Tucson is one of the best hiking destinations in the Southwestern United States, and there are trails near the city for all types of hikers. There is plenty to explore in the five mountain ranges surrounding the Old Pueblo. It’s difficult to know where to start with thousands of hikes to choose from in this Sonoran Desert destination.
I grew up with an active, outdoorsy family. We’ve conquered hundreds of hikes in my Arizona hometown together, and I’m going to share my favorites with you. Some can be summited on a whim, but others require ample time and planning for success.
So without further ado, here are the 26 best hikes in Tucson, from easiest to most challenging.
Table of Contents
- 26 Best Hikes Near Tucson
- Signal Hill Trail
- Catalina Nature Trailhead
- Sweetwater Wetlands Loop
- Bowen House via Camino de Oeste
- Windy Point, Mount Lemmon
- Painted Hills Trail Loop
- Bear Wallow Spring, Mount Lemmon
- Tanque Verde Falls
- Tumamoc Hill
- Linda Vista Trail
- Starr Pass Loop
- Brown Mountain
- Seven Falls
- Slavin Gulch, Dragoon Mountains
- Pima Canyon Trail
- La Milagrosa Canyon
- Safford Peak (Sombrero Peak)
- Romero Canyon Trail to Romero Pools
- Cliff House Hike
- King Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak
- Picacho Peak
- David Yetman Trail
- Pusch Peak
- Blackett’s Ridge
- Butterfly & Sunset Trail, Mount Lemmon
- Mount Kimball via Finger Rock Trail #42
- Mount Wrightson
- FAQs About Tucson Hikes
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26 Best Hikes Near Tucson
Signal Hill Trail
A short trek to 13th-century Hohokam petroglyphs carved into granodiorite boulders.
⛰️ Easy | 0.3 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 15 minutes | Cost: Free
Signal Hill is one of my favorite picnic spots near Tucson. The hike to the summit takes less than 10 minutes. Explore dozens of intricate Hohokam petroglyphs scattered at the top. History buffs will be in awe of this beautiful hill.
I recommend taking the whole family to Signal Hill for a leisurely day of desert exploring. It’s also a great spot for a sunset date! Take a scenic drive through the Tucson Mountain District after your visit.
Catalina Nature Trailhead
Take a leisurely stroll through the gorgeous desert scenery in lush Catalina State Park.
The Catalina Nature Trailhead has been one of my favorite Tucson hikes since I was a little kid. Meander sandy tracks through the foothills of Catalina State Park with gorgeous views throughout. The loop features desert dweller footprints impressed into concrete plaques throughout the route. This interactive feature makes it a great trail for kids.
👉 Pro Tip: Be on the lookout during your trek. Catalina State Park is teeming with desert wildlife such as whitetail deer, bobcats, and desert tortoises.
Sweetwater Wetlands Loop
Stroll through this picturesque wildlife habitat when you crave a carefree jaunt through nature.
It’s super easy to find this little nature gem located just a stone’s throw from I-10 and Downtown Tucson. The Sweetwater Wetlands are incredibly easy to explore, so anyone can visit. There is virtually no incline to the sandy trails throughout this wildlife preserve.
The Sweetwater Wetlands Loop is your Tucson go-to if you’re an avid birder. This is home to herons, hawks, quail, and many more beautiful species. You’ll also run into other desert critters like javelinas and bobcats drawn to the water.
Bowen House via Camino de Oeste
Step back in time when you explore the remains of this Sonoran homestead, still standing in Saguaro National Park after more than 80 years.
This decades-old stone house draws locals and visitors alike to this section of the Yetman Trail (discussed later in this article) in Saguaro National Park.
The Bowen House was built by an Arizona Daily Star editor and her husband seeking nature and privacy in the 1930s. When they moved away in the early 80s, the house was reclaimed by the Sonoran Desert. The rock frame remains, but the windows, doors, and roof are long gone.
Now the ruins of the Bowen House create a unique scene in the middle of the lush Tucson Mountains. The hike is fairly easy. You’ll have to traverse some rocky streambeds (watch your step!), but any hiker could make the journey to this funky destination.
Windy Point, Mount Lemmon
Elevate your nature walk at this popular lookout on Mount Lemmon. A local favorite!
⛰️ Easy | 0.3 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 1 hour | Cost: Free
Spectacular views and cooler weather await you at this popular Tucson lookout. Windy Point is a favorite known by all T-locs. Drive nearly 7,000 feet up Mount Lemmon via the Catalina Highway to the hoodoos (columned rock formations) that litter this beautiful sky island.
Frolic around swirling rocks that lead to stunning vistas at the end of the path. Take in sweeping views of Tucson and the Pusch Ridge Wilderness below. Children and pets are welcome, just be cautious as some of the rocks are smooth and slippery.
👉 Pro Tip: Wow your beloved with a sunset picnic overlooking the city here.
Painted Hills Trail Loop
Hike past beautiful saguaros with views of the city in the Tucson Mountains.
The Painted Hills Trail Loop is one of my favorite Tucson hikes when I’m on a time crunch. You get a decent workout from the up-and-downs, but it doesn’t take all day to conquer this beautiful trail. You’re likely to be the only human in sight if you visit on a weekday.
You’ll feel truly immersed in the Sonoran Desert on this trail, despite the citywide views throughout. It’s quiet and wildlife is abundant in this area. Make sure to bring a good sun hat since this rocky route offers very little natural shade!
🥾 My Favorite Gear: Columbia Unisex Bora Bora Booney
Bear Wallow Spring, Mount Lemmon
The perfect woodland stroll when you need a breath of fresh air on Mount Lemmon.
⛰️ Easy | 3.6 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 1.5 hours | Cost: Free
Escape the summer heat in Tucson and hit the road to Mount Lemmon. The dense forest trail in Bear Wallow Spring is the perfect mountain escape. Bring the pups and the kiddos to this gorgeous area for a picnic and a day of woodland exploration. See if you can find the hidden apple tree along the way!
This is also one of the best places to go camping in Arizona if you’d like to extend your stay overnight. Mount Lemmon is one of the greatest treasures near Tucson, so make sure to capitalize on your time on the mountain. Check out the small Arizona town of Summerhaven and the ski slopes after your hike in Bear Wallow.
Tanque Verde Falls
Hike to a collection of waterfalls in the Rincon Mountain District for a fun day in the water.
⛰️ Moderate | 1.1 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 40 minutes | Cost: Free
Tanque Verde Falls is one of the best places to go cliff-jumping in Tucson. This secluded oasis is located in the rolling hills of Redington Pass on the northern end of the Rincon Mountain District.
Be very careful when making your way to Tanque Verde Falls. The water rages after the summer monsoons. The hike isn’t far from Redington Road, but the short path can be treacherous after heavy rains.
This is one of the most fun hikes in Tucson. Some of my fondest childhood memories took place here! It’s also less crowded than similar treks in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area (and has free parking). Just make sure you use good judgment when planning around the weather and time of day.
👉 Pro Tip: Be cautious of flash flood warnings before you head to this unpredictable area.
The most popular workout in Tucson – prepare to feel the burn after this steep hike!
⛰️ Moderate | 2.9 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 5 minutes | Cost: Free
Tumamoc Hill is crawling with T-locs from 4 am to 10 pm every single day. This paved uphill trail climbs high above the city, and it’s killer on your legs. But the burn in your body and lungs will be worth it when you reach the impressive city views at the top.
This centrally located hike is a great place to knock out your cardio each week. I love Tumamoc Hill because it’s so easy to fit into my schedule. Parking can be hard to find at the base, so try to arrive early.
🥾 My Favorite Gear: Hiking boots aren’t required on this paved path. Opt for solid outdoor running shoes like these ASICS on Amazon.
Linda Vista Trail
This beautiful loop at the base of the Catalinas is typically not crowded.
⛰️ Moderate | 2.2 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 10 minutes | Cost: Free
The Linda Vista Loop is one of the best hiking trails in Oro Valley. This moderate route is located at the base of Pusch Peak, one of the most prominent peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountain range.
Desert wildlife flourishes in this lush area. The mountain views are stunning, especially when the morning light spills over the pointed summit. I highly recommend hiking the Linda Vista Loop in the springtime when the wildflowers are in full bloom. The vibrant colors will leave you in awe of how bright the desert can be.
Starr Pass Loop
You don’t have to be a skilled hiker to explore this beautiful section of the Tucson Mountains.
Yet another hike in Tucson Mountain Park! Starr Pass Loop is accessed via Clearwell Road on the eastern side of Saguaro National Park. It’s less crowded for this reason. You can expect to encounter a few mountain bikers along this trail. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed.
Spend a day floating on the lazy river at Starr Pass Resort after your trek, one of the best places to stay in Tucson. This timeless 4-star resort and spa attract stay-cationers and celebrities alike. There are tons of other Tucson hiking trails to check out in this area if you’d like to try something more difficult.
A challenging hike through the rugged Tucson Mountains just down the road from the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.
Brown Mountain is one of the most popular hiking trails in Tucson Mountain Park. It’s not super challenging, but it does offer some steep inclines. The views of Saguaro National Park West are stellar once you make it to the top of the mountain.
Visit the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum down the road with the whole family after your hike. This zoo and natural history museum is considered one of the best things to do in Tucson!
👉 Pro Tip: Bring a hat and sunscreen as this path doesn’t offer much shade.
One of the best Tucson hikes to a gorgeous set of waterfalls in Sabino Canyon.
Ask any T-loc where to hike in Tucson and 90% of them will tell you “Seven Falls.” This iconic hike is indeed gorgeous. The out-and-back path takes you to the steep cliff sides within Sabino Canyon, one of the best recreation areas in town. The falls are impressive after heavy storms. Expect to see desert tortoises, whitetail deer, and other desert critters along the way.
This area does dry up during certain times of the year, so make sure to check out the website above before packing your bathing suit. And be very cautious when scaling the rocks here. I’ve heard one too many stories about helicopter rescues for hikers who slipped and broke bones when messing around the falls.
👉 Pro Tip: Take Bear Canyon Trail to the falls for a slightly shorter, less crowded route.
Slavin Gulch, Dragoon Mountains
A rocky trail lined with dense vegetation and historic mine shafts.
⛰️ Moderate | 6.8 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 1.5 hours | Cost: Free
Slavin Gulch is my favorite hike in the Dragoon Mountains. It features running water, boulder fields, and historic mining sites. The hike isn’t super long or strenuous, and the mine shafts are wicked cool. Be aware that the trail isn’t in the best shape, so wear durable clothing.
The Dragoons are one of my favorite mountain ranges in the state. These spectacular formations are littered with massive, round boulders and vibrant greenery. I’d recommend a trip to this otherworldly landscape any day.
Pima Canyon Trail
This trail can take you on an all-day trip. Or simply hike out and back after getting your fill of desert streams and city views.
⛰️ Difficult | 10.1 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 10 minutes | Cost: Free
Pima Canyon will forever be my favorite area to hike in Tucson. I grew up down the street from here, so I’ll admit I’m biased. You’ll be in awe of the natural beauty of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. And you might even scramble alongside bighorn sheep – a locally restored species – if you’re lucky!
This trail is great because it offers so many different options. You can go the distance and link up with other trails such as Finger Rock and Mount Kimball (both featured later in this list). Or you can hike a couple of miles to a pretty lookout, enjoy the views, then turn back and call it a day.
The flora and fauna are stunning here. Follow a babbling brook for most of the route as you venture into the breathtaking canyon. This is personally my top Tucson hike for its enchanting beauty and varying difficulty options.
La Milagrosa Canyon
A lush hike to picturesque canyon walls, babbling brooks, and fun rock climbing routes.
⛰️ Difficult | 10.1 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 20 minutes | Cost: Free
La Milagrosa Canyon Trail is a long hike if you want it to be. But you can venture in just a couple of miles out and back if you’re short on time. The trip to the high canyon walls is only about a mile in, and my is it gorgeous. You can also find dozens of incredible rock climbing routes here.
La Milagrosa Canyon turns electric green and fills with running water after the monsoons. I recommend visiting in early September for this sight. La Milagrosa Canyon Trail is one of the more private hiking trails, too, so you won’t run into major crowds here.
Safford Peak (Sombrero Peak)
This iconic hike starts easy and ends with a challenging uphill battle.
⛰️ Difficult | 3.5 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 10 minutes | Cost: Free
Safford Peak is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Tucson. The mountain takes on the distinct shape of a sombrero, a fitting ode to Hispanic culture in Southern Arizona. It rightfully earned the nickname “Sombrero Peak” for this reason.
The trek to the summit is deceiving at first. I recall thinking, “Why is this rated a difficult hike? This is a breeze!” the first time I attempted it. The second half was a rude awakening. Steep switchbacks and jagged boulders make up the remainder of the way. But the views at the top make it worth it. Make sure to leave a message in the visitor notebook up there!
🥾 My Favorite Gear: Navigate Sombrero Peak with a pair of Covacure trekking poles.
Romero Canyon Trail to Romero Pools
This is the best cliff-diving spot in Tucson located in Catalina State Park.
Romero Canyon Trail is one of the best and most challenging hikes in Catalina State Park. This one is my favorite watering hole. The journey into the northwestern side of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness is stunning, especially if you visit during the springtime blooms.
Traverse a narrow trail through steep granite rocks until you reach this gorgeous collection of pools. You’ll want to collapse into the cool water and never use your legs again if you’re even a little bit out of shape like me. This trail is far less crowded than 7 Falls, which has a similar vibe. Unfortunately, no dogs are allowed due to bighorn sheep restrictions.
Cliff House Hike
Bushwack your way to an abandoned mansion in Redfield Canyon on the eastern side of Mount Lemmon.
⛰️ Difficult | 1 mile | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 1 hour | Cost: Free
I’m almost positive you’ve never heard of this one–the Cliff House Hike. The cliff house is an abandoned mansion built into an overhang of Redfield Canyon on the eastern side of the Santa Catalinas. Even avid local hikers scratch their heads in confusion when I ask them about this desert enigma.
The legend of the cliff house has several versions, but here is the gist. A cowboy and his wife built the hideaway in the 1930s as a home base while rounding up wild horses in the canyon. It was later occupied by an English writer who fell in love with the cliff house. Now it belongs to the canyon, but pieces of furniture, silverware, and plumbing remain.
It’s not that physically hard to make it to the cliff house, but it’s extremely hard to find. I’m not even quite sure how I stumbled upon it myself, to be quite honest. There is no set trail to it, so you’ll need to wear quality hiking clothes to traverse the rocky terrain into the canyon.
You can find the dirt Redfield Road via the small town of San Manuel, or take Redington Pass to the eastern side of the Catalinas. Pull off on a shoulder and bushwack your way down into the canyon. Walk the dry creek bed under a canopy of cottonwood trees until you reach this incredible abode. This is the most unique hike on this list.
👉 Pro Tip: Watch out for plants that poke. Wear thick pants and a long sleeve!
King Canyon Trail to Wasson Peak
Break a sweat to the tallest peak in the Tucson Mountains on this challenging route.
Wasson Peak is one of the most enjoyable hikes I’ve done in Saguaro National Park. King Canyon Trail isn’t the hardest one in the park, but it is lengthier than most. The terrain also changes quite a bit from start to finish. Bring lots of water and snacks for this one!
Pick up your feet through a sandy wash to start, then begin the climb up the rocky mountain. The trail winds through saguaros as far as the eye can see. It’s hard to keep from stopping every two minutes to take photos of the desert landscape. Bask in triumph at the top as you inhale the citywide views of Tucson Mountain Park and the city below you.
Scale the precarious cliff sides of this iconic mountain just 30 minutes north of Tucson.
Picacho Peak State Park is home to one of the most popular hikes in Arizona, not just Tucson. This volcanic formation rises steeply from the flat desert between Tucson and Phoenix. The park entrance is a stone’s throw from I-10, so it’s super easy to drive here from Downtown Tucson and beyond.
Those afraid of heights might struggle with this one. Portions of Picacho Peak are so steep that cabled handholds were installed to assist with the climb. Hiking gloves like the ones recommended in my Grand Canyon Packing List are your best friend here! While this journey is tough, it’s one of the most rewarding and fun in my experience.
Tackle the summit from the eastern face (only 2.8 miles roundtrip) or head to the opposite side of the mountain for a lengthier trek up its western face (5.4 miles). Depending on parking availability, you may not have a choice on which side you get.
🥾 My Favorite Gear: These Intra-FIT climbing gloves will save your hands on the cables!
David Yetman Trail
This popular hike features abandoned houses, petroglyphs, caves, and breathtaking views of Saguaro National Park West.
The David Yetman Trail slinks its way through the valleys and rugged inclines of Saguaro National Park. This is arguably the prettiest landscape on the western side of the city. Desert creatures and plant life abound, and city views are around every curve.
This trail is unique in that you can access it from so many different points. Take off from Gate’s Pass for a more challenging route. Or take the more leveled path from Camino de Oeste or Starr Pass if you’d prefer. The Yetman Trail caters to nearly every skill level. Simply choose which section you’d like to explore and hit the trail.
📚 Related Reading: 8 Best Tucson Neighborhoods
You’ll be out of breath at the top of this incredible peak overlooking all of Tucson and Oro Valley.
⛰️ Difficult | 3.7 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 10 minutes | Cost: Free
This hike absolutely kicked my butt! It’s less than 2 miles to the top, but those 2 miles go directly up. I was doubled over wishing for divine intervention to end my suffering by the last half mile. But I persisted, and I’m so glad I did.
The views from the top of Pusch Peak are likely the best on this list. You can see Oro Valley, every mountain range, the University of Arizona, Downtown Tucson, and everything in between. In a word? Stunning. Painful, yes. But it’ll take your breath away for more reasons than one once you power through the struggle.
Treat yourself to a cold beer or margarita at Seis Kitchen after this workout. It’s one of the best restaurants in Tucson, just one minute from the trailhead!
One of the hardest hikes in Sabino Canyon. But the views? Some of the best in Tucson.
Blackett’s Ridge is a hard hike. It’s right up there with Pusch Peak for me, but maybe that’s because I’m out of shape. Anyway, this one always pushes my limits. But I think this is my all-time favorite summit in the city. Nothing makes me feel more alive than when I dangle my feet over the sheer drop at the top.
Prepare to beat up your legs and lungs with this one. But I promise it’s worth it! The views of the canyon are seriously incredible. The sprawling city views on the other side complete this gorgeous hike.
Butterfly & Sunset Trail, Mount Lemmon
A gorgeous sky island hike through shimmering aspens and fragrant pine trees.
⛰️ Difficult | 9.3 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 1.5 hours | Cost: Free
Here’s another fantastic mountain escape. The Butterfly and Sunset Trail is one of the most scenic on this list. It’s also likely the most well-known on Mount Lemmon. Tall pines and glowing aspens create a vibrant canopy in some parts. Bouldered stretches of granite form the rest. Expect to have your breath taken away by views and elevation gain.
Plan accordingly for the drive up the mountain as the Butterfly & Sunset Trail takes at least 5 hours to complete. I recommend visiting on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds on the mountain. Large groups of loud people can certainly take away some of the magic from this place.
Mount Kimball via Finger Rock Trail #42
Scale the incredible cliff sides of the Santa Catalina Mountains to one of the most notable rock formations in Tucson.
⛰️ Difficult | 8.8 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 10 minutes | Cost: Free
The trail to Mount Kimball will undoubtedly give you a run for your money. The trail starts easy and then gets really, really rough (it’s a metaphor for life).
The first mile and a half is generally flat and well-marked. Then the trail turns very hairy. Parts of the path are just slabs of granite. Make sure to keep an eye out for the cairns because it’s easy to miss a turn in this rough terrain! This trail is not for the faint of heart as there are skinny sections with steep drop-offs, too.
The trail forks left once you get to the grassy area about halfway up. You will scramble, you will trip, and you will struggle. But you can worry about how sore you’ll be later. This hike should not be missed if you love a challenge and stellar views.
One of the best parts of this hike is the view of Finger Rock. This jagged spectacle is unmissable from the southern side of the Santa Catalinas. Seeing it up close gives it a level of detail that will take your breath away.
🥾 My Favorite Gear: These durable Columbia hiking boots will get you to the top of Mount Kimball.
The highest point in the Santa Rita Mountains will leave you breathless from both physical strain and beauty.
⛰️ Difficult | 13.1 miles | Google Maps | Drive Time from Tucson: 1 hour | Cost: Free
Mount Wrightson is famous in Tucson. No outdoorsman can claim to be an expert hiker without summiting this crazy peak. First of all, it’s 13 miles roundtrip with a 4,000-foot elevation gain. It takes all day to get to the top, and half of that involves practically vertical switchbacks. This is fair for the highest point (9,456 feet) in the greater Tucson area.
The first half of the hike is quite pleasant. A shaded path winds through fragrant pines, and little streams trickle by on either side. But once you reach the saddle of the mountain and surpass the tree line, the road gets rough. Stick out because this is one of the most rewarding hikes I’ve ever done. The drive through Madera Canyon alone makes this worthwhile.
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FAQs About Tucson Hikes
Where is a good place to hike in Tucson?
The best places to hike in Tucson are the Santa Catalina Mountains, Tucson Mountains, and Santa Rita Mountains. These offer a wide variety of hikes with skill levels ranging from beginner to expert.
How long is the Seven Falls hike in Tucson?
The Seven Falls hike in Tucson is 8.4 miles long from the Sabino trailhead parking lot. Depending on your speed, it takes 2 to 3 hours to get to the water.
I hope this list gives you the excitement and inspiration you needed to explore the gorgeous mountains around Tucson. Please don’t hesitate to comment on your favorite Tucson hiking trails if I left out any that deserve the spotlight!
Next up, read my guide to the best hikes near Phoenix.
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