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January hiking and cycling suggestions in Tucson area

My husband and I are driving from the PacNW to the Tucson (Oro Valley) area with our 10year old 40-lb dog who takes daily 2-3mi walks, and two road bikes for a 10-day stay in early January.  We are moderate day-hikers and cyclists, given our fitness levels are low at this time of year due to the bad weather severely limiting availability here.

We'd appreciate people's suggestions concerning 8-mile or less day hikes (preferably allowing dogs) and <30mile cycling routes.  We've hiked some of Sabino Canyon and Catalina State Park last April while there.  Also, we did the whole 100 mile Bike Path Loop in 2 days last April, but we were in much better cycling shape than we are currently.

If there are any other "can't miss" ideas to see/do while there (i.e. like the Franklin Car Museum we saw), I'd really appreciate the suggestions.

7 Replies

Hi @Michelle98650 - Thanks for bringing this question to the community. It sounds like you all have some great plans ahead of you! I am not local to Tucson, but have spent some great time that way and wanted to share some hiking suggestions that fit what you are looking for. 

Both of those trails are dog friendly and generally have amazing flora and fauna to see along the way. 

We're hoping some other community members weigh in with their suggestions on the area as well. @bryndsharp and @hikermor, do you all have any favorite spots to hike/bike around Tucson?

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

You are visiting t  tricky time of year, even at low elevations, since storms are likely.  Sometimes these storms leave snow on the ground in Tucson.  But there are lots of possibilities - Saguaro National Park, both Est and West units, is a nice visit, but I am not sure about dogs - they probably must be on leash. you also have the Tucson Mountains and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  Developed caves tours are available on stormy days.

Picacho  Peak has a developed trail to the summit which requires only care, not any technical climbing gear or skills.  Your pooch can probably handle the trip.

You can go higher and deal with as much cold and snow as you wish, but conditions can vary from year to year.  Pay attention to the weather forecast.

It has been a while since I have lived in Tucson, so I am sure people will respond with more current info....


I would be cautious about the Tang que Verde trail.  It is a notorious party spot and the scene of numerous accident, fatalities, and rescues over the years.  In nearly all incidents, booze was a contributing factor.

I have just too many negative memories of TV Falls and that whole scene.  There are entire days that see no rescue activity there.


Hi @Michelle98650,

This is so exciting! Sorry for the late reply (I've been travelling), but hopefully this information is still useful for your trip!

You have already received some great recommendations from @REI-CarterC and @hikermor. I would definitely check out Tumamoc Hill. This hill has some decent elevation gain, but it is paved for approx. 90% of the walk, and has lots of switch backs. This is a popular place to hike, as it's located in the middle of Tucson, and provides great views of the city!

I also suggest checking out A mountain. You can walk it if you want (it's a little mountain, don't worry), or drive around it! The gates close at dusk, though, you've been warned!

As for more legit/in the middle of nowhere hikes, definitely check out Saguaro National Park. My personal favorite is the East side, although the West is nice as well. There are also some interesting moderate hikes around Gates Pass, and Tanque Verde Falls. The trails have become quite popular and well-established. Sabino Canyon also has a great set of trails with minimal elevation gain, and that range from easy to difficult, and vary in distance. These would all be great places to take your dog, but I recommend leaving him/her on a leash, as there are lots of cacti (and trust me - you don't want to get stuck trying to remove a cactus from your dog's paw - it sucks!).

Mt. Lemmon is my all-time favorite on the list, but many of the hikes in this area have decent elevation gain (since they are on a mountain, haha). Mt. Lemmon had a significant fire this year, so I would be careful about where you choose to hike. Talk to the Coronado National Forest rangers prior to hiking, and check their website for which trails are open and which are closed (there was a good amount of fire damage in certain parts of the mountain). If you want to avoid snow and cold weather, I would suggest sticking to trails located on the lower or lower-mid parts of the mountain (Windy Point and lower). Windy Point is a beautiful place to drive up to and has a great view. There are also some moderate trails in the area. Moving down the mountain, I would suggest the main trail at Prison Camp (Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site). This again has a great view. Just 2 miles up the mountain road there is Soldier Trail, an easy-moderate 5.2-mile round trip trail that is most definitely dog friendly. Again, with all of these trails, I recommend leashing your dog, although it is technically not required (as far as I know). In Summerhaven, at the top of Mt. Lemmon, there is also an awesome cookie shop that sells cookies the size of pizzas, which I highly recommend trying out! Be sure to check their hours of operation, though!

AllTrails has some great trail recommendations for Mt. Lemmon, and is more or less updated about closures: 


Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions you might have. Have fun and be safe!

@Michelle98650 I just realized I didn't address the cyclist factor in my previous post. Oopsies!

Mt. Lemmon is hands down where I would recommend you go for bicycling. Prison Camp area and just slightly further down the mountain has some great moderate bike trails. Many of the hiking trails are also bike friendly, but I suggest asking the Coronado National Forest if you are unsure if bikes are allowed on a trail.

The Saguaro National Park also has some great bike paths with practically no elevation gain (this place is flat - foot trails and bike trails both have minimal elevation gain).

If you are interested in biking around Tucson, many of the roads have bike lanes, but be careful - Tucson drivers are notoriously reckless and love to run red lights! The streets near the University of Arizona and up around Oro Valley are the safest, in my opinion. In Tucson, bikes are considered cars in terms of traffic rules, FYI. Also, if you bike around dawn/dusk or at night, be sure to wear lights - they are required (both head and tail lights).

Also, a side note, but if you take N Campbell Ave. all the way North at night, you get an AMAZING view of the city. You could bike this or simply drive, your choice. 🙂

Geezer type question here, but I just can't restrain myself...

Back in the 70s, the North end of Campbell was a very popular practice climbing area, as we called it then (sport climbing is a more current term these days).  Would you know if it is still utilized or has it been paved over?


As far as I know, it's no longer used as such. I'll check with some of my climbing buddies who grew up in Tucson, though, and get back to you if they say anything!
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