The best Christmas gift I received this year was an annual Arizona State Park pass. There has been much reporting lately about the crowded National Parks. Don’t get me wrong, I love our National Parks System and plan to visit and report on many of them this year. However, I would urge you to remember to add State Parks to your travel itineraries. The great thing about State Parks are that they provide travel adventures right in your own backyard. I want to share my new backyard adventure; Catalina State Park, just 20 minutes north of downtown Tucson, AZ.
Let’s Go Learn Things about Catalina State Park…
Arizona State Parks
The Arizona State Park system maintains 35 different parks around the state. These parks range from mountain peaks to the desert floor, from deep cave systems to cascading waterfalls, from ancient petroglyphs to a territorial prison.
The [Santa] Catalina Mountains are the predominate mountain range bordering Tucson, AZ to the northeast. This range reaches to over 9,000 feet at the Mount Lemmon peak. It is part of the Sky Islands region that covers 70,000 square miles in southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico and northwestern Mexico. Arizona’s Sky Island ranges include the Baboquivari, Whetstone, Chiricahua, Huachuca, Santa Rita and Santa Catalina mountains. Check out this post for more about the Sky Islands Scenic Byway.
Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park sits at the base of the Catalina Mountains. It covers 5,500 acres of foothills, canyons and streams leading up into the Coronado National Forest and the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. The park is an easy 20 minutes north of Tucson and packed with trails, campsites and an equestrian center. Visitors to Catalina State Park can explore a thriving environment of saguaro cactus, desert birds, wildlife and wildflowers; all with the incredible Catalina mountains as a backdrop. The Canada de Oro Wash and Sutherland Wash intersect at the base of the foothills in the park. These washes create unique ecosystems as the water levels vastly fluctuate during the Tucson seasons.
The trails in Catalina State Park offer something for everyone. There are short interpretive trails that annotate the wildlife and interpretive trails that lead to ancient ruins, moderate and intense hiking trails, equestrian trails and mountain biking trails.
I am not a camper. However, I have to wonder if I had been introduced to camping in the spectacular dry Arizona environment,might I have learned to love it? Catalina State Park has 120 electric and water sites. Each campsite has a picnic table and BBQ grills. There are modern flush restrooms with hot showers, and RV dump stations are available in the park. There is no limit on the length of RVs at this park and campgrounds are open all year round.
There is something for everyone and every interest at Catalina State Park. Rangers are leading special programs almost everyday.
- Music in the Mountains:
Don’t miss out on this one-of-a-kind outdoor experience. Music in the Mountains brings culture, music, and entertainment to a wonderful corner of the desert with live performances.
- Star Parties: 10 big telescopes provided by the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association at Catalina State Park offer park visitors the opportunity to view some amazing solar system and deep-sky objects
- Guided Hikes: Bird Hikes, Nature Hikes, Photography Hikes, Geology Hikes and Historic Ruins Hikes are all offered weekly by the Catalina State Park Rangers.
Get Out & Go Learn Things at Catalina State Park
Are you ready to start exploring this great park? It is located 20 miles directly north of Tucson on Oracle Road (Hwy 77) The park entrance is at
11570 N. Oracle Rd and open from 5AM-10PM with the Ranger Station/Visitor Station open from 8AM-5PM.