Tucson, Arizona Hikes

Our time in Tucson is coming to an end this week and we’re excited for the next 2 months of our journey before we slow down a bit and enjoy family time in Iowa.  Let’s talk about enjoying that Arizona weather and family friendly hikes!

These hikes are for anyone with younger kids, our kiddos are 9,7, and 5 years old. Our family is still building up our tolerance to the hiking scene…we have reached the point where the kids can walk the entire hike, but we still like to choose quite easy ones. 

Since our youngest little one is only 5 years old, we wanted to do a few different hikes here in Tucson before our trip North, which we know will be a challenge for them… and us on some of the hikes! 

 

  • Saguaro East – Mica View Trail (Abbreviated)
    • For this hike, take the unpaved Mica view access road on your left as you’re driving through the National Park. At the end of the access road is a small parking area and picnic area where the trail intersects.  The ENTIRE Loop is 3.7 Miles… BUT… if you just walk from the parking lot to Broadway Street and back, it’s less than 1 mile.  There is also a restroom at the parking lot. 
    • Pros: Paved, Flat, Short… and a lot of cacti to view.  The abbreviated portion of the hike is paved, it would be perfect for strollers! A bathroom!
    • Cons: The access road is narrow, in some areas not possible for two way traffic.
    • Overall: We’ve walked this path several times.  Super easy, not too crowded. 

 

  • Saguaro East – Freeman Homestead Trail
    • To access this trail you need to turn left when the NP road (one way) finally comes to a Y-intersection towards the Picnic area. Small parking area but this is a great unpaved beginners hike. 
    • Pros: VERY Informative from a Nature/homeschool perspective.  There are signs all along the path that are educational about the cacti, bushes and trees.  There is also the corner foundations of a very old homestead to view, which is cool to imagine how someone previously lived in this amazing spot, now inside a National Park. 
    • Cons: Although informative, they could do a SLIGHTLY better job for directional signs. At the bottom you reach the river bed and we wondered how many people turn around there instead of continuing on through the riverbed.
    • Overall: Our kids have probably learned the MOST about the plants in the National Park while on this hike.  And at 1.1 Miles, not very challenging nor long. 

 

  • Saguaro West – Valley View Overlook Trail
    • For this hike you need to travel to the Saguaro West National Park. Yes, Saguaro is broken up into two side, East and West and Tucson lies right in the middle of them.  Saguaro West had, in our observation only, larger Saguaros and more Ocotillos… which are our son Hayden’s favorite.  To get to this hike, you need to turn on to Hohokam road, which becomes a 1-way for part of it and drive on this unpaved road to the parking area for the Valley View Overlook.  This hike only has a few informational signs along the way, and has a gradual decline and then incline to the top of the lookout point, but several stairs to make your way up. 
    • Pros: The View from the top is spectacular.  For the payoff of the view, the hike itself is not very long, less than 1 mile.  There are two park benches at the top where you can sit and look at the view.
    • Cons: VERY little parking.  But go early and you won’t have a problem.  Has steps so the kids have to pain attention a bit!
    • Overall: Loved this view. 

 

  • Catalina State Park – Catalina Nature Trail
    • We actually wished we had gone to this trail earlier in our stay because we definitely would have returned more than once. As you enter in to Catalina State Park you follow the road straight until it leads to the large parking lot and turnaround point.  The Nature Trail starts just at the tip of the turnaround loop.  If you have really little ones, there is only one section, about 40 yards or so, that is a steeper grade hike on the way up and then reverse obviously as you leave.  May just want to hold their hands on this part, but other than that… the views here… spectacular. 
    • Pros: This trail really taught about the animals.  Signs throughout the trail not only described the various animals that live in the area, but also had cement pads that showed the animal tracks!  Our kids were constantly on the lookout after each sign!  The views of the mountains and surrounding area are just awesome here, and at just over a mile, not terribly difficult for the kids.  There are several park benches along the trail that you can sit at to rest if needed.
    • Cons: None!  Well, I guess only that we didn’t come here more than once. 
    • Overall: I would put this hike as the first one to suggest to others in the area with little kids.  We loved it. 

 

  • Tumamoc Hill
    • Last but not least, maybe the #2 most popular hike in the Tucson area behind A-Mountain? Just a guess.  This hike is fully paved, very nice, moderate for adults and probably considered difficult for children.  But ours did it and loved it.  The elevation gain is almost 740 feet and the entire hike was only 3.1 miles … since half of that was uphill and our kids took many water breaks, it took us about 90 minutes start to finish.  This hike has an observatory area at the top and several signs that give history of the area.
    • Pros: Again, such an incredible view from the top and what seems to be about a 300 degree panoramic. 
    • Cons: This hike is very busy, very popular and can be congested, plus, we parked on the street which obviously a lot of people do, but then we had to walk by the side of the road and through broken bottles and trash to actually get to the trail. 
    • Overall: We will definitely do this hike again… maybe stretch out muscles a little better before that hike too!  We rewarded ourselves with amazing donuts from the Donut Bar in downtown Tucson, who was also serving a great Sour beer from 1912 Brewing… but after that hike we deserved them both!