10 Best Outdoor Activities in Tucson: Get Out and Explore the City

Tucson is the ideal destination for the outdoor enthusiast in all of us.

Case in point: Sentinel Peak Park, also known by locals as "A" Mountain. This local landmark is well-known for its painted 'A' (in honor of the University of Arizona), but brave the steep hike to the summit and you'll be rewarded with a whole other view. Sweeping panoramas of the desert metropolis make this a worthy excursion for visitors.

Need to escape the city heat? Make the drive up to Mount Lemmon in north Tucson. The drive only takes about an hour, but thanks to the mountain's altitude (about 9,000 feet), the weather is much cooler. In the winter, a small ski resort opens for season. And in the summer, Mount Lemmon proves a gracious escape from the scorching summer temps in the desert valley below. The views are awesome, and the small mountain town of Summerhaven offers shopping and dining.

Back in town, one of the most scenic hikes in town is at Sabino Canyon, a popular spot for walking, biking, hiking, horseback riding and picnicking. The recreation area is crisscrossed by the Coronado National Forest, so there's plenty of trails to explore. The canyon is accessible to visitors of all abilities, and there's even a shuttle bus that travels roughly three miles into the head of the canyon to drop off and pick up visitors.

If you want to stay in town, check out Santa Cruz River Park, which gives you access to miles of walking, hiking and bike trails. 


Catalina State Park is located northeast of Tucson at the base of the scenic Santa Catalina Mountains. The park features more than 5,500 acres of foothills and canyons. This is a popular spot for hiking, birding and biking. There are more than...  Read More

Within its boundaries, this 20,000 acre park has miles of hiking trails and numerous incredible desert vistas. If that sounds appealing, a hike up to Gates Pass will reward you with a charming stone gazebo from which to take in a stellar sunset...  Read More

Although discovered by two amateur cavers in 1974, the existence of Kartchner Caverns was not commonly known until 1988 when the state purchased the caves and surrounding land for use as a public park. Guided tours last about 1 and a half hours,...  Read More

Winding along the dry Santa Cruz River, this park is a fun place to forget the woes of the day. The park features a very popular disc golf course (the oldest in town, incidentally), as well as the Garden of Gethsemane, a peaceful little corner...  Read More

Held in Tucson every fall, El Tour de Tucson is one of the city's biggest annual events. The bike ride is a charity event presented by Casino del Sol that attracts around 9,000 bicyclists of all ages and skill levels from around the country. The...  Read More

Saguaro National Park is the only place in the world that protects the saguaro cactus, a symbol of Arizona that grows only in the Sonoran Desert. You can see the well-known plant as well as other types of desert life that have shown resilience...  Read More

Colossal Cave Mountain Park

This dry cave in the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson offers tours that cover the extensive and colorful history of the cave. This tour is particularly popular during the hot summer months, when the cave maintains its cool temperature of 70...  Read More

Located about an hour from town, Mt. Lemmon's ski lift runs year round you can use it to reach the top for skiing in the winter or hiking in the summer. And thanks to the mountain's altitude (about 9000 feet), the climate is substantially...  Read More

Sentinel Peak, also known as "A" Mountain, is local landmark, as well as a city park. Fan of the University of Arizona maintain the decades-long tradition of painting a giant "A" on the side of the mountain in honor of their alma mater. Sentinel...  Read More

Sabino Canyon
Photo courtesy of Larry Reynolds

Situated on the northeast edge of town in the Catalina Mountains, Sabino Canyon is a popular year-round spot for walking and picnicking because it doesn't require a hike into the mountains. That's because a shuttle bus travels the 3.8 miles to...  Read More


Meet Patricia Escarcega

Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.

She received her MFA in Creative...  More About Patricia