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Things To Do In Tucson : 1 Adventures

Things to do in Tucson

Things to Do in Tucson

There are plenty of things to do in Tucson for adventure, regardless of what your definition of adventure may be. The ones you will learn about here are just some of the highlights. They should help you plan your ultimate trip.

City Facts

The city is located in the upper Sonoran desert of Northern Arizona and lies in a valley surrounded by five mountain ranges including the Rincon and Santa Catalina Mountains that you can learn about below.

There are nearly 526,000 residents in the city, which covers some 227 square miles of the valley. In terms of population, it is the 33rd largest city in the U.S.

Best Times to Visit

There are things to do in Tucson most of the year, although the summers can be hot and are not the best time of the year for hiking. The right time to visit depends on what kind of adventure you are looking for.

Spring and fall are good for hiking, biking and desert activities. Winter is the right choice for skiing in the mountain resorts that surround the city. You might want to avoid the wet monsoon season that hits the area sometime between mid-June and late July.

What to do in Tucson

The most popular activities in Tucson include hiking, rock-climbing, rappelling, horseback riding and sightseeing. There are numerous parks, landmarks and other attractions in the vicinity. Here’s a look at some of the most popular.

  • Coronado National Forest
    Many of the things to do in Tucson are located in the Coronado National Forest, which basically surrounds the city. The Santa Catalina District of the forest is closest to town and encompasses the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains, as well as Mount Lemmon and Sabino Canyon, locations covered in more detail below.


  • Sonoran Desert and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
    The Sonoran Desert is one of the largest and hottest deserts in North America, covering over 100,000 square miles of the U.S. and Mexico. The point where the desert meets the Santa Catalina Mountains is near Tucson.

    Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is in the Yuma section of the Sonoran Desert, south of Tucson. It is named after the cactus and is the only place in the U.S. where the Organ Pipe variety grows wild. The park is popular for its beautiful scenic vistas and many varieties of cacti other than the organ pipe; hedgehog and saguaro cactus are among them. There are many unique rock formations in the park including a pair of natural arches.

    The Desert and Sea Tour is one of the popular Tucson tours that allows visitors to see all that the lush desert environment has to offer. If you take the tour, you will travel across the home of the “Desert People”, the Tohono O’odham Nation. You will stop to visit Ajo, a historic mining town and walk among candelabra cactus at the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The tour ends at the Sea of Cortez where you will be the guest of CEDO, the intercultural center for the study of deserts and oceans. It’s truly an unforgettable tour.


  • Mt. Lemmon & the Santa Catalina Mountains
    At 9157 feet high Mt. Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The mountain is a popular destination for rock climbing and rappelling. If you’d like to give rock climbing or rappelling a try, you can go with a certified guide and local expert, dedicated to giving you a fun, but safe adventure.

    Other popular activities at Mt. Lemmon include hiking, biking, running and driving. The Mt. Lemmon Highway leads from Tucson to Summerhaven and is a scenic byway used by tourists, tour groups and many others. On the backside of the mountain is a popular trail for 4x4 vehicles and off-road motorcycles. This trail starts in Oracle, northeast of Tucson.

    You can be a part of one of the organized Tucson tours and take a trip up the Backside in a Hummer. You will stop in Ski Valley, the southernmost ski resort in the northern hemisphere and visit the town of Summerhaven with its gift shops and restaurants. This is one of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to see everything there is to see on Mt. Lemmon.


  • Rincon Mountains
    The Rincon Mountains lie to the east of the city in Pima County and mostly within Saguaro National Park. The range is separated from the Santa Catalina Mountains by Redington Pass, a favorite destination for mountain bikers and ATVs.

    The mountains are generally less rugged than the Santa Catalina and Santa Rita Mountains. Highest points are Mica Mountain at 8,664 feet and Rincon Peak at 8,482 feet. There are numerous trails up every side of the mountain for hiking and horseback riding. Nestled among the Rincon Mountains is a popular dude ranch you can learn more about in the accommodations section of this page.


  • Saguaro National Park
    Saguaro National Park covers a total area of 91,000 acres divided into two districts: one approximately 15 miles west and the other about 20 miles east of the center of Tucson. Visitor centers are located in each of the two districts. Many of the active things to do in Tucson are located in the park, because of the 150 miles of well-marked and well-maintained hiking trails.


  • Sabino Canyon
    Located in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Sabino Canyon is a popular destination for hiking, biking and sightseeing. Just minutes from the desert, you’ll see waterfalls. There is an abundance of wildlife including tortoises and deer. Just be sure to watch out for mountain lions and rattlesnakes while you are hiking.

    Sabino Canyon Tours operate a system of trams to take visitors around the canyon. The trams stop at nine points along the way to allow visitors to hike trails ranging from easy to challenging. They return to the stopping points every 30 minutes or so. If you’re not up for a hike, you can see the sites just by riding the tram.

Popular Places to Stay in Tucson

As you are planning what to do in Tucson, you might also want to decide where to stay. There are hundreds of hotels, resorts, guest ranches and other accommodations in the area. There are two popular choices.

  • Tanque Verde Ranch
    The Tanque Verde Ranch is nestled in the Rincon Mountains. It is a truly majestic setting, lying between Saguaro National Park and Coronado National Forest.

    The location is just east of the city, not too far away from all of the things to do in Tucson. The ranch sits on 60,000 acres of unspoiled landscape. Yet, the accommodations are plush, rather than rustic.

    There are organized daily horseback rides and many other activities on the ranch. Tanque Verde has been in business since 1868. It was one of the first and now the largest Dude Ranch Resort in North America.

    There are a variety of lodging options to choose from including regular hotel-like rooms and large hacienda-style suites. The scenery is a spectacular combination of desert and mountains. Everything you would expect to find at a fine resort is here, including full service spa, fitness center, tennis courts and a swimming pool with a lovely waterfall. Good food is a part of the package. You can learn more about the menu in the “places to eat” section of this page.


  • Lodge on the Desert
    For those who prefer to be downtown, the charming Lodge on the Desert is a place to consider. It’s an especially good choice if you prefer to avoid the chain hotels.

    The lodge and all of the rooms are natural adobe. Some of the rooms are smaller than what you find in the big chains, but that makes them extra cozy. The décor is lovely and the location cannot be beat for easy access to all of Tucson’s attractions.

Popular Places to Eat in Tucson

One of the things to do in Tucson is eat. The city is home to many fine eateries and at least one brewery serving healthy, fresh bistro-style food. The Tanque Verde menu is excellent and the master chef is highly esteemed in this area of Arizona. If you’re staying in town, you should pay a visit to the Proper. Here’s a little more about the two.

  • Tanque Verde Ranch
    At Tanque Verde, you get an outdoor BBQ twice a week with ribs, steaks, cornbread, fresh fruit and much more. The dining room serves three meals a day: a hearty southwestern breakfast, gourmet buffet lunches and 3 course dinners. The menus change regularly, but you might start dinner with chilled watermelon soup, enjoy a roasted acorn squash entree and finish with a white chocolate honey bomb with fresh berries. Yummy!

  • The Proper
    Located on E. Congress Street in the heart of the downtown area, the focus of the Proper is sustainable eating. The foods served are locally grown and organic whenever possible. Ranchers, farmers, brewers and winemakers from the local area are in partnership with the Proper to give you healthy dining alternatives at an affordable price.

Hopefully this page has given you some new ideas about the things to do in Tucson. I’m sure your trip will be one you won’t soon forget!

Additional Resources

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