Loading Image Tucson's Travelers Guide to Catalina State Park   | eegee's

Rotate Device

January 4, 2023

Tucson’s Travelers Guide to Catalina State Park  

The parks in Arizona are popular not just for their natural beauty, but also because they’re cherished and well-maintained by all. Whether it’s a day hiker or a month-long vacationer, people love to explore the terrain, measure themselves against the huge saguaros (cacti), and sleep under the stars.

Catalina State Park can be found at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains in northwest Tucson. It’s known for its trails, campsites, and water locales in the spring. At eegee’s, a popular restaurant famous for its silky smooth, icy fruit drinks, we cater to plenty of hungry hikers both before and after the trek. We’ll tell you more about the park, and what you should know before you map out your day.

The Basics

Check out the basics of the park:

  • Located at 11570 N. Oracle Rd.
  • The cost is $7 per vehicle (max 4 adults) and $3 per person (if on foot or bike).
  • You cannot use a national pass (e.g., America Beautiful) for entry.
  • State Park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon – Sunday. (Open 24 hours for camping).
  • Use the park’s Iron Ranger for paying fees if a ranger is not on duty.
  • The Visitor Center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 pm. Mon — Sunday.

A hiker and her dog sitting by a mountain stream.

Are dogs allowed? You can bring your pet to a variety of places in the park, though certain trails are not suitable for pets. Take note of posted signs to protect your pooch from either dangerous terrain or territorial predators.

Short Hikes in Catalina State Park

If you’re looking for the best hikes in Catalina, there are 8 trails in the park, ranging from a mile long to nearly 11 miles long. Below are the ones under 3 miles.

Nature Trail (Hikers, Bikers)

This mile-loop trail may take you past skunks, snakes, lizards, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels. You might spot a bobcat or a coyote, and there are even tortoises and mountain lions that hang out in the area. With a short hill and plenty of desert scrub, you’ll find informative posts about the climate and topography of the park along the way.  If you have kids who get bored fairly easily, this one is likely to hold their interest from start to finish.

Romero Ruins Interpretive (Hikers)

This is a short but jam-packed stroll if you’re interested in the historical terrain of the mountains. It’s around .75 miles and named for the remains of the Hohokam village that you can still see evidence of from the trail. The decorated pottery discovered on this site tells us that the Hohokam lived here from around 500 – 1,450 AD. You can also see the walls of a 19th Century ranch home still standing.

Birding (Hikers, Bikers, Horseback Riders)

Around 1.5 miles, this flat trail is open to all. Horseback riders can use this path to get to the Equestrian Center in the park.

Canyon Loop (Hikers, Bikers, Horseback Riders)

Canyon Loop is 2.3 miles and takes you through the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The trail is technically open to all, but you should know that halfway through you’ll see stairs to take you up a slope. Avoid the stairs by taking a bypass if you’re on a bike or a horse.

Santa Catalina Mountains with trails

Long Hikes in Catalina State Park

For those who like a challenge, the following hikes will get your blood pumping.

Romero Canyon (Hikers)

At just over 7 miles, the trail starts with a wash, meaning you might get hit with some water or find yourself maneuvering your way over the riverbed rocks. If you’re interested in seeing the Montrose Pools, known for their eye-catching beauty, you’re unfortunately unlikely to find water there. If you’re only planning to go about a mile into the trail, you can take your bike. You just can’t take it the whole way.

50-Year (Hikers, Bikers, Horseback Riders)

The 50-year trail is made for mountain bikers and horseback riders. The 8.6-mile trail has you following a ridgetop for around a third of the way. You’ll wander for about 6 miles in the open desert, going up and down in the foothills with plenty of elevation gain.

Sutherland (Hikers)

The longest trail in Catalina State Park clocks in at 10.8 miles. It leads you up and into the Coronado National Forest. Along the way, you’ll see the Desert Bighorn Sheep Management Area and Wilderness Area. The first few miles are fairly easygoing, but the last miles are going to be a steep and rocky climb.

Refreshments After the Hike

If you’re new to Tucson, it takes a minute to get your bearings together. You likely want an authentic experience, but you might not know exactly where to start. We got our start in Tucson and know the city inside and out. We can tell you that we have some of the best hiking paths in the world, particularly if you want to drink in the wonders of the desert. If you want to live like the locals, we invite you to come to your nearest eegee’s location to fill up or to cool off with our famous eegee drink.

3 eegees + straw-w-shadows

What exactly is an eegee you might ask? The original eegee was a frozen lemonade, one that was delicious and silky enough to be enjoyed at sporting events and concerts alike via a food truck. Our founders didn’t travel to the foothills of Santa Catalina in the early 1970s on that first run, but they did notice just how popular these beverages were with people who wanted a breather.

The eegee’s of today are casual restaurants where you can come either before the hike or afterwards for lunch. Our grinders, salads, chicken fingers, subs, and sides are legendary in the city. They’re beloved not just for their flavors but for how well they pair with our icy eegees. After the success of our lemonades, we now offer a whole range of fruity eegees, plus a surprise Flavor of the Month.

When to Visit

While exercise is always the right decision, be careful about what you do and when. Tucson doesn’t just get warm, it can get dangerously hot. eegee’s recommends going hiking or camping during the cooler months (Oct – April).

If you check the weather around September or May, though, you might get lucky. If you come to stay at a campground for a day or two, you’re welcome all year round. No matter when you visit Tucson, though, eegee’s is happy to welcome you to the city. When we say our staff is friendly, we mean it!

What!?! FREE eegee’s? Yes!

Oh, Hey. Let’s Stay Connected.