in the suburb of Oro Valley, rests Catalina State Park. Here, on the stunning western side of the Santa Catalina Mountains, one could, and many locals do, spend a lifetime exploring all the park has to offer. Covering 5,500 acres of unspoiled mountainous desert terrain, Catalina State Park is a soulful place for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
There is a $7 entrance fee per vehicle.
When to Visit
It’s always the right season to visit Catalina State Park. You can cool off during the summer by adjusting your park activities to the early morning hours. If you are visiting during the monsoon season, you can enjoy a swim in the river beds and Romero Pools. Be advised that from July through September, it rains often, with thunderstorms occurring many days of the week.
Temps are more inviting during the fall, winter, and spring, ranging from 50 to 70 degrees. Please note if you’re camping in the winter, overnight temps can dip below freezing.
For alluring wildflower viewing, visit the park during March or April — you won’t be disappointed.
To find hotels near Catalina State Park, check out our accommodations page.
Petroglyphs in Catalina State Park
Things to Do
Other than marveling at the unreal desert landscape, towering mountain peaks, nearly 5,000 saguaros and other cacti, Catalina State Park offers some of the best mountain biking around Tucson, first-rate bird watching, camping, swimming, hiking, and watching the sunset on the mountain peaks as they turn from orange to pink to purple.
The moderate to intermediate 50-Year Trail is 8.6 miles of desert mountain biking heaven. It follows an old two-track with a steady incline until reaching a ridge with a one-of-a-kind view of the Catalinas. The trail's lower portion serves up gorgeous Sonoran desert scenery while you pedal away.
For an easy to moderate ride, hit the 1-mile Canyon Loop Trail. The first portion of the trail treats you to sweeping views of the Catalina mountains before heading into a desert wash and creek bed for the rest. The Canyon Loop Trail is a great way to take in the incredible desert beauty of the park.
Catalina State Park offers a multitude of hiking trails for every skill level. Wander along one of the three paths that wind through lush desert flora, traverse rugged terrains that reveal panoramic vistas, and discover hidden treasures like cascading waterfalls, unique bird life, and ancient rock formations. Whatever trail you choose, Catalina State Park promises an immersive hiking experience. For more trail information, visit azstateparks.com/catalina/things-to-do/trails.
For more information about Catalina State Park, visit azstateparks.com/catalina.