February 28, 2018

21 Best Scenic Vista Hikes near Tucson, Arizona

Blackett's Sunset Hike
When you're hiking out into the wilderness on the trails around Tucson, you're bound to see amazing scenery regardless of which hike you choose. It's hard not to be captivated by the deep canyons, tall mountains, and changing foliage of the surprisingly lush Sonoran Desert.

However, there are several hikes where you'll come to either a point or a section of trail where you'll want to stop right in your tracks and enjoy a particularly stunning view.

Of course, great views are almost certain from the tops of the many mountains in the area, but we've already posted our picks for the best peak hikes around Tucson. This list is your guide to the best views that can be had on the trails around the Old Pueblo without having to summit a mountain.

If you're wondering about what hikes have the best views in Tucson, look no further.

21. Romero Canyon Loop

Lonely Bench
It would be impossible for us not to mention a hike where the views are good enough that benches have been installed at various points so that you can comfortably sit and enjoy the scenery for awhile. The fine folks of Catalina State Park have installed two such benches along this loop, so take advantage of them. Both are on the edge of the plateau above the stream and are particularly enjoyable at sunset.

View the Hike Profile

January 19, 2018

12 Best Rock Formation Hikes in Tucson

Sabino Canyon within Coronado National Forest
"The Mask" looks down on Stop #3 in Sabino Canyon
The city of Tucson is surrounded by several gigantic piles of rock that we call mountains. Over the ages, natural forces such as wind, rain, ice, floods, volcanoes, and even earthquakes have sculpted many of those rocks into all kinds of fantastic shapes.

Gazing upon such formations can spark a sense of wonder as you consider how they might have been formed, as well as a sense of humility as you realize how long it likely took them to be as they are.

With hundreds of miles of trails winding all around the nearby wilderness, there are loads of great hikes where you can scope out Southern Arizona's geological treasures, but we want to share our favorites with you in hopes that you'll be amazed by the most stationary of wilderness wonders.

Here are our picks for the 12 best rock formation hikes in and around Tucson, Arizona.

12. Picacho Peak

Picacho Peak
While driving in between Phoenix and Tucson on Interstate 10, there is one mountain that is nearly impossible to miss, Picacho Peak. The "Big Peak" juts up abruptly from the flat desert floor like a rock spire that looks like a coyote howling in the distance.

Contrary to popular belief, geologists do not think it is the remains of a volcano, but rather that its shape is the result of much of the original mountain falling away due to nearby fault activity. That means that the entire mountain is basically a rock formation resulting from earthquakes, which is pretty awesome.

View the Hike Profile

November 25, 2017

12 Best Hikes for Kids in Tucson

"Kid friendly" can mean all kinds of things. It can refer to the presence of chicken nuggets on a menu or the absence of profanity in a song or video. When it comes to hiking, we think kid friendliness should be measured by a few key elements:
  1. Length - For little legs, even a mile can feel like a ton of walking
  2. Variety - Shorter attention spans tend to do better with changing scenery
  3. Difficulty - If for no other reason than the guardian's peace of mind, keep it simple
  4. Goal - There needs to be a clear destination that is worth the trip
Equipped with those criteria, we've put together our picks for the 16 best hikes around Tucson, Arizona for kids. Each hike on this list is not too long or treacherous, is full of diversity, and has cool places that kids will want go to.

There is a range of levels among these hikes because we wanted to account for half-pint hikers between the ages of 4 and 12. In the second post of our 5 part series on Hiking with Kids, we noted that under our system, level 1 hikes are about right for the under 5 crowd, level 2 hikes can be good for 5-7 year olds, and anything 3 or higher are usually best reserved for kids who've hit their 8th birthday. If in doubt, it's always better to underestimate with a lower level hike than to get them in over their heads on a higher level hike than they are prepared for.

We hope you'll find some new favorites for your family.

12. Sycamore Reservoir - Level 2

0609 Sycamore Reservoir
The out-and-back hike to the old dam in the middle of the Santa Catalina Mountains has a few things that will appeal to young hikers.

November 03, 2017

Tips for Hiking with Kids: Part 5 - During and After the Hike

We've reached the end of the trail and it's been quite a journey. In this final post on how to hike with kids, we'll cover several important things to keep in mind about how to facilitate the hike, and a few key pointers to consider for afterwards.

During the Hike

It's taken us 5 separate posts in our series on how to hike with kids, but we're finally at the bit about actually hiking with kids. Here are our 13 best tips for the hike itself when you hit the trail with children.

November 02, 2017

Tips for Hiking with Kids: Part 4 - Keeping Them Engaged

Ideas to Keep Them Interested

For a lot of kids, especially those who are accustomed to staying indoors and staring at a screen, the excitement and novelty of a hike can wear off quickly when they get out on the trail. What once seemed like an adventure, full of possibilities, can become "just a lot of walking" in no time flat.

In that scenario, you could adopt a couple of different strategies:

Option A)
You could morph into a military drill instructor, pushing your young soldier up the mountain on a death march through relentlessly barking order at them (we don't recommend that).

Option B)
You could take advantage of their gullibility and motivate them through deception by promising untold treasures just around every other bend (we don't recommend that either).

Option C)
You could just put a little bit of forethought into the hike and make it fun. In our humble opinion, this is the clear way to go to ensure that everyone has a great time in the wilderness.

This part of our series on Hiking with Kids (start here if you want to catch up) is all about helping you identify some creative ways to engage your little hikers with different activities on the trail that will keep them interested and wanting to go out again. Here are our 9 best ideas for making hiking fun.

Photo by Madison Grooms
1. Make an Art Project
As you're hiking along the trail, there's a good chance your child is going to find a cool rock or a pine cone that they're convinced is better than all of the rest and they'll want to pick it up. Then the question becomes how you can harness that appreciation for the natural world.

One idea is to make an art project out of the available resources when you break for lunch. It could be a scene made entirely of seashells, or a sculpture of literal stick figures.

Whatever the task, they'll have to use their creativity, resourcefulness, and perhaps even their favorite find from the trail to complete the project.

Once the work is finished and you've documented it with plenty of photographs, it can be an excellent opportunity to teach them about leave no trace ethics as you deconstruct it and return the components to their proper places in the environment.