10 Best Parks in Tucson: Exploring the City's Wide Open Spaces

Tucson is a nature-lover's paradise. Forests of saguaro cactus, amazing sky islands and rugged mountains in all directions are just some of the city's natural features. Tucson's parks are the best place to explore the city's scenic wonders.

Saguaro National Park, which is divided into two sectors that surround the city on the east and west, preserves thousands of saguaro cacti, icons of the southwest.

In northwest Tucson, Catalina State Park is another scenic park that showcases the unique beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Hiking, star-gazing and horseback riding are popular activities year-round. And in the spring, the hillsides come alive with wildflowers.

For amazing views of Tucson at night, make the climb up Sentinel Peak Park. The park, located on Tucson's west side, is the historic site of an ancient Pima village. Hikers who make the climb will be rewarded with panoramic cityscapes of the Tucson valley below. Midtown Tucson is home to one of the city's best urban parks.

Reid Park is a haven for joggers, walkers, bicyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts. The park is also home to an award-winning zoo featuring exotic species and some unusual guests. Who would have thought polar bears lived in the desert?

Finally, if you want to experience the more rugged side of Tucson, head to Colossal Cave Mountain Park on the city's east side. You'll be able to explore a desert cave and get stunning views of sky islands.

Located on the edges of downtown Tucson, Catalina Park is sometimes referred to as 4th Avenue Park among the locals. The playground recently received a total overhaul. There's a new splashpad for the kids, as well as an upgraded shade structure...  Read More

This park in northwest Tucson is a water-lovers paradise. The park boasts large shade trees, group ramadas, a dog park, playground, model airplane area, and Silverbell Lake, a manmade desert lake. The lake is stocked with catfish, trout, bass,...  Read More

Located in northeast Tucson, Fort Lowell Park is located in the same complex as the Fort Lowell Museum, the former site of a United States Army post. The old fort played a major role in the Apache Wars of the late 19th century. After laying in...  Read More

Tohono Chul Park is an award-winning botanical garden in northwest Tucson. The park has been open for more than 25 years, bringing together nature, art and culture in unique and insightful exhibits. The park's gardens were designed to attract...  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

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

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

The Reid Park Zoo has been a midtown Tucson institution since it was founded in 1967. The city-owned park and non-profit zoo stretches out across 17-acres in the heart of the city and is home to more than 500 animals. You'll see ostriches,...  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

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