Tucson International Airport (TUS)
Distance from hotel: 23 miles
Drive time: 30-45 minutes
For a local dining guide, please see the restaurant recommendation list courtesy of the Hilton El Conquistador
For a local activities guide, please see the activities recommendation guide courtesy of the Hilton El Conquistador
Saguaro National Forest
Saguaro National Park is uniquely situated around the 500 square miles that make up Tucson; which is at the heart of the Sonoran Desert. The park's two districts are separated by the city's 1 million residents. The Tucson Mountain District (TMD) on the west, and the Rincon Mountain District (RMD) to the east, are approximately 30 miles (45-60 minutes) apart. While similar in terms of plants and animals, the intricate details make both areas praiseworthy. The TMD (west) boasts large stands of saguaro cactus creating a breathtaking saguaro forest, whereas the RMD (east) hosts a magnificent sky island, where you can find bears, cougars, and the ever elusive coati (aka kudamundi).
Tuscon Mountain District highlights
- A short hike on the Valley View Overlook Trail, right from the Bajada Loop to view the Avra Valley and distant mountain ranges.
- A fabulous orientation program offering a Native American perspective on the saguaro cactus. Shown daily at the Red Hills Visitor Center.
- A trip to Signal Hill Picnic Area, which offers visitors the chance to view hundreds of ancient petroglyphs.
- 5 designated picnic area.
Rincon Mountain District highlights
- A scenic auto/bike tour around the Cactus Forest Loop Drive offering incredible views of the Rincon Mountains.
- A one mile loop hike along the Freeman Homestead Trail to learn about homesteading in the desert as well as modern Tucson.
- Or choose from the many different hiking paths outlined along the northern part of the Cactus Forest Loop.
Scenic Sabino Canyon is a popular recreation area for both locals and visitors, providing a place to hike, picnic, and spot wildlife. Begin at the visitor's center, where you can learn about the canyon's plant and animal life, pick up maps, and ask staff question. Sabino Canyon Tours offers narrated and non-narrated tram trips through the area. Enjoy a relaxing ride or get off at one of the several stops to set off on a hiking path. The Seven Falls hike is a fairly easy and popular walk, leading to refreshing waterfalls where you can cool off. Bring a large bottle of water with you.
Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway
Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway is the only paved road that leads to the upper reaches of Mount Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range. It is one of the most scenic drives in southeast Arizona. It provides access to a fascinating land of great vistas, outlandish rocks capes, cool mountain forests, and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts.
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Built in the 1700s, this recently restored white adobe church represents a wonderful example of Spanish colonial architecture. It is beautiful inside and out with colorful frescoes, sculptures, and carvings.