Catalina State Park#7 in Best Things To Do in Tucson
Flanking the northern edge of the Catalina Foothills district, Catalina State Park provides spectacular views of Tucson and the surrounding mountain ranges. Inside, the park hosts 5,500 acres of canyons, streams, and hiking and biking trails that wind through the Coronado National Forest at elevations near 3,000 feet. Along with the gorgeous views, keep your eyes open for birds; more than 150 species call the park home. Some visitors choose to hike, but you can also explore the park trails on horseback. Sitting at the eastern edge of the park, Houston's Horseback Riding offers guided trail rides.
Recent visitors called the park a "feast for the eyes" and said the high bird population is "astounding." Thanks to its location about 40 miles north of downtown Tucson, the park makes for an easy daytrip, according to reviewers. Along with views and trails, travelers were also quick to praise the cleanliness of the park's facilities. In addition to restrooms, the park also offers picnic tables, grills, campsites, camping cabins and shower facilities.
Catalina State Park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and there are numerous campsites available (which can be reserved online). Admission is $7 per vehicle – which allows entry for up to four people – and $3 for those entering on foot or by bike. Expect to pay between $15 and $30 to camp. The visitor center/ranger station is located at the park entrance and is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information and to view an event calendar, including the times and dates for ranger-led hikes and bird walks, visit the Catalina State Park website.
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#1 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Although it's called a museum, this facility – about 15 miles west of downtown Tucson – is more of a zoo. In fact, 85 percent of what you'll experience is outdoors (so dress accordingly). The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's 98 acres host 230 animal species – including prairie dogs, coyotes and a mountain lion – and 1,200 local plant species (totaling 56,000 individual plants). Walking through the museum's trails, visitors get acquainted with desert life. And if you feel hungry after your leisurely hike, you can enjoy a meal at one of the museum's four eateries, all of which have great views of the surrounding desert.
Recent visitors enjoyed their time at the museum and highly recommended future travelers set aside a few hours to explore the attraction's grounds and educational exhibits. Just make sure you come prepared: wear appropriate walking shoes, sun protection and sunscreen (though, if you forget your sunscreen, there are dispensers in the on-site bathrooms). Reviewers also advised stopping by in the morning or near closing as that's when the animals are most active. Aside from the flora and fauna, visitors also praised the knowledgeable docents.
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