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5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

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Mesa, Arizona
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5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

I was in Tucson once before during extreme heat so during that visit I primarily focused on the museums, galleries, shopping and similar indoor attractions. This time I am going to be there between Christmas and New Years and want to do as much outdoors as possible. I am interested in easy to moderate difficulty hikes, though I don't mind some extreme difficulty if it results in great view. 2-3 miles ideal, 4-5 miles is pushing it based on the person I am traveling with... Also interested in Scenic Drives to supplement any hiking. I will have a conventional passenger car as a rental.

Tucson, Arizona
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1. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

Scenic drives:

- Mt. Lemmon - there is even some snow at the top and may get some more this week so check road conditions first.

- Saguaro National Park - east or west units.

Hiking:

Sabino Canyon - they have a tram that you can take that allow you to tailor the amount of hiking you do.

Lots of other options depending on what part of town you will be in.

Also, if you've never been there make sure to get to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum - it's not a conventional museum at all. More like a desert zoological park.

Just keep in mind that it can get pretty cold here this time of year, especially in the mornings and evenings. Best best is to dress in layers if you're outdoors.

Mesa, Arizona
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2. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

Thanks DBL. I will check those out. A couple of more questions, is Organ Pipe Cactus just too far to be worth the detour? I was mesmorized by the photographs that I saw of it. Also I liked what I read about Madera Canyon but noticed a comment that they run out of parking very early in the day. Is that a real problem?

Tucson, Arizona
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3. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

Organ Pipe is going to be about a 3 hour drive each way. You'll have to decide if it's worth it for you, buy personally I wouldn't spend most of a day to go see it.

Madera Canyon would be a great place to go. There is some pretty easy hiking there as well as some good bird watching. Not really sure about parking, but we've never had a problem.

Edited: 5:40 pm, December 24, 2012
Scottsdale, Arizona
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4. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

If you go to Madera Canyon, or even if you don't, take a drive to San Xavier Mission south of Tucson. Also south on I-19 are Tubac and Tumamacori. Nice places to visit and photograph.

tucson
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5. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

Not much in terms of views in madera canyon unless you hike to the top of my wrightson which is strenuous. Another strenuous hike in that area that has views would be elephant head. If you ho that far.... Check out tubac and the mission and spice company in tumacacori

Edited: 10:12 am, December 26, 2012
tucson az
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6. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

Go to Madera Canyon during the week, and you will not encounter any parking problem. While this is a picturesque area, it has little in the way of "long distance" scenery. It's a very contained area once you are in the canyon. Unless you are an avid hiker or birder, Madera Canyon may not have much to offer you.

Organ Pipe is too far away and is also affected by smuggling of people and drugs across the border.

Tucson, Arizona
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7. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

I think Wasson Peak is worth a day. It is a moderate hike to the 4600' summit of the tallest peak in the Tucson Mountains. Google Wasson Peak hike/trail to find the trail head. The views are stunning! Enjoy.

Tucson, Arizona
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8. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

I agree with DesertBeach, check out the Desert Museum. It is all outdoors and the scenery is gorgeous. It provides a nice long walk. The drive out there (Gates Pass) is absolutely beautiful too. Well worth the trip. You would enjoy Sabino Canyon. Take cash for the tram ride. They do not accept cards. I found out the hard way on that one. I also enjoy hiking Pima Canyon. It is very pretty with lots of photo ops. I live near Madera and enjoy that as well. Madera has more trees/greenery than the other two canyons, which are desert. You can't go wrong with any of them. Enjoy!

Tucson, Arizona
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9. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

We have just returned from hiking around Tucson and definitely recommend Saguaro National Park East and hiking the Loma Verde Trail which is basically flat and maybe 3 miles and gorgeous. Definitely go to Sabino Canyon and try one of the many trails there. We hiked Ventana Canyon up to the pools, which was also a nice hike but perhaps a bit more strenuous. An absolutely stunning hike was Bear Canyon, but you have to ford six or seven times and you would want to turn around at about 1.5 miles out. The hike to the falls is stupendous but a bit strenuous and I think maybe 7 or 8 miles round trip. Personally we were not too enthused about the Desert Museum but many folks love it.

ZB

Defiance Ohio
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10. Re: 5 days in Tucson, suggestions for hiking and scenic drives?

My family (2 boys 14&12) were in Tucson over Christmas...The desert Museum was a good first day activity after a long travel day. We did the Mt Lemmon drive on a colder day and stopped along the way to do a little exploring, We went to gates pass for sunset and also did a day hiking in sabino canyon (they also have a trolly ride where you can get off and on along the way) we chose to do the seven falls which took most of the day since we stopped for lunch and spent about an hour at the top. Another short adventure was to San Xavior mission (beuatiful)and they have little stand that sell frybread...the idian tacos are amazing.