Whether you’re new to hiking or a trail-hardened pro, you’ll be able to find a photogenic trail in Arizona’s Catalina Foothills to exceed your expectations. Below are some of the most scenic hikes to explore in this stunning desert wonderland.
Finger Rock Trail Head
Credit: Mountain Project
This trail starts easily but gets more challenging the higher up you climb. Halfway up you’ll find Finger Rock Spring, which has some great picnic spots and outlooks. After the spring, the trail starts to get rocky, so casual hikers may want to turn around—but if you continue, you’ll find some amazing vistas to reward your hard work. No motorized vehicles, bikes, or dogs are permitted on the trail. It runs 6.3 miles, and reaches 6,200’. The trail can be located north on Alvernon Way, and there’s a parking lot at the trailhead. The trail is open year-round and gets a lot of foot traffic, but there is no water available on the hike—so be sure to bring more than enough on the hike (and leave some in the car for when you get back!)
Esperero Trail #25
This trail is a little more advanced, but the view at the top is a great reward if you can finish. The trail starts at the Cactus Picnic Area in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. There’s a ton of wildlife along this hike, but be careful not to disrupt their habitat. The first stop along the way takes you to Bird Canyon and is the easiest section of the hike. From there, the trail gets a bit rocky and eventually ends up in Esperero Canyon. From there it passes through Geronimo Meadow, which has a creek running through it during the wetter times of the year. From here the trail gets really tough, climbing steeply until Window Peak. The peak got its name from a 15’x25’ hole in a fin-like ridge that frames a beautiful view of Tucson and the valleys and mountains beyond.
This trail has fewer visitors due to its challenge, and again there is no motorized equipment, vehicles, bikes, or dogs allowed. The hike runs about 10 miles and depending on the time of year, there may be some natural water. In any case, you’ll want to bring a filtering system if you plan to drink it. The elevation reaches approximately 7,400’, and you’ll want to bring sunscreen, as there are many spots without any shade.
Pima Canyon Trailhead
Credit: Susanne Grogan
This trail ascends a V-shaped notch carved along the south face of Pusch Ridge and is a great trail to spot a variety of birds in their natural habitats, along with jackrabbits, bighorn sheep, and javelina. In the wetter months, there is a stream in the canyon, but most of the year, it remains dry. The trail stays easy until you get beyond Pima Spring, and from there, it gets steeper and more complex. If you can push through, you’ll find some great views of Window Rock and Cathedral Rock.
The foot traffic on this trail is pretty heavy, and it’s open to the public year-round. Motorized vehicles and equipment, bikes, and dogs are not allowed on the trail. There is water available from the spring, but it is recommended that you bring a filtration system with you to purify the water before you drink it. The hike is about 8.6 miles long, and the highest elevation reaches 7,255’. The parking area and trail start can be found at the end of Magee Road.
The Chuck Huckleberry Loop
This trail is excellent for beginners or those looking to have a more casual experience. It’s a system of paved, shared-use paths, with bike lanes running alongside the trail. The main loop runs for about 53.9 miles, but all the loops in total run about 137 miles and go through Pima County, Marana, Oro Valley, Tucson, and South Tucson. It connects parks, trailheads, bus and bike routes, workplaces, restaurants, schools, hotels and motels, shopping areas, and entertainment venues. You’ll get to see all that the different areas have to offer as you work your way through the loop, making it a perfect trip for sightseeing, or just getting to know the area.
This trail is great for walking, running, biking, horseback riding, or skating. Dogs are also permitted along the trail, just make sure they are on a leash and kept away from the horses and the cyclists. If you choose to ride a bike, be careful of the horses and avoid ringing your bell to pass, as it can spook them. The loop has many access points where you can start your hike, and you can visit their website to print off a PDF map that marks them. It has 15 restrooms along the pathways, and there are also over 20 parks along the loop that have restroom facilities available. Motorized vehicles and equipment are not permitted on this hiking trail.
Tumamoc Hill Hiking Trail
This hiking trail is classified as moderate and runs along a paved path that travels up a hill with great city views. It’s one of the few hikes in the Tucson Mountain Range that allows you to hike during the night, which can get you fantastic sunrise and sunset views. Because Tumamoc Hill is a research station, you must stay along the paved path the entire time you are hiking to preserve the wildlife, like the gorgeous wildflowers that grow along the sides of the trail. At points, the way can get very steep and has a lot of switchbacks, making it a bit more strenuous at times.
The trail is best used from September to May as it can get extremely hot during the summer months. For this reason, it is also advised to bring water and sunscreen with you during your hike. No dogs are permitted on this trail, and neither are vehicles. The trail is open from 4:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Painted Hills Trails Park
This is a 285-acre natural open space park with multiple trails totaling four miles throughout. The Mosaic Trail, The Slingshot Trail, and the Monsoon Loop are all perfect for hiking and offer some remarkable views. Many peaks on the trails allow you to view the beautiful saguaros or cacti throughout the park, as well as wildlife, including large mule deer, bobcats, javelinas, coyotes, and occasionally a Gila monster. The trails can be used for hiking, mountain biking, or running. Dogs are permitted on the trails as long as they are kept on leash. The park's main trailhead is located just west of North Player's Club Drive and there is a small parking lot available to park visitors as well. The park relies on the attentiveness of visitors to keep the park and trails pristine, cleaning up after themselves and their dogs.
Searching for a Catalina Foothills luxury home for sale?
If you’re interested in luxury homes for sale in Catalina Foothills or any of Tucson’s gorgeous neighborhoods, contact me, Daniel Sotelo at (520) 727-9000 today. My local expertise in the greater Tucson area will help you find exactly what you’re looking for in this beautiful desert community.