Last Updated on September 12, 2019 by Janet Frost
Let’s continue exploring the Arizona State Parks. The first installment looked at Catalina State Park just north of Tucson. Today we will take a look at Oracle State Park, in–you guessed it–Oracle, AZ. Oracle is quite an interesting, off-the-beaten-path town. Oracle State Park is in the northern foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountain Range.
Let’s Go! Learn Things about Oracle State Park…
Oracle State Park (OSP) Geography
Much of Arizona is located in the region of the Southwest categorized as the Basin and Range. This region is characterized by steep mountain ranges alternating with vast deserts. The mountain ranges, which poke through the desert plains surrounding them, can rise above 9,000 feet and create biological islands inhabited by cool-climate plants and animals. See our post on Sky Islands.
The town of Oracle and Oracle State Park (OSP) are perched on the northern tip of the Santa Catalina Mountain Range, with vast views of the deep San Pedro River Basin and Galiuro Mountain Range.
Located an hour northeast of Tucson, Oracle State Park is in a transitional area between the steep mountain ranges and the extensive desert. Because of this transition, you find some unique flora and fauna that loves a climate cooler than the desert and warmer than the mountains. The terrain is covered with few cactus, more grasses and wildflowers, some trees but no forest, unique white-tail deer but no bighorn sheep…cooler than the desert, warmer than the mountains.
Oracle State Park History
The site of present day Oracle State Park started as a private ranch of 160 acres in 1903. Brothers Neil and Lee Kannally built a small adobe cottage and quickly invited three other siblings to join them. Sometime around 1930, the existing Mediterranean Revival Style Ranch House was built for the 5 siblings. The surrounding acreage grew to 50,000 acres of rolling, picturesque Santa Catalina foothills.
In 1976 the will of the last surviving sibling, Lucille Kannally, left the land and Ranch House to be a wildlife refuge into perpetuity. For almost 3 decades, until 2001 the land served as an Environmental Education facility for the Tucson area. In 2001 the Oracle State Park officially opened to the public. Environmental Education continues to play a large role for the Park.
Oracle State Park is a hikers heaven. The park offers 15 miles of shared use trails. Shared use in Arizona can mean hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers and leashed dogs, or any combination of these. Be sure to check on the Oracle State Park website to verify what each trail allows.
This park also offers several access points to the “thru-hiking” Arizona Trail. The Arizona Trail is an 800 mile non-motorized trail across Arizona, from the Mexico border to the state border with Utah. After descending from the 9000 ft Mt. Lemmon summit, the Arizona Trail meanders across through the foothills of Oracle State Park. This segment is the American Flag Passage as seen on the map below.
Oracle and Environs
The town of Oracle is more than a wide spot in the road, by about 3 blocks. Don’t let Oracle’s size fool you though, Oracle is packed with adventure opportunities. The community grew around gold, silver and copper mines. Bill Cody joined the the prospecting with his High Jinks Mine that you can explore along The Arizona Trail. Vintage mining equipment can be found adorning many of the local businesses.
Take a ride on the Wild Side in Oracle
Oracle is a gateway community for The Arizona Trail and the backdoor for Mt. Lemmon. The Mt. Lemmon Highway climbs the backside of the peak on a road restricted to 4X4 and high-clearance vehicles. Off road (ORV) trails criss-cross the backcountry of Oracle. Kick the tires and eat some dust!
Flying through the air
My favorite adventure in Oracle was ziplining at Arizona Zipline Adventures. This was my first time flying across the landscape on a zipline.
Arizona Zipline sits at the end of the pavement on the Mt. Lemmon backroad. The venue is a mix of off-the-grid, and high-tech with a setting fit for mountain men and prospectors.
It might be hard to believe, but I am not a huge fan of heights. Dump me in the ocean and I am happy, but suggesting I jump off a platform many feet in the air is a different story. So it is significant when I say that I felt very safe with Arizona Zipline Adventures. The staff focused on safety and everyone’s comfort. Our group ranged from 9 to 70 year olds. All had an amazing adventure.
Discover Oracle State Park for yourself
With all this history, adventure and natural beauty, Oracle State Park is a perfect day trip from Tucson or even Phoenix.
*Disclosure: My ziplining adventure was complimentary from Arizona Ziplining Adventures. All opinions are mine alone.