Minutes from downtown Tucson lies beautiful Catalina State Park, 5,500 acres that surrounds the Santa Catalina Mountains and extends into the Coronado National Forest.
Visitors come to this peaceful park to explore the many miles of trails through the foothills, canyons, across streams and past historic sites, plants and animals.
At first glance, this rustic area appears untouched but as you wander through you’ll glimpse evidence of its earlier habitation through ruins and historic markers.
This picturesque AZ state park has actually been inhabited off and on since the Middle Archaic period (5000-1000 BC). Evidence of prehistoric farming and rock-formed pueblo sites are located throughout the area.
When you visit this gorgeous area you’ll not only have opportunities to hike, camp, picnic and birdwatch but you’ll also be close to the bustling town life and lots of shopping and dining.
During your visit stop into the visitor center and learn more about the history, plant life and other wildlife of this area. The park also has 2 gift shops with souvenirs, guide books, maps, water, snacks, apparel and sunscreen.
One gift shop is located inside the visitor center and the other near the trailhead.
Traveling with a child aged 6-12? Check out the Junior Ranger information (available on the park’s website and in the Visitor Center.
Just have your child complete each of the activities during your stay and then report back to a Park Ranger who will swear your Junior Ranger in and award them with a Junior Ranger button.
Hiking at Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park has 8 trails that wind through the desert, mountains and ancient ruins surrounding Catalina State Park by foot, bike or on horseback.
Before you head out on the trails stop by the Visitor Center and pick up a trail guide to learn more about these ruins and also any nature and wildlife that you’ll see along the way.
Be sure to follow the park’s safety tips while enjoying the trails – wear comfy footwear, carry enough water with you and always let someone know where you are going!
Here are some of the trails at Catalina State Park
- Romero Canyon Trail – Difficult 7 mile trail that crosses streams on its climb upward and through the vast wilderness around the park. Once the trail passes Montrose Pools only hikers are allowed to proceed further along this path. This part of the trail leads past a Hohokam pueblo and its ball court that was probably occupied from 550 AD until 1400 AD.
- Nature Trail – Easy 1 mile loop featuring typical desert vegetation. Signs are scattered throughout to educate hikers on the different native plants and animals.
- Canyon Loop Trail – Easy 2.3 mile flat trail that starts on Romero Canyon Trail, crosses streams and connects with the Sutherland Trail. There is a section about halfway around that contains a slope with 90 stairs, but there is a bypass trail around these steps for horses.
- Sutherland Trail – Moderate 9.1 mile trail into the surrounding Coronado National Forest and the Desert Bighorn Sheep Management Area (no dogs or bikes are allowed in this area).
Horseback Riding at Catalina State Park
The Equestrian Area inside Catalina State Park has a staging and camping area with ample parking space for horse trailers for visitors bringing their horses into the park.
In addition to the campsites, 16 corrals are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Also located in this area are hitching posts, mounting steps, restrooms, water, picnic tables and BBQ grills. There’s no electricity in the equestrian area.
Horses are allowed on the bridle trails but not on the Nature Trail, Birding Trail, Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail, paved roads or in the picnic/camping areas.
Birding at Catalina State Park
The park is an important birding area according to the Audubon Society – more than 170 species of birds have been sighted here! Look for buntings, cuckoos, sparrows and many others.
Nature and Wildlife at Catalina State Park
Be prepared to see white-tailed deer, rabbits, coyotes, snakes, lizards, spiders and more during your visit.
Pets at Catalina State Park
Pets are allowed at Catalina State Park but must be leashed (no longer than six-foot leash) and supervised at all times. Please clean up after your pet.
Camping at Catalina State Park
Stay year round in one of the 120 campsites at Catalina State Park. Campsites have beautiful views of the Catalina Mountains and are suitable for either tents or RVs.
Each campsite has water and electric connections, a picnic table and BBQ grill and are located near modern bathhouses.
Catalina State Park
11570 N Oracle Rd
Tucson, AZ 85737
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Catalina State Park:
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