11 Beautiful Tucson Hiking Trails

March 17, 2020
Hiking in Tucson in Saguaro National Park East

Lace up your hiking shoes and get ready to hit these amazing Tucson hiking trails. With stunning desert landscapes, a national park, and four mountain ranges, there’s so many great hikes in Tucson, Arizona to choose from.  

The area surrounding Tucson is a lot like where I grew up in Arizona – it’s still the Sonoran Desert, so the landscape is dotted with giant saguaro cacti, palo verde and ocotillo, and summers peak well above 100°F. Saguaro National Park, which forms a border around Tucson on both the east and west sides, takes you through dense saguaro cacti forests and up to viewpoints where you can see the desert stretch for miles.  

But the town of Tucson is also surrounded by four different mountain ranges: the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Rincon Mountains, the Santa Rita Mountains, the Tucson Mountains. Mt. Lemmon, the tallest peak, soars over 9,000 feet in elevation. If you head out on a hike near Tucson and up into one of these mountain ranges, the scenery and climate can drastically change along the trail. What starts out as a dusty desert trail lined with towering saguaro can lead to a waterfall with a fresh water swimming hole, or up to pine trees and epic views.  

We’ve taken a few trips to explore the hiking trails in Tucson, Arizona, and we’re always amazed at what we find. Here is our list of the best Tucson hiking trails.

Planning a trip to Arizona? I grew up here, so I’ve got a lot of other great tips for exploring the Grand Canyon state. Check them out here:

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11 Beautiful Hikes in Tucson, Arizona | Lace up your hiking shoes and get ready to hit these amazing Tucson hiking trails. With stunning desert landscapes, a national park, and four mountain ranges, there’s so many great hikes in Tucson, Arizona to choose from.  

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What to bring:

It’s always important to be prepared while hiking, and that’s especially true in the desert where there’s often little water or shade, and the temperatures can soar.  

Water: And lots of it. I always bring more than I think I’ll need, especially on a warm day. If it’s hot, I like to use an insulated, reusable bottle to keep water cool, like this RTIC bottle or this Hydro Flask. If you need to bring more water for a longer hike, I really like this Platypus reservoir with a larger zip top.

Sun Protection: Make sure to bring a hat and sunglasses, and wear sunscreen. We like to use mineral sunscreen that’s good for both your skin and the environment. This is a great face sunscreen, and this is a list of the best mineral sunscreens that are also reef-safe.  

Hiking Day Pack: We also bring along a day pack to carry water and snacks. We like this Fjallraven backpack since it’s good for hiking, travel, and pretty much anything in between.  

Hiking Shoes or sandals: For the hikes that include a lot of creek crossings, I recommend Chacos or Keen sandals. These are my go-to hiking shoes because they’re super comfortable, have great grip, and dry quickly.  

Hiking trail near Tucson in Saguaro National Park

Tucson Hiking Trails Map

Waterfall Hikes in Tucson

We’re suckers for a waterfall, and especially a waterfall hike. The desert gets stereotyped as being dry as a bone, but depending on the time of year, you can find a few freshwater falls gushing around Tucson.  

1 Seven Falls Trail

Distance: 8.2 miles RT | Elevation gain: 1,062 feet

Parking: $8 in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area | Trailhead Location

The Seven Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon is often named as one of the best hikes in Tucson. Seven Falls is one of the first hikes we did in Tucson, and it set the bar pretty high for any future hiking in the area. This is also one of the most popular hikes in Tucson, so it’s best to get there early or go on a weekday when it’s not super busy. 

The Seven Falls trail is an 8 miles round trip hike, unless you catch the Sabino Canyon tram which will cut off 2 miles each way. This trail crosses the creek several time, and the canyon is scattered with massive saguaros. Once you get to the end, you’ll be standing at the bottom of seven towering impressive waterfalls. Or, at least if the water is flowing. The amount of water depends on the time of year and the amount of snowfall and rain in the Tucson area that year.  

Read this hiking guide for more information on the Seven Falls Trail.  

Seven Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon
The best hiking trails in Tucson, Arizona | Seven Falls Trail

Seven Falls Trail in Tucson, Arizona

2 Tanque Verde Falls

Distance: 1.8 miles RT | Elevation gain: 436 feet

Parking: Free | Trailhead Location

The hike to Tanque Verde Falls starts at the Lower Tanque Verde Falls Trailhead along a dirt path. The hike is short, but not easy. Soon the path disappears and you’ll be climbing and bouldering your way along the creek bed. There are several smaller waterfalls, but the most impressive is over 80 feet, flowing into a large swimming hole.  

3 Romero Pools

Distance: 5.5 miles RT | Elevation gain: 1,047 feet

Parking: $7 in Catalina State Park | Trailhead Location

Romero Pools is another incredible waterfall hike in Catalina State Park. This trail starts at the Romero Canyon Trailhead. After an easy one mile walk, the trail gets steep and rocky for the last 1.8 miles. At the end of the trail you’ll find not only the Romero Pools, but views of Mt. Lemmon, Oro Valley and Tucson.  

Romero Pools Waterfall Hike in Tucson, Arizona

“Waterfall at Romero Canyon” by lars hammar is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Easy Hikes in Tucson

These easy hikes in Tucson are short and mostly flat, so you can enjoy the beauty of the surrounding desert without a ton of time and effort.  

4 Valley View Overlook Trail  

Distance: 0.8 miles RT | Elevation gain: 49 feet

Parking: $25 for entrance into Saguaro National Park. Or use a National Park pass ($80 for annual pass) | Trailhead Location

If you’re looking for an introduction to hiking in Tucson, but don’t have a lot of time, then check out the Valley View Overlook Trail. This trail is less than a mile, but still one of the best hikes in Tucson. Head out on the trail, through a wash, and through the gorgeous Sonoran Desert to an overlook where the view appears endless and you see hundreds upon hundreds of saguaro cactus. This trail is located in the west section of Saguaro National Park, known as the Tucson Mountain District, along the Bajada Loop Drive.

Valley View Trail in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona

Valley View Trail in Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona

Hikes with a great view in Tucson, Arizona

Hundreds of Saugaro cactus in Tucson, Arizona

5 Mica View Loop

Distance: 3.7 mile loop | Elevation gain: 121 feet

Parking: $25 for entrance into Saguaro National Park. Or use a National Park pass ($80 for annual pass) | Trailhead Location 

The Mica View Loop is another beautiful, easy desert hike through Saguaro National Park. This hike is located in the east section, also called the Rincon Mountain District. 

If you want to do the full 3.7 mile loop, you can start at the Mica View picnic area and take the trail north. Once you near Broadway Blvd, the trail turns back along the Cactus Forest Trail, which then turns into Cholla, and then take Mesquite back to the picnic area. 

You can also cut the loop in half by cutting back along the Cactus Forest Trail instead of continuing onto the Cholla Trail. We had three little kids in town, and they were about to easily do this flat hike around sunset.  

Easy hiking near Tucson on the Mica Loop Trail in Saguaro National Park

Cholla Cactus along Mica View Loop Hike in Tucson, Arizona
Cholla Cactus along Mica View Loop Hike in Tucson, Arizona

6 Linda Vista Loop Trail

Distance: 2.5 mile loop | Elevation gain: 445 feet

Parking: Free off of Oracle and Linda Vista | Trailhead Location

The Linda Vista Loop Trail is another easy hike in Tucson. The trail leads up to Pusch Ridge in the Santa Catalina mountains. There are some stairs, but the overall elevation gain isn’t anything too intense. If you want more of a challenge, continue on and take the trail that goes up to the top of Pusch Peak where you can look out over Oro Valley.

On our first visit to Tucson together, we stayed at the Hilton El Conquistador resort, which is very close to the trailhead. It’s a great place to stay for a vacation or staycation!

Trails With Views in Tucson

If you’re willing to work a little more for it, try one of these Tucson hiking trails with amazing views.  

7 Tumamoc Hill Trail

Distance: 3.1 mile RT | Elevation gain: 738 feet

Parking: Free parking along Anklam Road. This hike is very popular, so parking here can be difficult. Note that they do ticket/tow cars that are parked in the hospital parking lot across the road.  | Trailhead Location

There are almost endless options for hiking near Tucson, but if you want to get outside without a long drive and actually go hiking in Tucson, then head over to Tumamoc Hill Trail. This paved road is used by University of Arizona employees working at the ecology research center atop the hill, but it’s open to hikers too. Even though the hill is paved and located right near downtown Tucson, you’ll still be surrounded by lots of cacti, and probably a lot of other hikers and joggers too.  

The trail is steep, and offers beautiful panoramic views of the city. Tumamoc Hill is open after dark, so it’s also a great spot to watch the city lights twinkle or go stargazing.  

Tumamoc Hill Trail in Tucson

“A beautiful day in the neighborhood” by jdphotos2007 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

8 Sutherland Trail

Distance: 18.2 miles RT | Elevation gain: 5,900 feet

Parking: $7 in Catalina State Park | Trailhead Location

If you’ve got all day and you want to see what Tucson has to offer from the desert valley to the mountain tops, then start trekking the Sutherland trail. The highest point of this hike reaches 8,600 feet along the ridges of the Catalina mountains that are covered in pine trees. The first three miles can be busy, but after that you’ll probably have the trail to yourself and may even have to do a bit of bushwhacking.  

9 Blackett’s Ridge Trail

Distance: 6 miles RT | Elevation gain: 1,765 feet

Parking: $8 in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area | Trailhead Location

Start the trail up to Blackett’s Ridge early or on a cooler day—there is no shade, and the trail can be steep in parts. Once you reach the top of the ridge you’ll have views of Thimble Peak, Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon.  

Views from a beautiful hiking trail in Tucson, Arizona

Hikes on Mount Lemmon

If it’s summer and it’s too hot to go hiking in Tucson, then take a drive up to Mount Lemmon to enjoy cooler weather and a change in

10 Meadow Trail 

Distance: 1.7 miles RT | Elevation gain: 295 feet

Parking: $5 in Coronado National Forest, or use your annual National Park Pass | Trailhead Location

The 60-mile round trip scenic byway up and around Mount Lemmon is one of the most beautiful drives around Tucson. If you want a great spot to go hiking near Tucson in the summer, then heading up to cooler weather on Mount Lemmon is a great option. The Meadow Trail is short and low-key but still has great views. The trail starts near the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center Observatory and takes you along a path shaded by tall pine trees.

11 Red Ridge Trail

Distance: 9.1 miles RT | Elevation gain: 3,375 feet

Parking: $5 in Coronado National Forest, or use your annual National Park Pass | Trailhead Location

For more of a challenging hike on Mt. Lemmon, try the Red Ridge Trail. This trail starts at about 8,100 feet in elevation and descends over 3,000 feet before hitting the turnaround point. Note that this trail can be covered in snow during the winter. The best time for this hike is usually spring or fall, when the snow is melted but before it warms up too much as there isn’t a ton of shade. This Red Ridge Trail has several creek crossings and offers views of Oracle Ridge, Samaniego Ridge, and Reef of Rock.  

Have a favorite hike in Tucson? Let us know in the comments below!

Sunset at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona

Sunset on a hiking trail in Tucson, Arizona

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