Find the Best Hikes in Tucson, Arizona, Year-Round

Five-Star Trails: Tucson cover

Don’t be fooled by the temperature in Tucson. The thermometer might read 100 degrees in June or 50 degrees in December, but almost any day is ideal for a hike, regardless of the weather. Encircled by mountains, blessed with desert scenery, and flanked to its east and west by Saguaro National Park, Tucson is a hiker’s paradise.

In the new edition of Five-Star Trails: Tucson (December 2019, Menasha Ridge Press), local author Rob Rachowiecki presents 38 five-star hiking trails, for all levels and interests. Divided into six distinct areas in and around the city, the trails provide plenty of opportunities to explore. Readers can bag a peak, take a dip in a swimming hole, or wander among towering rock formations. The nearby mountains are temperate in summer, and the desert is gorgeous during winter. So there is always a trail to suit anyone’s needs.

“Perhaps the area’s greatest attraction is being able to hike year-round in superb scenery,” says the author.

As an example of Tucson’s diverse beauty, Rob cites Mount Lemmon. “Driving [there] is the equivalent of driving from the Mexican border to the Canadian border in terms of ecosystems. It takes just an hour to drive Mount Lemmon Road from saguaro cactus lowlands through high desert grasslands, and on to oak and mesquite woodlands, ending in pine, fir, and spruce highlands. Meanwhile, the temperature drops by 20 to 30 degrees. It’s no wonder, then, that Tucsonans enjoy picnicking and hiking in the mountains to get away from 100-degree summer temperatures in the city.”

In the guidebook, Rob includes detailed descriptions of popular routes, ranging from relaxing jaunts to full-day ascents, as well as a number of lesser-known hikes. Each featured trail is assigned one- to five-star ratings in each of the following categories: scenery, trail condition, suitability for children, level of difficulty, and degree of solitude. This helps readers find a perfect outing with just a glance.

Of course, as Rob puts it, “This being Tucson, none of the hikes have one- or two-star ratings for scenery.”

Large rock and cacti under a bright blue sky in Saguaro National Park East
Saguaro National Park East

GPS-based trail maps, elevation profiles, and directions to trailheads help to ensure that readers know where they are and where to go. Insights into the history, flora, and fauna of the routes entertain and educate hikers while out on the trails.

Those with more specific interests will appreciate Rob’s recommended hikes near the beginning of the book. For example, Rob provides curated lists that include “Best for Nature,” “Best for Mountain Summits,” “Best for Kids,” and “Best for Wheelchair Adventurers.”

Five-Star Trails: Tucson ($17.95, paperback) is an essential guide for visitors and residents alike. It helps them save time and make the most of their hiking opportunities. It is available wherever books are sold, including bookstores, gift shops, and online retailers.

Rob Rachowiecki's author bio picture.

About the Author

Rob Rachowiecki was raised in London and climbed his first mountain by accident while on a school biology field course in Scotland. Rob crossed the pond in 1974 and traveled throughout the Americas, from Alaska to Argentina. He has authored hiking and climbing guides to Central America and the Central Andes, as well as travel guides to Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica, and the American Southwest. He has been an active member of the Society of American Travel Writers since 1997.

Since 1990 he has lived in Tucson, where he earned a master’s degree at the University of Arizona and where he enjoys the area’s varied ethnic restaurants, theaters, and outdoor music festivals. He is often found hiking the many desert, canyon, and mountain trails surrounding Tucson, following the seasonal changes, and usually doing a spot of bird-watching, as Brits are wont to do.