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Inside: Where to see Arizona wildflowers in the spring-we show you 24 spots to drive, walk or hike throughout the state to see these colorful beauties!

“You belong among the wildflowers, you belong in a boat out at sea. You belong with your love on your arm, you belong somewhere you feel free.” — Tom Petty

Springtime in the Arizona desert means wildflowers–lots and lots of wildflowers. Roadsides streaked with purple scorpionweed, vivid orange globemallow peeking out from rocky soil, mango-bright poppies snuggling with prickly cactus. I actually have a photo of that last one! (see below)

Heck, even the creosote bushes are covered with tiny yellow blooms!

Doesn’t that conjure up a pretty picture? Sort of like the opening scene of “The Sound of Music,” but with an Arizona vibe. 😉

If you’re like me, and love seeing Arizona wildflowers, I’ve put together a list of 24 great places to find them. I’ve included roadways, walks and hikes. So no matter how much time (or energy) you’ve got, there should be something that’s sure to please.

Because don’t we all belong among the wildflowers?

Even a boring stretch of Interstate looks pretty when the Arizona wildflowers bloom!

Wildflowers in Central Arizona

1-4: Wildflower Drives in Central Arizona

1-US Highway 60 east of Phoenix: Head east out of the Mesa/Gilbert area on Hwy 60 towards the Arizona small town of Globe. Soon the flat valley floor will give way to rolling foothills of the Pinal Mountains. Along the way you’ll see Arizona wildflowers in most of the hilly spots. Spend some time exploring the cute shops and eateries in Globe and nearby Miami. This makes a nice day trip or weekend getaway from Phoenix.

2-AZ Highway 79 north of Florence: Florence is small town that’s a pleasant day trip from Phoenix. While this is true anytime of the year, it’s especially nice in spring, when the drive down AZ Hwy 79 puts on a colorful show featuring globemallow and poppies.

There are sporadic pullouts for taking photos, and a small parking lot for hikers (or flower peepers 🌼 👀) at Cottonwood Canyon Road.

3-Interstate 17 northbound from Phoenix: Okay, admittedly this one’s a bit of a stretch. It’s not exactly a destination for a “meandering” Sunday drive.

However, as you climb out of the Valley of the Sun there are some gorgeous saguaro-studded hills, which will typically have wildflowers nearby. Keep an eye out for tinges of purple, yellow and orange. It’ll make that drive up to Prescott or Flagstaff a little more fun.

field of california poppies in arizona

4-AZ Highway 87 (Beeline Highway) near Saguaro Lake: This road that heads northeast out of Phoenix toward Payson sports some stunning scenery any time of year, as the desert floor gradually gives way to saguaro-studded hills and eventually the trees of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

The area near Saguaro Lake sports a Sonoran Desert landscape that yields up plenty of Arizona wildflowers in the spring.

5-State Route 88 (Apache Trail) between Apache Junction & Tortilla Flat: This roughly 17-mile stretch of road winds into the base of the Superstition Mountains past Canyon Lake, with plenty of petal-peeping and viewpoints along the way.

Grab one of the famous burgers at Tortilla Flat Saloon to make it the perfect spring outing.

NOTE: If you’re itching for a bit more adventure, continue on another 23 miles to Theodore Roosevelt Lake. But, caution: the remaining distance is unpaved a few miles beyond Tortilla Flat, and pretty twisty. Consider your vehicle–and your appetite for adventure–and decide accordingly.

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

7-13: Central Arizona Wildflower Walks and Hikes

closeup of arizona wildflowers. yellow-orange california poppies
Pretty poppies–the color of the Arizona sun!

6-McDowell Sonoran Preserve: There is no shortage of terrific trails to explore in this fantastic (and vast!) park in Scottsdale. Fields of poppies, lupine and more intermingle with saguaro and prickly pear cactus in spring. More details are available at the McDowell Sonoran Preserve website.

Note: Anyone with mobility issues will enjoy the park’s Bajada Nature Trail, which is fully accessible.

7-Woods Canyon Lake: This is a great petal-peeping spot if you’re a bit of a procrastinator. (And who hasn’t been there at one time or another? 🤷‍♀️)

Because of its high altitude (7000′) along the Mongollon Rim, Arizona wildflowers bloom a bit later amid the Ponderosa Pines at Woods Canyon Lake. From late May (still spring!) through early October (definitely NOT spring!) you’ll see lupine and other floral delights along the 3.7-mile trail that circles the lake.

8-Desert Botanical Garden: If you’re looking for a “primer” on Arizona Wildflowers, the Desert Botanical Garden, just east of Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, is a good place to start.

Amid many other displays, the Harriet K. Maxwell Desert Wildflower Loop Trail, will show you what’s out in the, well, wild. The many helpful placards will give you a leg up on identifying those yellow and purple wonders you encounter on hikes and drives elsewhere.

Closeup of bright orange desert globemallow flower in arizona
Desert globemallow can be found along roadsides and flowering among the cacti

9. Lake Pleasant: This park straddles the Maricopa and Yavapai county line in northwest Phoenix with several nice hiking trails both along the lake and the hills surrounding it, which are filled with wildflowers in the spring.

Arizona wildflowers are especially nice along the trails above the lake; the Beardsley and Cottonwood trails are flatter and easier, while the Pipeline Canyon trail is more of a challenge.

10-Usery Mountain Regional Park: This Maricopa County park, just east of Mesa, offers up plenty of Sonoran Desert landscape just at the edge of Tonto National Forest. Springtime yields up acres of poppies, desert margold and more along the desert floor, while freshly-green ocatillo sport flame-red tips above.

ocatillo blooming at usery mountain park in arizona

11-Lost Dutchman State Park: Hike along the base of the fabulous rock formations at Lost Dutchman, where you’ll see acres of bright yellow brittlebush carpeting the spring hillsides.

NOTE: Lost Dutchman is along the Apache Trail on your way to Tortilla Flat (see “drives,” above) and makes a nice combined wildflower hike/drive combo for the day. Just sayin’ 😊.

Even scrubby creosote bushes become Arizona wildflowers in Spring!

12-Tonto National Monument: Get a lot of bang for your buck when visiting Tonto in the spring: in addition to a spectacular Native American cliff dwelling site, you’ll see plenty of beautiful flowers to boot.

Wildflowers at Tonto bloom in March and April, while the cacti put on a show in May and June.

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

Southern Arizona Wildflowers

13-17: Wildflower Drives in Southern Arizona

red arizona wildflowers

13-Interstate 10 near Picacho Peak: Okay, another option that’s not exactly a leisurely outing. But let’s face it folks, that drive on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson is boring! 🥱

Spotting the craggy top of Picacho Peak midway (sort-of) through that drive is one of the few interesting landmarks along the way.

In the spring, Picacho gives us another gift: a sea of yellow-orange poppies draping its base like a giant patchwork quilt. If you don’t have time to stop and smell the roses (I’m speaking metaphorically here), at least allow yourself a few glances for a brief respite from the relentless interstate.

14-State Route 86 west of Tucson: This drive passes directly through the Tohono O’Oldham nation, sports some of the most beautiful Sonoran Desert landscape out there–including a stand of the tallest, skinniest saguaros I’ve ever seen! 🌵

It is also almost 100 miles of non-stop wildflowers, including globemallow, scorpionweed and desert marigold. It’s an orange-purple-yellow extravaganza 🧡💜💛. And it makes the drive to Ajo or Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (or Rocky Point, Mexico) that much more enjoyable.

15-Mount Lemmon Highway: Mount Lemmon is famous for providing a diverse range of ecosystems as you climb 20–ish miles to its 9,000-foot peak. But you needn’t go that far to spot the Arizona wildflowers.

Pull into the Babad Do’ag scenic overlook about 2.7 miles up the mountain. There will be saguaros above and below you, with plenty of wildflowers sprinkled in among them.

NOTE: the more intrepid can hike the adjacent Babad Do’ag trail, although it gets steep fairly quickly.

16-Gates Pass: This road winds west from Tucson to carry you to the far side of the Tucson Mountains and to Saguaro National Park-West. Along the way you pass through some magnificent Sonoran Desert landscape, which in the spring pops with the color of wildflowers.

Stop at the Gates Pass Scenic Lookout, or spend more time hiking one of the trails in Tucson Mountain Park (see below).

organ pipe cactus with brittlebush at the base
Organ Pipe cactus and brittlebush living in harmony on the Ajo Mountain Loop drive

17-Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: You have two ways of seeing wildflowers while driving through Organ Pipe: fast or slow.

AZ State Highway 85 offers the “fast” option. This route slices through the park’s center, carrying travelers en route to the Mexican resort town of Rocky Point. The drive is straight, with some lovely views of purple and yellow wildflowers, along with plenty of cactus (although not really many Organ Pipes).

However, we recommend taking the slow option, the 21-mile Ajo Mountain loop, which takes you deeper into the Organ Pipe’s unique landscape. Multiple stopping points allow you to get up-close and personal with the eponymous cacti, as well as the poppies, brittlebush and more that burst forth in springtime.

18-23: Southern Arizona Wildflower Walks and Hikes

man standing in front of Organ pipe cactus and wildflowers

18-Saguaro National Park-East: The eastern portion of Saguaro National Park gets snowmelt from its location at the base of the Rincon Mountains, providing ample water for all those wildflowers to sprout up in between the cacti.

Check out some of our Favorite Tucson Hikes for more info, including an accessible nature trail suitable for everyone.

19-Saguaro National Park-West: After you’ve driven through the spectacular Gates Pass (see drives, above), continue on to the western section of this National Park.

arizona wildflowers-penstemon
Penstemon-a hummingbird favorite

Check with park rangers at the Visitor Center for the best trails for wildflower spotting during your visit. A perennial fave is the King Canyon Wash Trail, with the winter rains providing plenty of water for the wildflowers. (Rangers will alert you to any potential flooding dangers).

20-Picacho State Park: Although you can see the blanket of California poppies from I-10 (see “Drives” above), it’s worth it to just get off the darned Interstate already and see them up close.

closeup of arizona wildflowers. yellow-orange california poppies

To see the flowers up-close there’s no need to climb the steep trail to the peak. The easy 0.5-mile Calloway Trail will take you to lovely overlook. Memories of this beautiful hike will be enough to sustain you through a year’s worth of dull drives up and down I-10. (Did I say that out loud? 🤭)

Have a wildflower viewing suggestion (or photos)?: Click the “contact us” button & let us know–we’ll add it to the list!

21-Catalina State Park: There are plenty of opportunities for wildflower spotting in this large park north of Tucson on hikes suited to all abilities.

The 1.0-mile Birding Trail is a great place to start, since flowers attract birds . . . and you might see some hummingbirds too!

22-Tohono Chul Gardens: There is a wide range of different themed gardens at this Tohono Chul, including some where wildflowers native to the region have been planted especially to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

For a sense of a more natural setting for Arizona wildflowers, take a stroll through the South Loop and Saguaro Discovery trails. These Tucson Gardens provide a more native Sonoran Desert habitat. Ideally, you’ll see some wildflowers growing alongside their famous crested saguaro (that’s the one that looks like it’s sporting a pompadour on top)!

Crested saguaro cactus in desert landscape
No wildflowers in this shot, but I really get a kick out of this crested saguaro at Tohono Chul

23-Tucson Mountain Park: Trails abound in vast Tucson Mountain Park for wildflower viewing. It’s location immediately south of Saguaro National Park-West means you’ll see virtually identical plant life–including wildflowers.

Access points on both the east and west side of the park-the Brown Mountain Trail offers some great views without too much climbing, as well as seeing wildflowers close-up.

(NOTE: for a nice drive through this park, see “Gates Pass Drive,” above.)

Poppies and cholla hugging it out–cute!

24-Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area: The year-round stream flowing through Sabino Canyon provides a pretty good insurance policy for seeing wildflowers in the spring.

This is especially true along the main canyon drive that parallels the stream: it’s paved, and therefore fully accessible to anyone with mobility issues.

For a more birds-eye view, consider the Phoneline Trail, which parallels the stream along the mountainside before looping back to stream level.

As you can see, there is no shortage of places to view the beautiful wildflowers of Arizona! Where will you go to see them?

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There’s something soooo relaxing about being at a lake. Especially one surrounded by high desert.

Enjoy the waters and the wilderness at Patagonia Lake AZ, where you can hike, fish, camp, swim and go boating at this state park in the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona. Here are our favorite things to do at Patagonia Lake State Park.

In addition to a 256-acre lake, the park encompasses more than 2,600 acres, making it a fabulous spot for wildlife and hiking trails. The park is surrounded by the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area, offering an additional 7,000+ acres of wilderness. All told, a stay at Patagonia Lake provides access to nearly 10,000 acres of high desert wilderness.

History of Patagonia Lake AZ

Patagonia Lake AZ is a man-made lake that was formed by damming up the Sonoita creek, south of the town of Patagonia. The Sonoita Creek is one of the few year-round creeks in the state of Arizona, making it a popular spot for wildlife. Iate 1960s a group of local citizens formed the Lake Patagonia Recreation Association, Inc. (LPRA) with the intent of creating a lake and recreation area. In 1968 a dam was built on the Sonoita creek west of the Circle Z Guest Ranch, creating 256-acre Patagonia Lake.

sailboat and motor boat on patagonia lake az, with tree in front
Soothing Patagonia Lake amid the desert landscape (Getty Images via Canva)

Over the next several years the state authorities worked to acquire land surrounding the lake, which at the time was owned by oil company Conoco. Eventually the State of Arizona also secured title to Patagonia Lake itself and established Patagonia Lake State Park in 1975.  Roughly 5,000 acres of wilderness was acquired by the state just east of the lake and opened as the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area (SCSNA) in 2000. Additional acquisitions of nearby land increased the protected area, eventually connecting it to Patagonia Lake State Park. All told, between the two facilities, there are nearly 10,000 acres to explore.

Patagonia Lake State Park

Today Patagonia Lake State Park offers a campground, beach for swimming, a creek trail and picnic areas. For boaters there’s a marina and boat ramps. Patagonia Lake AZ is tucked away in the hills, about 2 miles off highway 82, providing a quiet escape. Because of its remote location, coupled with year-round water, it’s one of the few places in Arizona where you’ll find of whitetail deer roaming the hills and great blue herons walking the shoreline.

Things to do at Patagonia Lake AZ

The combination of Patagonia Lake State Park and the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area provides a combination of potential activities to satisfy many interests. Water lovers can enjoy boating and fishing (and swimming in the warmer months), while the adjacent wilderness offers plenty of opportunity for hiking, wildlife spotting and backcountry camping.

Things you can do when visiting Patagonia Lake AZ:

  1. Swimming
  2. Hiking
  3. Horseback Riding
  4. Birdwatching
  5. Wildlife Viewing
  6. Picnicking
  7. Kayaking
  8. Canoeing
  9. Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP)
  10. Motor Boating
  11. Boat Rental
  12. Water Skiing
  13. Fishing
  14. Cabin Camping
  15. Tent Camping

1: Can you swim in Patagonia Lake AZ?

Families playing on the beach and in the water at Patgonia Lake AZ
Boulder Beach swimming area at Patagonia Lake AZ (photo courtesy AZ State Parks)

Patagonia Lake allows swimming in designated areas that are in the no-wake zone of the lake, away from boat launches. The lake is considered to be “wild water” and swimmers swim at their own risk. Boulder Beach (near the campground) has a roped-off swim area, which is great for families. NOTE: Be advised that swimming at Patagonia Lake AZ is at your own risk. There are no lifeguards on duty, so be sure to use life vests with kids and novice swimmers.

child swimming in lake wearing a life vest
No lifeguards at Patagonia Lake-be sure kids have life vests! (photo by Getty Images via Canva)

2: Hiking at Patagonia Lake and Sonoita Creek Natural Area

Hikers can use Patagonia Lake State Park as a basis for hiking through the nearly 10,000 acres of the combined state park and Sonoita Creek Natural Area. Near the lake there is a 1/2-mile hiking trail that leads to Sonoita Creek. This is a popular birding area.

Pedestrian bridge over lake inlet at Patagonia Lake State Park
A pedestrian bridge over one section of the lake offers a great viewpoint to watch the boats (Getty Images via Canva)

Those looking for a bit more of a challenge will find longer and more rugged trails in the  Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. There are 20 miles of trails (some shared with equestrians). Most of the trails are more remote and the shortest round trip hike to the creek is three miles on the Sonoita Creek Trail, with a minimum elevation change of 300′.

For a short hike with a terrific view, check out the “Overlook Trail.” This moderate difficulty 1.5-mile trail is adjacent to Patagonia Lake State Park and offers a 360-degree view of the surrounding scenery. Spectacular!

PRO TIP: Hike the “Overlook Trail” at Patagonia Lake AZ for a 360-degree view of spectacular scenery. This 1.5 mile trail is moderately difficult and not far from the visitor center.

3: Patagonia Lake Az Horseback Riding

For those who have their own horses, the area around Patagonia Lake offers some excellent riding opportunities. (NOTE: there are no horses for rent at the park.) The majority of equestrian trails are in the Sonoita Creek Natural Area, although you park and unload the horses near the Visitor Center at Patagonia Lake State Park. Follow the Horse Corral Trail, which heads west into the Natural Area. Shortly you’ll reach the Sonoita Creek, and the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad trail, which follows the creek westward for about 5 miles.

creek winding through treed area with late spring green colors. horse hoofprints on beach in foreground
The trail along Sonoita Creek makes an ideal equestrian trail near Patagonia Lake, AZ (photo Getty Images via Canva)

The year-round Sonoita Creek is edged by trees, making this a lovely shaded ride during summer. The trail also offers opportunities for creek crossings at three points (provided the water level isn’t too high), which is a refreshing transit for the horses. (NOTE: be sure to check at the Visitor Center before setting out for any high water warnings.)

4 & 5: Birdwatching and Wildlife Viewing at Patgonia Lake Az

a pair of coatimundi in trees, with striped tails hanging down
The not-quite-a-raccoon coatimundi (or “coati”)

Thanks to the year-round flowing Sonoita Creek, which feeds Patagonia Lake, there is an abundance of native Southern Arizona wildlife in the park. The park’s trails all pass through a variety of prime habitats for a large variety of reptiles, birds and mammals. Observant hikers might spot javelina, coues whitetail deer, coatimundi (also known as coati), bobcats and coyote.

In addition to seeing wildlife out on the trails, there is a designated wildlife viewing area perched on a small hill at the eastern end of the lake. This is a popular spot for birders: in 2007 the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area partnered with the Arizona Audubon Society to have the area named an Important Bird Area. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the elusive Elegant Trogon, with its signature red chest and white banding.

Remember, this is NOT a petting zoo, all animals here are wild. Give them plenty of space so they don’t feel threatened, and don’t try to feed them. Treat any wildlife viewing as nature’s gift: a window on a unique habitat.

Below is video supplied by Arizona State Parks of some javelina that you might encounter at Patagonia Lake AZ:

7-12: Patagonia Lake Boat Rental & Watersports

Patagonia Lake AZ is divided into two sections to allow for different types on boats and watersports. A marina is located at the midpoint between the two sections. This is where Patagonia Lake boat rental facilities are located.

Paddlers will enjoy the eastern end of Patagonia Lake, which is a “no wake zone” (Getty Images via Canva)

The eastern end of the lake is designated a “no wake zone,” making it ideal for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboards. This end is also where the designated swimming beach is located. Motorized boats can enter this part of the lake, but they must travel at very slow (no wake) speed.)

Waterskiing and motor boating are done on the western portion of Patagonia Lake Az. (Getty Images via Canva)

The western end of the lake has no speed limits, therefore it’s more suited to motor craft and water skiing. Note that all boats must travel in a counter-clockwise direction. Water-skiing is permitted, however timing differs, depending on the time of year. Following is a breakdown of permitted water-skiing days.

  • Winter months (Oct 1 through Apr 30): water skiing allowed on both weekdays and weekends
  • Summer months (May 1 through Sept 30): The lake is more congested at this time of year, so water skiing is allowed on weekdays only. Prohibited on weekends and legal holidays.

NOTE: The following type of motorized water craft are prohibited at all times:

  • Personal water craft (PWCs)
  • Jet-skis
  • Waterbikes
  • Above-water exhaust boats
  • V-8 jet boats

Patagonia Lake Boat Rentals & Ramps

Spending time on the water is a great way to explore the scenery from a totally different viewpoint. Patagonia Lake State Park allows you to bring your own watercraft (be sure to check above for a list of those that are prohibited). Additionally you can also rent boats on a daily basis at Patagonia Lake Marina for paddling, water skiing or fishing. Motorized pontoon boats are available for rent, in addition to “no-wake” craft: canoes, rowboats and paddle. Patagonia Lake Marina will have updated prices: (520) 287-2804.

Those that bring their own boats can access the 2 boat ramps at Patagonia Lake. Boat launching is included in the camping or day-use permit fees paid upon entry to the park. Ramps are made of cement and are suitable for most size boats, provided the water is at normal levels. Boat owners must remember to register their own watercraft with Arizona’s state Game and Fish Department.

PRO TIP: Bringing your own boat to Patagonia Lake? Remember to register your craft with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.

A boat allows you to get into some of Patagonia Lake’s secluded nooks and crannies. Perfect for fishing . . . or just solitude. (Getty Images via Canva)

13: Patagonia Lake Fishing

Fishing is a popular pastime year-round at Patagonia Lake State Park. Anglers can find largemouth bass, catfish (both channel and flathead varieties), sunfish and crappie. Additionally, From November through March the lake is stocked with rainbow trout. There are plenty of opportunities for success when fishing at Patagonia Lake, whether by boat or from the shoreline.

Because of its unique location in a high mountain valley, some portions of the lake are over 100 feet deep (imagine canyons underwater). These depths provide ideal dwelling opportunities for flathead catfish, and over the years the lake has yielded up some whoppers: the current record is a mind-bending 56.2 pounds! (That’s a LOTTA catfish!)

Check out this link for tips on bait-setting techniques for each type of fish. And remember to purchase a fishing license from AZ Fish & Game for any angler 10 years or older.

14 & 15: Camping at Patagonia Lake Arizona

Patagonia Lake State Park offers a variety of camping options. There are cabins, as well as campsites for tents and RVs, all available on a nightly rental basis. There are even boat-in options for those who bring their own boats (or choose to to rent them). Services available depend on the type of site you are renting. The busiest months are from May until November. Patagonia Lake AZ is not the spot for a rowdy late-night crowd. Quiet hours (no generators, music, or loud voices) are from 9 p.m. – 8 a.m.

Patagonia Lake Cabins

Camping cabins are available on the eastern end of Patagonia Lake AZ (which is the quieter, “no-wake” section of the lake). In total, there are seven cabins, of either 2 or 3 rooms each. The cabins are slightly elevated above the RV/tent sights, and as such have beautiful views of the lake. All cabins are fully wheelchair friendly and accessible.

Cabins sleep up to six people, with a queen-sized bed and two sets of bunks (byo linens). There is a mini-fridge & microwave, along with a outdoor barbecue and picnic table. Cabins have electricity, overhead lighting/ceiling fan and even heating and air-conditioning! Family-style shower facilities are a short walk away. 

Reservations are easy to make for Patagonia Lake Cabins by using the AZ State Park online system.

Gorgeous evening views from a Patagonia Lake cabin, photos courtesy AZ State Parks

Patagonia Lake Camping: RV & Tent Sites

If you enjoy camping in a tent or RV, Patagonia Lake AZ is a terrific spot for you. The park has 105 developed campsites located in two different sections: East and West. Both sections are located on the “no-wake” section of the lake, however the East section is a bit farther away from all the boating activity, so this might be a better choice for those seeking a quieter location.

Campsites have a picnic table, a fire ring/grill, and parking for two vehicles, along with 20/30 amp and 50 amp voltage. (Some sites also have a ramada). Most campsites can accommodate any size RV. There are also two non-electric campsites, which can accommodate 22ft. campers/trailers.

Patagonia Lake State Park attracts a laid-back crowd. Quiet hours (no generators, music, or loud voices) are from 9 p.m. – 8 a.m. Book a campsite by accessing the State Parks’ Patagonia Lake Reservations site.

Most campsites can accommodate either tents or RVs and are equipped with electrical hookups. (Photos courtesy AZ State Parks)

Patagonia Lake Camping: Boat-in Campsites

Patagonia Lake AZ has 12 boat-in campsites available by reservation. The sites give you your own designated bit of shoreline, away from the land-based campsites. Boat-in campsites are only accessible by boat, strung along the northwestern portion of the lake (in the wake zone). Each campsite has its own fire ring and picnic table. Some sites have portable restrooms. Boats are available for rent from Patagonia Marina and Boat Rental. Access the Patagonia Lake Reservations site to reserve your boat-in campsite.

Your own private shoreline space with one of Patagonia Lake State Park’s boat-in campsites (photos courtesy AZ State Parks)

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With so many mountains surrounding Tucson, it can be a challenge to pick the right hike.

Tucson is a fantastic destination for hiking. The city is ringed by mountains, with the fabulous Sonoran Desert providing endless Tucson hiking opportunities for all physical abilities. It’s one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson. Here we share our favorite Tucson day hikes throughout the area.

Tucson hikes in Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon is a recreation area that is part of Coronado National Forest, just northeast of Tucson. It’s at the base of the Catalina Mountains, with excellent opportunities for exploring the Sonoran Desert landscape. One of the things I really like about Sabino Canyon is that there is something for everyone: there are trails for all fitness levels and accessibilities, making it an ideal destinations for families. There is a visitor center, which has exhibits about the local flora and fauna, along with a gift shop that sells an excellent selection of books and detailed maps of local trails. Restrooms and fresh water are also available.

Information: Sabino Canyon National Recreation Area

Hours: Recreation area always open; Visitor Center open daily, 8:30am to 4:30pm

Admission: $8/vehicle/day; $10/vehicle/week; $40/vehicle/year; National Park Passes accepted

PRO TIP: Sabino Canyon is a popular spot. There is a huge parking area, along with an overflow lot, which can fill up in the fall & spring and during holiday weekends.

pond with saguaro cactus reflected on tucson hikes

1: Sabino Tram Road (Walking Path): Accessible/Flat

This paved wide path begins near the visitor center and follows Sabino Creek for about 3.8 miles up into the canyon, with several bridges traversing the creek along the way. You can hike the entire 7.6-mile out-and-back length, or turn around whenever you’ve had enough. It’s one of the few Tucson hikes with water year-round; and there are plenty of trees that provide greenery in spring/summer and pretty foliage through the fall (and most of the winter). The path is a gradual incline, rising about 700 feet over the entire distance (so gentle that you barely notice you are climbing!). There are restrooms and picnic areas along the route.

As the route name implies, there is also a tram, called the Sabino Canyon Crawler that goes up the path (roughly every hour), with stops along the way. It’s popular to ride to the tram and hike the 3.8-mile path back as it slopes gently downward toward the visitor center. This is a lovely hike in mid-late afternoon; you can often see deer and other wildlife taking a sip in the creek.

Michael with deer at sunset in Sabino Canyon
A late afternoon encounter on the Sabino Tram Road

2: Phoneline Trail: Easy to Moderate

I like trails that offer a loop, so I don’t feel like I’m retracing my steps. The Phoneline Trail is one of the Tucson trails that offers a few different options depending on how much time (and energy) you have. As the name implies, the trail follows the historic phoneline that was once the only means of communication between the Palisade Ranger Station on Mt. Lemmon (which rises about 6,500 feet above you) and the rest of the world.

The trail climbs about 500 feet, hugging the side of the canyon and offering magnificent views of Saguaro cactus, the creek below–and of the city of Tucson in the distance. After about 2 miles, you have option of returning via a trail that descends toward the creek and back toward the visitor center. Or you can continue along the canyon ridge for an additional 3-ish miles, where it meets up with the Tram Road at its end. From there you can stroll the paved path back, or take the tram if you’re feeling particularly tired.

3: Seven Falls (via Bear Canyon Trail): Moderate

This 7.8-mile out-and-back hike along Bear Creek, which is in Bear Canyon, just east of Sabino. As the name implies, there are waterfalls along this trail, which vary throughout the year, depending on the amount of recent rainfall. Unlike the paved Sabino Tram route, this is one of the Tucson hiking trails where you actually cross through the creek as you climb. Along the way you’ll climb about 700 feet, getting stunning views of the saguaros and the Rincon Mountains to the southeast.

NOTE: It’s important to check the hiking conditions at the visitor center before you set out (and be sure to wear shoes that can handle a little water and/or mud!). While this is one of the best Tucson hikes after rain, occasionally flash flooding can make this hike dangerous.

Take a Saguaro National Park Hike

standing amid saguaro cactus on tucson hikes
There are plenty of great Tucson hikes in Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park flanks the city of Tucson with two distinct sections: The Rincon Mountain District to the east of town, and the Tucson Mountain District to the west. Both sections offer an abundance of trails through desert terrain, with plenty of opportunities to view the magnificent cacti up close for hikers of all levels. The eastern section is larger, and has some longer trails that go high into the Rincon mountains, for those looking for more challenging Tucson hikes.

Information: Saguaro National Park

Hours: Vehicles, Saguaro East-5:00 am to 8:00 pm in summer, 5:00 am to 6:00 pm in winter; Saguaro West-sunrise to sunset, year-round. Park is open to hikers and cyclists 24 hours/day.

Admission: All passes are good for 1 week: Vehicle-$25.00; Motorcycle-$20.00; Individual-$15.00. National Park Passes are accepted.

4: Desert Ecology Trail & Mica Trail (Saguaro East): Accessible/Flat

There are two trails in Saguaro East that are great for those looking for flat Tucson hikes; these trails also provide access for those using wheelchairs. The 1/4 mile paved Desert Ecology trail has exhibits about the plants and animals that are found in the Sonoran Desert. Resting benches are spaced along the trail. Separately, a 0.7 mile portion of the Mica View Trail is graded to ADA standards and surfaced with a natural material that supports all types of wheelchairs. Park at Mica View Picnic Area or the Broadway Trail head.

5: Freeman Homestead Trail (Saguaro East): Easy

This 1.1 mile “balloon” trail is a one of our favorite short Tucson hikes for families. The trail is meanders through a wonderfully dense grove of saguaros and past the site of an old homestead foundation, which provides a real sense of discovery. There are interpretive signs and featuring exploration activities for little ones, making this more than just a “walk to see some cactus.” Although fairly flat, the trail has some steps and is rocky in places. Therefore strollers & other wheeled vehicles are not recommended.

back of woman in blue shirt on tucson hiking trail with cholla cactus
Many tucson hiking trails are flat and suitable for families

6: Douglas Spring Trail to Bridal Wreath Falls (Saguaro East): Moderate

This 5.8-mile out-and-back hike to Bridal Wreath Falls is popular with birders. The seasonal falls (most likely after summer monsoons or winter snowmelt) are a hit with the feathered set. Regardless of the time of year, this is one of the Tucson hikes that climbs into the Rincon Mountains and offers good views of the city of Tucson and the Catalina Mountains to the north, along with plenty of saguaros and other cactus. You might also spot a group of riders heading out from the luxury Tanque Verde Guest Ranch.

7: Tanque Verde Ridge Trail (Saguaro East): Moderate to Difficult

This trail up to Tanque Verde Peak is not for the faint of heart. With a 2,000 foot climb over 8 miles, it’s certainly one of the more challenging hikes in greater Tucson. The good news is that this is an out-and-back route, so you can turn around at any point, making the hike as long (or short) as you like.

After a fairly steep 3/4 miles, you are already up on the ridge, so views to the west and south over the Tucson basin are spectacular, and just keep getting better the higher you climb. (Be sure to take in the Boneyard, where more than 4,000 military planes are stored in the desert sun.) A good shorter hike goal is at the 2.5-mile mark, where you’ll see an example of the rare (1 in 10,000!) crested saguaro cactus. If you’re planning to hike the 8.7 miles to Tanque Verde Peak, consider camping at the Juniper Basin Campground, at the 6.9-mile mark.

8: Desert Discovery Trail (Saguaro West): Accessible/Flat

Those seeking flat terrain with interpretive signs will find it on this 1/2 mile paved trail in Saguaro West. The trail features shade ramadas with resting benches scattered along the textured pavement trail. Trail guides in braille may be obtained at the visitor center. This is also a great trail for photo ops: the views of saguaros at sunset are fabulous.

9: King Canyon/Gould Mine Trail (Saguaro National Park West): Easy to Moderate

This is one of the Tucson hikes that offers a little bit of everything: a climb up a dry wash, lots saguaros, scenic views . . . and the remains of an abandoned copper mine. All this in a 2.5-mile loop! Begin the hike scaling the King Canyon Wash bottom, which is sandy with several rocky stair-step ways to climb as you go.

After a mile or so, the trail connects to the Gould Mine trail, which passes by piles colorful copper residue piles, along with the remains of a stone cabin and a few mine shaft entrances. Although this trail is within the national park boundaries, the entrance to trail is accessible from a small parking lot in Tucson Mountain Park, which is free.

PRO TIP: The King Canyon Trail straddles Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park. Saguaro National Park charges a fee, however if you park at the Tucson Mountain Park trailhead, you can access this trail for free.

10: Hugh Norris Trail to Wasson Peak (Saguaro West): Moderate to Difficult

At 4,369 feet, Wasson Peak is the highest peak in the Tucson Mountains west of the city. You’ll climb roughly 2,000 feet over the roughly 4.5 miles to reach the peak on this out-and-back hike. But the views once you reach Wasson Peak are totally worth it: a 360-degree panorama of the entire Tucson basin.

Along the way you’ll see plenty of saguaros (natch!), plus ocotillo, barrel cactus and prickly pear. There’s also the remains of an abandoned mining shack, which is a fun (and shady) diversion. Remember to sign the log book at the top of Wasson Peak . . . if you make it this far, you certainly deserve the credit!

Hiking trails in Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain Park is one of the largest municipally-managed natural resource areas in the U.S. There are more than 60 miles of shared-use trails in the park’s roughly 20,000 acres, so there are an almost endless combination of trails you can take here. The park is located just south of Saguaro National Park’s Western section. As a result the scenery (i.e. Saguaros everywhere!) is very similar. And best of all, the park is FREE.

11: Hidden Canyon Bowen Loop Trail: Easy to Moderate

This 2-mile trail gives visitors a terrific snapshot of Tucson saguaros in a fairly compact loop. The trail begins and ends just behind the Marriott Starr Pass Resort, making it a great option if you’re staying at that hotel. Begin on the more southerly (and flatter) Bowen Trail, then turn off to the Hidden Canyon Trail after about 0.3 miles.

The trail will climb about 300 feet via some switchbacks, and is rocky in spots. But you’ll be rewarded with a quiet canyon full of saguaros, ocotillos, and other cacti. This trail is particularly lovely in spring, when the cactus flowers are in bloom. If you’re looking for a rich Tucson hiking experience that doesn’t take too long, this is highly recommended.

12: Rock Wren/Yetman/Bowen Trail Loop: Easy to Moderate

This is a pleasant 5-mile loop that we created ourselves by using the excellent trail map of Tucson Mountain Park. It involves a little gentle climbing on saguaro-strewn hills, plus a hike through a sandy wash that leads past the stone remains of the Bowen homestead. (Always cool to find ruins while hiking!)

Begin at the Richard Genser Trail Head and eventually exit the park behind the Marriott Starr Pass Resort. From here, the last mile-ish is an easy amble through the Starr Pass neighborhood back to the parking lot. We like to stop at the Marriott for a coffee (on chilly days) or a refreshing cool drink (when the weather is hot), enjoying the view from their patio before heading back to our car. It’s a fun indulgence at the end of an enjoyable hike.

13: Brown Mountain Trail: Moderate

woman in blue shirt hiking in tucson on Brown Mountain
Views for miles as you hike the ridge of Brown Mountain

It’s fun to be able to climb a (not too high) mountain and walk along its ridge as you take in the surrounding views. Brown Mountain offers that in this 4.5 mile loop trail in the western part of the park. All told you climb ascend about 500 feet over the course of about a mile to reach the ridge, then enjoy a few dips and bumps as you skirt along the top. After descending at the opposite end of the ridge, the return portion of the loop is along the valley floor, amid lots of cactus of all varieties. There are also restrooms and picnic tables here.

This is one of the Tucson hikes that passes along a ridge, offering great views of the valley below, including Old Tucson Studios off to the south. It’s easy to imagine you’re in some old Western movie, perched on a lookout point, a “pardner” scouting for cattle rustlers 🤠.

Catalina Foothills Hikes

Catalina State Park sits at the base of the western end of Santa Catalina Mountains and is adjacent to Coronado National Forest. The park includes some great Tucson hiking trails, campgrounds, picnic areas and equestrian trails in 5,500 acres of desert landscape, (which includes almost 5,000 saguaros!).

Information: Catalina State Park

Open: 5am to 10pm Daily; check website for holiday hours.

Admission: $7.00/vehicle; $3.00/individuals, cyclists

14: Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail (Catalina State Park): Easy

Michael standing at stone ruins on romero ruins trail


This is a fun little loop trail (3/4 mile) for those of you who like a little archaeology on your Tucson hikes. In addition to some stone remnants of the Romero homestead, this site also includes remains from a Hohokam village that’s about 1500 years old! (Wow!) There are interpretive signs along the trail explaining the the archaeology and Hohokam culture.

NOTE: Although the trail through the ruins is flat, you must climb about 80 steps to reach it, making it unsuitable for wheeled vehicles.

15: Romero Canyon Trail to Romero Pools & Romero Pass(Catalina State Park): Difficult to Strenuous

Romero Canyon offers Tucson hikes of varying degrees of difficulty, depending on how far you choose to go on this out-and-back trail. The roughly 3 mile hike to the (seasonal) Romero Pools is relatively flat for the first mile, then turns into a steep and rocky climb for the rest of the hike. Views of the canyon are magnificent, and the pools are a refreshing sight.

Those looking for more of a challenge can continue an additional 4 miles to Romero Pass at an elevation of 6,000 feet. In total you’ll scale an elevation gain of 3,300 feet, with a hike that takes about 5 hours one-way. To continue to Romero Pass, follow the trail to your right as it ascends out of the streambed. The trail then slowly climbs up-canyon to the Pass.

16: Linda Vista Trail Loop: Easy

Linda Vista is a family-friendly hike (with free access) on the western slope of the Catalinas. The 3-mile loop has just enough short climbs up and down for kids to feel like they’re on “nature’s playgym,” but never so much that it becomes a slog. Access this trail via a small parking lot behind the Pusch Ridge Christian Academy off of Oracle Road. Although adjacent to a neighborhood of upscale homes, you quickly reach a small valley where you feel you’re in the middle of the saguaro wilderness.

There are some spectacular saguaros here, including one that has over 20 arms! There are also spots with lacy green palo verde trees (the Arizona state tree), providing a dappled shade, which can be welcome on Tucson hikes. The trail is narrow at many spots, so alert young hikers to avoid “sticky” encounters with the cacti on the trail.

Tucson hikes within the city of Tucson

17: Sentinal Peak (“A Mountain”): Easy

man atop Sentinel peak with city of tucson in the distance
Standing alongside the giant “A” with a terrific view of Tucson in the distance

This is one of most popular hikes in Tucson–and it’s free to access. It’s hard to miss the huge “A” that adorns the side of a small mountain southwest of downtown Tucson. Sentinel Peak served as a sentry point to alert Tucson of impending danger during the Civil War. But after a University of Arizona football victory in 1915, students claimed it as their own by constructing a massive basalt “A” (160 feet high x 70 feet wide!) on the mountain’s face and whitewashing it for all to see.

Today there is a paved drive up to the top, with picnic tables and benches on the western side of the mountain. But where’s the fun in that? Instead, park at the trailhead lot partway up, and hike the trail that brings you across the saddle and up to the top. You pass through some lovely saguaro and cholla cactus before reaching the Big A, and are rewarded with a spectacular view of downtown Tucson (and the U of A campus in the distance). Go Wildcats! 😊

18: Rillito River Park Path: Accessible

The Rillito River Park Path is a 10-mile paved path (with free access) that follows along the Rillito River/Wash northeast of Tucson. The Park is part of the 136-mile Chuck Huckleberry Loop that is popular with cyclists. The path is flat and crosses the River periodically via dedicated bridges. There are parks and stopping points along the way, making this a nice option among Tucson hikes if you’d like to take a more leisurely stroll as well.

The Rillito River Path is accessible to everyone, photo courtesy Visit Tucson

The path is popular with cyclists as well as hikers/walkers (and the occasional horse!), so everyone should be mindful of others using the path.

PRO TIP: Take the Rillito Park Path on a Sunday morning and stop in at the Heirloom Farmer’s market. It’s a lively event with dozens of food and craft vendors, as well as some terrific food trucks offering yummy breakfast treats.

Tucson Hiking: Cienega Creek Natural Preserve

19: AZT loop via Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead: Easy

This 2-mile loop, which is (a short) part of the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT) is one of the more unique hikes in Tucson. Pass through serene Davidson Canyon, a riparian habitat in the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve that is free to use. Pass under shady cottonwood trees as you hike along the sand creek bed (dry in all but the summer monsoon months). Cross under an active Union Pacific Railroad bridge before climbing back up to a ridge and the return portion of the trail (which parallels a second railroad bridge). Chances are pretty good that you’ll see at least one freight train passing through during your hike, reminiscent of a scene in a Breaking Bad episode.

SPECIAL NOTE: This trailhead commemorates Gabe Zimmerman , a US congressional aide who was killed in 2011. He loved this portion of the Arizona Trail. Read more about him on the Arizona Trail website.

A poignant sign commemorating Gabe Zimmerman at the trailhead bearing his name

Want more Tucson hiking recommendations?

If you’re looking for more hikes in and around Tucson, we suggest picking up a copy of Five Star Trails: Tucson by Rob Rachowiecki. The author lives in Tucson and provides lots of detail about the area and the many hikes you can take there. As you can see from the photo, our copy is pretty dog-eared because we use it so much. Highly recommended! It’s available on Amazon.

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Inside: We explored the are to provide you with what to do in Page Arizona. Our list of what to see (& why it’s the perfect base for visiting Northern AZ!)

We expected to spend a quick overnight in Page on a visit to Horseshoe Bend. But . . .surprise! It turns out there was more to see . . . a LOT more.

We ended up spending 4 days in Page, and we were so glad we did. Its location makes it an excellent base for exploring this scenic section of northern Arizona.

We’ll share proximity what do to in Page Arizona, as well as the interesting sights nearby.

What is famous about Page Arizona?

The city of Page is the gateway to Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell, which makes it an excellent base for exploring this scenic section of northern Arizona.

The city of Page is not a particularly old community, in fact, it’s one of the youngest communities in the United States. This Arizona small town was established in 1957 when the federal government began construction on Glen Canyon Dam. The dam was built to retain water from the upper Colorado River, producing hydroelectric power for the region. In the process, Lake Powell was created along the border of Arizona and Utah. The dam opened in 1966, and in 1972 the government dedicated the 1.25 million acres surrounding Lake Powell and Glen Canyon as a National Recreation Area.

The Dam and the city of Page sit at the edge of the Navajo Reservation, where there are multiple areas of both cultural and natural interest to explore. Between Glen Canyon Dam, the Navajo sights and the National Recreation Area, we discovered plenty of interesting things to do in Page AZ.

What to do in Page, Az for Free

The good news is there are a lot of great free things to do in Page AZ-Yay! You could spend your entire time here just exploring the scenery, going on hikes and never spend a dime.

We suggest starting your visit by checking out a couple of the areas stunning viewpoints to get your bearings. Then you can focus in on areas that interest you most (and where you might want to splurge for a tour or outing).

1: Get your bearings with the Glen Canyon Conservancy 3-D Model

To learn what to do in Page Arizona, vier this Overhead view of relief map of Powell Country with annotations marking Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, Town of Page Az, Antelope Canyon
This 3-D relief model helps to put all the things to do in Page Az into perspective

Glen Canyon Conservancy (GCC) is the non-profit organization that works in conjunction with the National Park Service and other municipal organizations in the area to ensure the best visitor experience at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell. They oversee interpretive centers throughout what they call “Powell Country.” Their administrative headquarters and “flagship store” are located in the town of Page. It’s a great place to begin your exploration of all that Page and its environs has to offer.

There are a few basic displays about the history of the area, along with some informational brochures. But the real reason to visit is the 3-dimensional terrain model of Powell Country that’s huge: roughly the size of a small motor home! The model gives you a bird’s-eye-view of the region, and helpful assistants point out sights of interest using a laser pointer.

The shop sells a nice selection of history books and specialty guidebooks about the area, as well as maps, simple hiking gear and a few souvenirs. A visit to Glen Canyon Conservancy will help you decide which things to do in Page AZ will interest you the most.

2: Horseshoe Bend Overlook, the “MUST DO” in Page

view of horseshoe bend, red rocks with colorado river snaking through page arizona
Horseshoe Bend: tops on the list of what to do in Page Arizona

For many people a visit to Horseshoe Bend is their first priority of things to do in Page AZ. This view of a U-shaped bend in the Colorado River is certainly an Instagram darling. Although it’s technically free to visit (it’s within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area), it’s difficult to access without a long hike.

The easiest way to see it is to use the Horseshoe Bend parking lot, built by the city of Page. For $10 you can park your car and walk a well-paved (and accessible) 1/2-mile trail to the Horseshoe Bend overlook. There are railings and plenty of good viewing spots (there are also plenty of people).

*Please avoid the temptation to climb out on the edge of the rocks for that “perfect Insta shot”– it’s a 1,000-foot drop and the red sandstone on the cliffs is very crumbly! 😱

3: Glen Canyon Dam Overlook: Stunning views and totally free!

For those looking for a similar, but less crowded, view high above the Colorado River in Glen Canyon, we recommend the Glen Canyon Dam Overlook, a quiet spot just west of town. It’s free to visit, with a fun short hike over irregular sandstone to reach the viewing point (there are railings!).

You also get 2-for-1 views: looking south you’ll see a view of the much like Horseshoe Bend (but without the curve); looking north you get a fantastic view of Glen Canyon Dam, superimposed by the Glen Canyon Dam Bridge. This is one of the lesser-known things to do in Page AZ, but it’s well worth the trip.

4: Hike to the Hanging Gardens Arizona

Larissa standing at the hanging gardens, one of the cool things to do in page az
Hiking to the hanging gardens is one of the cool (literally!) things to do in Page AZ

The rocky terrain around Page, Glen Canyon and Lake Powell is pretty stunning, but there’s not a lot of natural greenery. For a refreshing change, take a short hike on the Hanging Garden Trail to the amazing Hanging Gardens Arizona.

An unusual configuration in the otherwise unrelenting red rocks allows water to collect, giving ferns and wild orchids just enough moisture and shade to flourish. After the sun and heat of all those red rocks, its almost thirst-quenching to view. (And the temperature is literally cooler there too!) It’s truly one of the unique things to do in Page, Arizona. And it’s totally free!

5 & 6: Tour Glen Canyon Dam & Bridge

When considering things to do in Page AZ, it makes sense to visit the site that caused the creation of the town in the first place: Glen Canyon Dam. At The 710 feet high this massive concrete structure is just a teensy bit smaller (16 feet) than Hoover Dam. The damming of the Colorado River, which created Lake Powell, generates hydroelectric power for much of northern Arizona.

Because there were no rail lines to this remote canyon, Glen Canyon Bridge was built just south of the future dam site to facilitate transport of construction materials. When completed in 1959, it was the highest arch bridge in the world, rising 700 feet above the Colorado River.

Visitors are welcome to take free guided tours of the dam and the power plant. Sign up at the Carl Hayden Visitor Center, where there are exhibits about the Dam’s construction along with a panoramic interior viewing platform of both the dam and the bridge. Outside, there are multiple viewpoints of the bridge, and an excellent view of the dam from a walkway on the Glen Canyon Bridge itself.

NOTE: Tours of the Glen Canyon Dam are closed until further notice, however you can learn (and see) a lot by exploring the Carl Hayden Visitor Center and the multiple outdoor viewpoints that are accessible.

Open Thursday thru Monday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. year-round (closed Tuesday & Wednesday). The visitor center is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day and Independence Day (July 4). Tour hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are limited to 20 persons each tour.

7: John Wesley Powell Museum

man standing in front of the Powell Museum, one of the things to do in Page AZ

When exploring things to do in and around Page AZ, don’t forget to check out what’s in the town itself. The Powell Museum celebrates the life and achievements of Major John Wesley Powell, who is credited with leading the first group of white men through the Grand Canyon in 1869.

The museum is housed in a building was originally built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as a concrete testing lab for the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Today, the collections, archives, and exhibits illustrate the history of Powells expeditions, as well as providing information about visiting Page and the surrounding Colorado Plateau.

Note: The Powell Museum is currently closed for renovations (as of 1/1/23). Check the website listed above prior to visiting

8-10: View Lake Powell from Several Scenic Overlooks

view of lake powell, one of the things to do in page az
The view of Lake Powell from Navajo Viewpoint

There are endless vistas on this high Colorado Plateau and one of the fun things to do in Page Az is to see them is from a series of overlooks near the Lake Powell Marina. Each provides terrific photo ops.

Each of these viewing spots are accessible from US Highway 89, just a few miles north of Glen Canyon Dam.

  • 8: Wahweap Overlook is free to access and offers a 360-degree panorama of the whole region.
  • 9: Wahweap Viewpoint (not to be confused with the “overlook” of the same name) provides a terrific view eastward over lake powell and the many buttes in the distance
  • 10: Navajo Mountain Viewpoint, as the name implies, also faces east toward Navajo Mountain in the distance, with awesome Tower Butte in the distance.
  • NOTE: These latter Viewpoints are within the fee area of the Lake Powell Marina and Campground.)

What to do in Page Arizona: Tours and Paid Activities

11: Tour Antelope Canyon

Photogenic and awesomely cool Antelope Canyon

Those photos of swirly red rocks in narrow slot canyons? Yep-that’s Antelope Canyon. Thanks to Instagram, it’s the most visited-and photographed-slot canyon in the American Southwest. The canyon was formed over 100 million years ago as water eroded the layers of red sandstone.

The canyon is divided into two sections: the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons. Each have their own unique beauty. Upper Canyon is like following a dried up stream as it snakes through a tunnel of rocks. Lower Canyon has more spiral, corkscrew-y configurations.

Because it is located on Navajo Tribal Lands, taking a tour is mandatory to view either of the canyons. The number of visitors is limited, so it’s best to book a tour ahead of time through one of the approved operators listed on the Navajo Tribal Parks website. It’s one of the top Page AZ things to do.

PRO TIP: Space is limited on Antelope Canyon tours, so be sure to book ahead

12: Float down the Colorado River

Here’s a unique way to see Horseshoe Bend: looking UP from the river! Sign up for a tour that takes you down from just below Glen Canyon Dam, 15 miles downstream to Lees Ferry. There are kayaking tours, or multi-person raft excursions if you’d just like to float along.

You’ll pass through the tunnel to the base of the Dam (very cool!), then gently float down the river, past ancient petroglyphs and around Horseshoe Bend, where you can wave to all the people at the Overlook 1,000 feet above you. Tours are about a half-day, including transportation to and from the river. Be sure to book ahead, as seating is limited.

Rafting down the Colorado River through Horseshoe Bend is one of the more awesome things to do in Page Az

13: Spend some time on Lake Powell

aerial view of lake powell with marina full of boats page arizona
Wahweap Marina on Lake Powell offers loads of options to get out on the water: boat or “toy” rental, or tours

Lake Powell was created when the Glen Canyon Dam began to regulate the flow of the Colorado River in the 1960s. The National Recreation Area was opened in 1972 so everyone could enjoy the water in this otherwise dry area of the southwest. Water levels have dropped in recent years due to drought conditions, but there’s still a lot of Lake Powell to enjoy.

If all this exploring around Lake Powell has you itching to get out on the water itself you can do so at Wahweap Marina. No matter what type of water “toy” you’re looking for, you can rent it here-it’s one of the things to do in Page AZ.

Looking for a beach? Due to changing water levels, the beach locations have changed. Check online to find the latest location for the Wahweap Swim Beach.

From a houseboat for a multi-night stay on the water, to motor boats & jet skis, or kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, there are rentals available. Half-day boat tours and dinner cruises are also available in the summer months.

Day Trips from Page, AZ

Page makes a great base for exploring northern Arizona. There are multiple unique attractions within a few hours’ drive. Many of these have no hotels (or limited lodging options), which makes Page a great “base camp” for your adventures.

There are three National Parks that can be reached via a day trip from Page: Zion in Utah, as well as both the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon. (Technically the two rims of the Grand Canyon are part of one park, but they’re too far apart to visit in the same day 😲, so it’s really like two separate parks.)

Add in some of the fantastic National Monuments nearby, along with some historical curiosities, and you’ve got plenty to keep you busy during your stay in Page. Here are some day trips from Page, AZ:

14: Zion National Park (Utah): 105 miles northwest; 1 hour & 45 minutes

Page sits only a few miles south of the Utah border: Zion National Park is the closest. It’s also the only major Utah park that’s reachable for a day-trip from Page.

Zion is Utah’s oldest National Park, designated in 1919. Inside the park you’ll find stunning rock formations, soothing green canyons full of trees, a museum dedicated to the peoples who have occupied this land, and even a historic tunnel!

Enjoy hiking, cycling, rock-climbing, or just gawking at the magnificent views on one of the park’s scenic drives. (I’m a strong proponent of gawking! 🤩).

The (east/west) Zion-Mt. Carmel Scenic Highway is open to cars year-round. The (north/south) Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only open to cars during the off-season. The remainder of the year (and most weekends) visitors must park their cars and take the free shuttle, which makes several stops on its 9-mile journey.

PRO TIP: Zion can get crowded in summer, and parking lots fill up early. Plan accordingly if you are visiting during peak times.

15: Historic Navajo Bridge: 39 miles west; 42 minutes

This bridge is credited with linking the northwest portion of Arizona–and the state of Utah, with the rest of the state. Before Navajo Bridge was completed in 1929, anyone traveling between Utah and Arizona had to travel 800 miles west around the Grand Canyon-yikes!

Building this bridge was a big deal–it now holds pride of place as a National Civil Engineering Historic Monument.

The bridge spans the Colorado River (yep, the one that runs through the Grand Canyon), just south of the twisty part that makes up Horseshoe Bend. Technically, you’re viewing the beginning of the Grand Canyon, only here it’s just a ravine, with the river about 470 feet below.

The dual bridges at Navajo Bridge in northern Arizona
Dual spans at Navajo Bridge. The historic bridge (left) is now just for pedestrians.

There are actually two bridges–the original and a more modern replacement, opened in 1995. Drive over the modern bridge; the original is now for pedestrians.

Shop for Navajo crafts on the eastern side (which is Navajo lands). The western side is the Navajo Bridge interpretive center, which has informational panels and small gift shop, along with a self-guided walking tour of historic points along the way.

16-20: Historic Lee’s Ferry: 45 miles west ; 52 minutes

Lee’s Ferry is a surprisingly diverse and interesting section of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and it makes a terrific day trip from Page, AZ.

16: Lonely Dell Ranch

Old wooden wagon with yellow spoke wheels at Lonely Dell Ranch at Lee's Ferry near Page, AZ
Remnants of the rugged homestead at Lonely Dell Ranch

Historically, Lee’s Ferry was the main crossing point of the Colorado River, before Navajo Bridge was built. It’s the site of the Lonely Dell Ranch, the homestead of John D. Lee, the Mormon pioneer who established the Lee’s Ferry crossing in 1873. Today, explore the historic buildings, and orchard, whose trees still bear fruit.

17: Lee’s Ferry Boat Launch

The Lee’s Ferry Boat Launch is the spot where Grand Canyon rafting trips begin. Even if you’re not one for taking a 1-2-week rafting trip (full disclosure, it’s not my jam), it’s still fun to watch the outfitters preparing to head out.

18: Paria Riffle: Where two rivers meet

Just downriver, hang out on the beach at the Paria Riffle, the first mini-rapids those rafters will encounter.

19: Walking & Hiking Trails: Stroll the Historic District or Hike to great views

For walkers/hikers, there are several day hikes, such as the (easy) Historic District River Trail, or the (challenging) Spencer Trail that begin at Lee’s Ferry.

20: Get out of this world at Balanced Rock

As your driving through, be sure to stop at Balanced Rock for some fun photo ops. It looks like a giant rock mushroom from right out of a Star Wars film! 🛰

There are no food concessions at Lee’s Ferry, but it’s a great place to bring a picnic lunch.

21: Grand Canyon-North Rim: 124 miles west; 2 hours, 20 minutes

View of the Grand Canyon at sunset taken from the North Rim
View an alternate perspective of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Although this is a looong day trip, a visit to the Grand Canyon North Rim is definitely worth it! The views are spectacular, and there are no crowds!

Because of its remote location, the North Rim only gets 10% of the visitors that you’ll find at the South Rim. That means minimal wait times at the entrance, giving you more time to enjoy all the stunning vistas in the park.

(NOTE: The remote location also means limited lodging options, which is why a day trip from Page, Az is a good idea.)

Take a short (1/2 mile) hike along the paved Bright Angel Point trail, which begins right behind the historic Grand Canyon Lodge. The trail brings you to a promontory out in the canyon. Views, views and more views!

Sign at Grand Canyon North Rim Visitor Center

For more amazing views (did I mention there are LOTS of them? 😊), take the North Rim Scenic Drive to Cape Royal. This 23-mile road (each way) winds along the top of the plateau, with plenty of amazing stops along the way. Be sure to visit Walhalla Overlook, and allow time for a picnic at Vista Encantada (because there are limited restaurant options as well–so don’t get HANGRY! 😡)

PRO TIP: Due to its high elevation (8,000 feet), the Grand Canyon North Rim is closed from mid-October to mid-May. Be sure to check the website for exact dates. And prepare for snow if you’re traveling near the opening/closing dates . . . on our last visit (in early October), we drove through 8 inches of snow 😱 ❄️!

22: Navajo National Monument: 75 miles southeast; 1 hour, 20 minutes

Navajo National Monument is one of the most spectacular cliff dwelling sites in the American Southwest. Because it sits on Navajo tribal lands, access is limited and the site has been extremely well-preserved.

Visitors can take any of 3 self-guided trails in the park (only one trail has a long-distance view of the cliff dwellings).

To see the cliff dwellings up close, you must sign up for a ranger-led tour, which are 3-5 hours and have limited capacity.

NOTE: Ranger-led tours to the cliff dwellings are currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions (as of 1/1/23). Check the website prior to visiting for the most updated information.

23: Oljato-Monument Valley: 120 miles east; 2 hours

Monument Valley is for anyone who loves jaw-dropping scenery, John Wayne western movies, or who has always wondered where all those cool car commercials were filmed.

Yep, it’s the place with those giant stone mittens.

Monument Valley makes a great day trip from Page AZ

Monument Valley straddles the Arizona-Utah border, but sits firmly within Navajo Tribal Lands. Pay a small admission fee to drive a 17-mile loop through the giant rock formations (and pretend you’re ridin’ the range with “the Duke” 🤠).

(For a longer stay in this part of Arizona, consider a road trip to 4 Corners and Monument Valley.)

PRO TIP: Touring Monument Valley and Navajo National Monument together make a nice day trip from Page, AZ.

24: Grand Canyon-South Rim: 109 miles southwest; 1 hour, 45 minutes

Great news for day-trippers from Page: it has easy access to both the North AND South Rims of the Grand Canyon! (Although do NOT try to see both in one day–too much driving 😝)

When coming from Page, you enter Grand Canyon National Park at the eastern (or Desert View) entrance. This entrance gets 80% LESS traffic that the main (southern) entrance, so wait times are minimal.

standing at an overlook of the Grand Canyon November
The Grand Canyon viewed from the SOUTH Rim

From here, you can view the geological beginnings of the Grand Canyon at Desert View Point, and explore the architectural marvel of Mary Colter’s Desert View Watchtower.

From here, you can continue west along Desert View Drive, stopping at multiple viewpoints as you travel the 23 miles to Grand Canyon Village. Or, if you’ve got cranky passengers 😵‍💫, you can turn around at any point, knowing you’ve seen some incredible vistas of the Grand Canyon.

(BTW, we like visiting the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in November, when there are less crowds everywhere.

25 & 26: Wupatki & Sunset Crater National Monuments: 99 miles south; 1 hour, 33 minutes

Take the 35-mile scenic drive linking these two National Monuments (and–BONUS! your admission fee covers both parks 🤩).

View the remains of six (yes-6!) different ancient pueblos perched on the open plain at Wupatki National Monument, glimpsing how native peoples lived 900 years ago. (Spoiler alert: they were pretty sophisticated!)

Continue as the high desert gradually morphs into a Ponderosa pine forest and you’ll emerge at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, and the youngest volcano in the region (a mere “toddler” at about 1,000 years old 🤣)

Now that you’ve seen how many interesting things to see and do, it’s not really a question of “what to do in Page Arizona.” It’s more a question of “which will you do first?”

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I’ve always had a dream of finding a hidden oasis in the desert. And now I have!

Hanging gardens Arizona is a delightful surprise amid the seemingly endless rocky landscape surrounding Glen Canyon. Less than a mile from the famous Glen Canyon Dam in Page, AZ lies a sheltered cove where greenery flourishes. Take a short, relatively easy (and free!) hike along the Hanging Garden Trail to find this marvel of nature.

It’s hard to believe this desert oasis is hiding just off the road in an area where tourists flock daily to see sights like Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Yet this beautiful display of greenery gets very few visitors. Follow our tips to find some solitude and lushness amidst this otherwise stark landscape.

Ferns clinging to a red cliff face outside Page Arizona
Panoramic shot of Hanging Gardens

What is a hanging garden?

Hanging gardens form when a continuous water source, such as a spring, emerges along the vertical wall of a cliff. Winter precipitation seeps into the porous sandstone, eventually reaching a less permeable layer of rock. At this point the water can no longer travel downward, so it begins to move sideways along the rock.

Eventually the water reaches the wall of a canyon, seeping out of the stone and flowing down the side of a cliff. If there is enough of an overhang to prevent the water from evaporating too quickly (also keeping the temperature from getting to hot), the moist stone creates a rich environment for plants to grow. These alcoves or “glens” then become a hanging garden, where plants grow both along the cliff face and on the ground directly below where the water seeps.

What grows in the Hanging Gardens Arizona?

The springs that feed the hanging gardens Arizona in Glen Canyon nourish maidenhair ferns and wild orchids. Both plants are a capable of growing on a rocky surface. They are a deep, rich green, which creates a striking contrast to the red sandstone that forms the base for these thirsty plants. The maidenhair ferns are especially fluffy, an unusual sight in a desert climate more known for water-conserving plants with spiky configurations, such as cactus and scrub pines.

You’d expect to find ferns growing in the lush, moist climates, such as the ferns at of the Pacific Northwest, such as the ferns at North Cascades National Park in Washington State. But to see these delicate bits of greenery at the hanging gardens Arizona is truly something special.

The Hanging Garden Trail

The Hanging Garden Trail is contained within the boundaries of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, one of the many National Parks and Monuments in Arizona. The trail is approximately 1.5 miles, round trip, over mostly flat rocky terrain. There is a small amount of scrambling up rocks to reach the hanging garden itself, about 100 feet in front of it.

The trail suitable for hikers of any level, including children. (However keep in mind that this is not classified as an “accessible” trail). On our last visit a we saw a family of four enjoying this hike. The two kids, who were aged about 4 & 6, exclaimed that it was more fun than climbing the play gym at home. (Chalk one up for getting out and showing young people real world experiences!).

Access the Hanging Garden Trail from a turnoff on the northeast side US highway 89, about 2/3 of a mile east of the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center and 2 miles northwest of the center of the town of Page, AZ. It’s well-marked by a brown and white sign. After about 1,000 feet you will come to a small gravel parking lot with some signage indicating the trailhead.

The Hanging Garden Trail itself is easy to follow: small stones have been laid across the flat plain indicating the path. To your left you will see the power lines of Glen Canyon Dam in the distance, in front of you will be the flat plain leading to Lake Powell. After about 1/2 mile you’ll begin to round a red sandstone butte to your right. A sign will point toward the Hanging Garden. Follow the stone pathway and in a few hundred feet you’ll see a hollow in the stone butte to your right, along with some black streaks on the red stone. This is a clue that there is moisture nearby.

At this point you’ll need to scramble up the rocks a bit to reach the Hanging Gardens Arizona. (It’s not difficult–if you can climb stairs you can climb this.) The small stones lead you up the left side of the hollow, which is a gradual climb. And then you’ve reach the Trail End . . . there it is!

Looking at the sign for the end of the Hanging Garden Trail, it’s hard to believe what’s right behind you

What to expect at the Hanging Gardens Arizona

The Hanging Gardens Arizona is a wall of greenery clinging to the red rock cliff face. The garden is in a curved hollow of the rock, about 50 feet long, and about 15 feet high. When you arrive you immediately feel the drop in temperature-it’s about 10 degrees cooler. Although there is no water running (unless there have been recent rains, which is rare), you can feel a higher level of humidity here.

In this photo, you see a nice bit of greenery in the desert rock . . .
Standing in front of ferns at the Hanging Garden Trail in Arizona
But seeing someone standing next to them makes the Hanging Gardens Arizona really impressive!

The cliff wall is filled with fluffy, dark green maidenhair ferns. Occasionally along the wall you’ll see the waxy leaves of wild orchids peeking through. There’s something very soothing about seeing all this green in the middle of all this reddish clay soil. And, unlike nearby Horseshoe Bend, you’ll have the place virtually to yourself.

Accessing the Hanging Garden Trail

How to access the Hanging Garden Trail from Glen Canyon Dam:

Proceed east on US Hwy 89 for 2/3 mile from the Glen Canyon Dam Visitor Center (crossing the bridge). The entrance to the trailhead will be on your left.

How to access the Hanging Garden Trail from Page, AZ:

From central Page (which Google Maps considers the intersection of Lake Powell Blvd. & S. Navajo Drive–near Big John’s Texas Barbecue), proceed north on Lake Powell Blvd for about 1.3 miles until it intersects with US Hwy 89. Turn right on Hwy 89 and proceed for about 1/2 mile. The entrance to the trailhead will be on your right.

Leave No Trace

When taking the Hanging Garden Trail, be sure to “Leave No Trace,” ensuring the Hanging Gardens Arizona remain intact and pristine for those who come after you. For more details, check the National Park System’s Leave No Trace Policy.

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The yellowing of leaves put me in the mood for apple pie. And supermarket apples just weren’t going to cut it.

Want to know where find local apples in Arizona during the fall? Here are six ways to experience Arizona’s apple-growing heritage. We’re including u-pick farms, markets, a guest ranch in a orchard and one trek that’s, erm, a little out there, but we wanted to offer all sorts of options . . .

a crate full of freshly picked apples in a field

Go Arizona Apple Picking at Apple Annie’s

Apple picking is about as wholesome as it gets-it’s the ultimate family-friendly event. Although most orchards are now wholesale only, Apple Annie’s Orchard in Willcox is one Arizona apple orchard where picking is encouraged. Harvest season is late August through October; you pay for what you pick. It’s a fun day’s activity, but best of all you get to go home with a basket of fresh, crisp apples! Don’t feel like picking your own? No problem, you can buy an already-picked batch at the Country Store on site.

During weekends throughout the fall there are festive events most weekends, including pancake breakfasts with hot cider syrup and apple topping, apple cider donuts (our favorite!), lunch at the Orchard Grill (which features burgers cooked over apple wood) and pies, pies and more pies.

  • Location: 2081 W Hardy Rd. Willcox, AZ 85643
  • Phone: (520) 384-2084
  • Website: Apple Annie’s
  • Hours: Fruit orchard open daily, 8am to 5pm July-September; 9am to 5:30pm in October. Country Store open daily 8am to 5pm year round. (Closed Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas).

PRO TIP: Apple Annie’s also has a terrific Arizona Pumpkin Patch, and a beautiful sunflower display.

Spend the night in an Arizona apple orchard

The Beatty’s dog, Red, out in the orchard in Miller Canyon, photo courtesy Beatty’s Guest Ranch

If you really want to immerse yourself in the orchard experience there’s no better way than to sleep among the apple trees. In this case we mean a cabin in the orchard, not literally sleeping under the trees (more about that later . . . ). Here at Beatty’s Guest Ranch, cabins are tucked into the orchard, which itself is tucked into Miller Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of southeastern Arizona. Spend a few nights in this cozy setting; at 5,800 feet in altitude, you can be sure of cool fall evenings.

Whip up breakfast in your cabin using some of Beatty’s farm-fresh eggs accompanied by apples and other goodies grown at the ranch. All foods grown at the ranch are available for purchase in their on site store. The ranch is adjacent to several Miller Canyon trails, and only a few miles from the Coronado National Memorial, part of the National Park System. This area is also birding country; warblers pass through during their fall migration. In summer the apples aren’t yet ripe, but you might just see a hummingbird or two–or twelve. The ranch holds the record for the most species (14) ever spotted in one day!

  • Location: 2173 E. Miller Canyon Road, Hereford, AZ 85615
  • Phone: (520) 378-2728
  • Website: Beatty’s Guest Ranch
A cabin in the orchard, photo courtesy Beatty’s Guest Ranch

PRO TIP: Miller Canyon is prime birding territory; in addition to apples, during a stay at Beatty’s Ranch you may “harvest” a few hummingbird and warbler sightings, depending on when you visit

Explore Sedona’s heritage of apples in Arizona

image of apple sorting equipment-apples in arizona

It’s hard to imagine now, but 100 years ago Sedona was the place to go to find an Arizona apple orchard. Nearby Oak Creek provided ready access to water, and Sedona farmers developed irrigation systems to supply their orchards. The Sedona Heritage Museum at Jordan Historical Park is housed at a former apple processing facilty. The museum’s logo is even the signature red rocks superimposed on an apple!

The orchard acreage was sold off in the 1970s, but the remaining buildings of the Jordan family farmstead remain to illuminate Sedona’s fruit-filled history. View vintage farm equipment and apple sorting machinery, and see a 1940s one-room farmhouse, where apples took pride of place. (While there, be sure to explore the exhibit on Sedona’s history in western movies.) This is one of the cool things to do during the Fall in Sedona.

  • Location: 735 Jordan Road, Sedona, Arizona
  • Phone: (928) 282-7038
  • Website: Sedona Heritage Museum
  • Hours: Open daily 11 am to 3 pm. Closed Major Holidays.
Old farmhouse at Sedona Heritage Museum against a backdrop of red rocks.
Jordan farmhouse at the Sedona Heritage Museum

Visit a historic Arizona apple orchard & homestead

historic, rusty farm equipment in front of Pendley orchards at slide rock state park
Historic farm equipment on display in front of the historic Pendley apple orchard at Slide Rock State Park

What is now Slide Rock State Park in Oak Creek Canyon near Sedona was once the Pendley apple orchard and homestead. Summertime visitors love to sluice down the water slide of the creek, but in the fall visitors come to see the beautiful colors . . . and the apples. The orchard, farm machinery, packing shed, old cabins and farmhouse at the site of the old Pendley homestead are all available to visit.

Frank Pendley planted his first apple orchard in 1912 after acquiring the site two years earlier under the Homestead Act. Park staff still farm the orchard, using Pendley’s original irrigation system. Be sure to visit in September and October, when the 13 varieties of apples grown on site are harvested and available for sale.

  • Location: 6871 N. Highway 89A, Sedona, AZ 86336
  • Phone: (928) 282-3034
  • Website: Slide Rock State Park
  • Hours: Open daily, 8am to 6pm, Feb through November; 9am to 5pm Dec, Jan. Closed Christmas.
apples in a wooden box

Trek to a forgotten apple orchard in the mountains

wild apples out in an untended orchard-apples in arizona
Imagine finding these after a 10-mile hike through desert landscape!

Earlier I mentioned an apple experience in Arizona that was a little “out there.” This is it . . . literally and figuratively. In the late 1800s a quirky character named Elisha Reavis established a farm and in a remote valley in the otherwise dry, forbidding Superstition Mountains in eastern Arizona. Many rumors circulated about Reavis: some called him the “Hermit of the Superstition Mountains,” other say he scrapped with the Apaches. No one really knows for sure, but an apple orchard on the site planted after his death is a lasting legacy.

Today, what remains of this Arizona apple orchard continues to flourish (in a wild sort of way) in this tucked-away corner of the Tonto National Forest. Those intrepid enough to find Reavis Ranch can enjoy all the apples their belly can hold–after a 10-mile hike to reach it! Plan to make this an overnight trek, camping at the orchard before making the 10-mile trek back. For some, it’s an annual pilgrimage:

  • Location: Trailhead is located at Reavis Trailhead Rd, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 (off state route 88)
  • Hours: Open all year; apple trees bloom in the spring, and are likely bearing fruit in September and October.

Pick up fresh Arizona apples at a Farmer’s Market

apples lined up in wooden bins at a farmers market apples in arizona

There are places in Arizona that produce apples, but are not open to the public. Most, however make their products available at local farmers’ markets throughout the state. So if you find yourself craving the the delicious fruit from an Arizona apple orchard, but aren’t in the mood to pick your own (or go on a 20-mile hike), download this Arizona Farmers Markets Directory to find one near you.

CLICK ON THE IMAGE AT RIGHT TO DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE COPY OF A GUIDE TO ARIZONA’S FARMERS’ MARKETS!

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Sure, we’re planning to go to Saguaro National Park. But what else is there to do in Tucson?

One of the reasons we love Tucson is because there are quirky attractions here that you won’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s the best Mexican food in America or the world’s largest collection of military aircraft, here are our top 12 unique things to do in Tucson Az.

Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Company mural

1. Munch through the Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in America

El Charro Cafe Tucson

It’s no secret that Tucson offers up the best Mexican food in America. We’re not talking chain restaurants in mall parking lots, this is the real deal. Tuscon is part of the Sonoran Desert, which extends down to the state of Sonora Mexico to the south. The region has been sharing culinary treasures since long before there was a border wall. They’re so proud of this culinary achievement that there’s even a Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food in America route you can take, a tasty journey, and one of the unique things to do in Tucson Az.

2. Plane-spot at The Boneyard

Aerial view of hundreds of military aircraft lined up at the Boneyard-one of many unique things to do in Tucson Az

The Boneyard at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson is the largest military aircraft repository in the world and the final resting place of more than 3,000 (yes, three thousand ) aircraft. Officially known in military-speak as the “309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center” (AMARG), you can catch glimpses of the aircraft liked up in neat rows as you drive around southeast Tucson, particularly on S. Kolb Road. But to really see them up close the best thing to do is take a guided bus tour on the grounds of this Tucson airplane graveyard. This is definitely one of the things to do in Tucson AZ that you cannot do. Anywhere. Else.

3. Reach for the stars at Kitt Peak National Observatory

onal Observatory view from above

If you’re looking for things to do in Tucson AZ, but want a different perspective, you can always look up at the stars. Located one hour southwest of downtown Tucson, the Kitt Peak National Observatory hosts the widest range of research telescopes on the world. Three of the nearly two-dozen telescopes are set aside for public viewing events. After winding their way up the curvy road, stargazers take part in nighttime observing programs peering into the farthest reaches of the universe. If you’re not a night owl, there are also daytime activities.

4. Chow down on some Sonoran Hot Dogs

Orange tray with 4 sonoran hot dogs

Okay, so maybe this is not one of the things to DO in Tucson AZ, but more one of the things to EAT. The Sonoran hot dog is so popular that it ranges from southern Arizona across the border to Mexico where they originated. But what is a Sonoran hot dog? In a nutshell, take a top-split bolillo roll then stuff it with a bacon-wrapped hot dog, pinto beans, chopped fresh tomatoes & onions (or pico de gallo), jalapenos, mustard AND mayonnaise. They are found all over town from humble street carts to the James-Beard-award-winning El Guero Canelo.

Here’s our rundown of Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson, based on eating way too many of these yummy treats. (Actually, there’s no such thing as too many!)

5. Soak up the Mid-Century Vibe

Tucson Arizona Sun Land Motel neon sign

In some ways Tucson feels like the land that time forgot. I mean that in a good way. Where many cities have plowed over their history for new development, Tucson enjoys a wealth of surviving Mid-Century architecture and cool neon signs that make you feel like you’ve snuck onto the set of Mad Men. There’s even an annual Tucson Modernism Week that celebrates the city’s Mid-Century architecture and design.

One of the really fun things to do in Tucson Az is to drive around town to see the neon signs in their original locations. Make sure to cruise the Miracle Mile Historic District north of downtown, then check out the many preserved signs at the Ignite Sign Art Museum, one of several unusual museums in Tucson.

6. Tickle your tastebuds in America’s First UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy

Taqueria Pico de Gallo Tucson Arizona

In 2015 UNESCO designated Tucson a Creative City of Gastronomy, joining such foodie destinations as Parma, Italy and Chengdu, China. This selection is based on Tucson’s status as one of the oldest settlements in North America. With 4,000 years of agricultural history, its blend of Indigenous ingredients and Old World traditions form a unique and contemporary Southwestern cuisine.

All this foodie heritage is supported by a wealth of farmers markets, community gardens and food festivals that promote eating local, providing endless good eats on your quest for things to do in Tucson AZ. For a visitor this means you’ll eat very well here; the plethora of locally owned restaurants offer plenty of unique dining experiences.

7. Hunt for Truly Nolen Cars on Tucson’s Corners

1939 Ford Deluxe Truly Nolen classic car

One of our favorite things to do in Tucson Az is go on a sort of classic car “scavenger hunt.” Tucson is the world’s largest open-air classic car museum due to the efforts of a man truly named Truly Nolen. In the 1950s Nolen started setting up the antique cars to advertise his exterminating company. The fleet has grown to 50 Truly Nolen cars parked around town. It’s difficult to miss them parked in strategic locations with TRULY NOLEN emblazoned on the side. During your visit you might run into a 1923 Dodge Roadster, a 1934 Hudson, or a 1939 Ford Deluxe like the one above. You can see more classic cars park outside their offices at 3636 E. Speedway Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85716.

8. Pedal the Chuck Huckleberry Loop

Photo credit: Nicci Radhe

How many cities offer more than 136 miles of interconnecting paths almost completely without street crossings? The Chuck Huckleberry Loop (known locally as simply “The Loop”) is a system of mostly paved paths that connects parks throughout the city. A system of over-and under-passes make it a terrific way to get around town. In January 2018 the County completed a connection on the north side of town that turned created an actual “loop”, with a complete circuit of 53.9 miles.

There’s a reason why so many professional cyclists train in Tucson during the winter. Although amateurs like us, along with joggers, walkers, wheelchairs, and parents pushing strollers use the Chuck Huckleberry Loop too. And since this is Tucson after all, you might even see a horse along the way, along with Farmer’s Markets and outdoor public art along the route. The Loop is one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson AZ.

PRO TIP: If walking/hiking is more your thing, you can stride along on the Rillito River Path, which is a segment of the Huckleberry Loop. It’s one of many great Tucson Hikes.

9. Drive up to Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon is a unique Sky Island that rises 7,000 feet over Tucson, providing a cooling respite during the summer heat wave. There’s even a community called Summerhaven, along with ski activities in the winter, plus hiking, rock climbing and generally enjoying nature year-round. On a relatively balmy winter day it’s pretty cool to wake up to 65 degree weather in Tucson and see snow from a storm dusting the peak of Mount Lemmon.

What makes a drive up to Mount Lemmon one of the really unique things to do in Tucson Az is the climate changes you’ll experience. During the hour-long 28-mile drive along the Catalina Highway scenic byway to its peak, you’ll pass through four separate ecological zones. You start in the desert surrounded by saguaro cacti and end up in an area lush with conifer trees that feels like the Rockies. It’s the climate equivalent of driving from the border with Mexico to the border with Canada, and all in one hour! Think of all the fuel you saved. The views from the top at Windy Vista Point (shown above) are incredible . . . and perfect at sunset.

The University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory atop Mount Lemmon provides SkyNights StarGazing programs using their Schulman 32-inch and Phillips 24-inch telescopes, two of the largest telescopes available for public viewing in the Southwest. If you’re not a night owl–or if perhaps driving down a steep, curvy mountain road in pitch black darkness isn’t your thing–there are also daytime programs.

10. Rock out at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show turquoise
Photo credit Pete Gregoire

For many people this tops the list of things to do in Tucson Az. According to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society, the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show is “the largest, oldest and most prestigious gem and mineral show in the world.” We used to think that was just hyperbole, but we have been in town for the annual winter extravaganza and can attest that it truly is a one-of-kind event. Thousands of hobbyists and professionals descend on Tucson to shop, mingle and scratch their lapidary urges. If bling is your thing, you won’t be disappointed.

11. Chat with a WWII Vet while you Shop for Military Surplus & Camping Gear

96-year old Don Sloane, owner of Millers Surplus in Tucson

There’s a lot to love about Miller’s Surplus in Tucson. Sure, it’s a massive military surplus store that also carries tons of camping gear as well.

It’s also a mini museum of military artifacts (including a cool old motorcycle 🏍️!), which are the collection of store owner Don Sloane.

But more than anything, be sure to stop in to chat with owner Don Sloane himself. He’s been running the place for 71 years, is a World War II veteran, and is always smiling, which he says is the secret to a long and healthy life.

He must be right . . . he’s (an active) 96 years old 🤩.

12. Reflect on space at the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Tucked below the University of Arizona football stadium, the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab produces the largest and most advanced giant telescope mirrors in the world. A 90-minute tour reveals the leading edge technology producing the next generation of telescopes to explore deep outer space. Personally, I would think a location right underneath the stomping feet of thousands of fired-up football fans would upset such a delicate manufacturing process, but what do I know?

13. Catch a flick at Cactus Carpool Cinema

Tucson’s dry climate provides the perfect setting for a long lost art that the Covid shutdowns have revived: drive-in movies. The folks at Cactus Drive-In have capitalized on this by acquiring a site at 6201 S. Wilmot Road in southeast Tucson, hard by the runway for Davis Monthan Air Force Base and the Pima Air & Space Museum. So perhaps you’ll be watching Top Gun on the 40′ inflatable screen while an actual fighter plane goes roaring overhead. Or maybe it’ll be an old western while you sit nestled among the cacti and ocotillos. Overall it’s one of the truly unique things to do in Tucson Az.


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