Welcome to our Ultimate Guide to hiking in Tucson with kids.
We have to admit it… we are biased and absolutely LOVE the area around Tucson, Arizona. Our family has been visiting the area for over 20 years. We have done everything there is to do, both with and without kids, and have compiled a list of our favorites below.
One thing we must mention is that we’ve done all of this WHILE staying with family in the 55+ community in Green Valley, AZ, which is just south of Tucson. We hear so many stories of families visiting grandma and grandpa in AZ, FL, or wherever and coming back unfulfilled. What we hope to show you is that it is 100% possible to visit these places, enjoy some much needed time with family, and get in some amazing adventures. Like with anything, it takes the right mindset and a little planning.
The next time you are visiting grandma and grandpa, just remember, you can do both. They will appreciate some alone time, especially as they age, and you and the kids can go get some energy out exploring the world.
Below are some of our favorite places to visit around Tucson, Arizona with kids.
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
The Desert Museum is a must-do experience for kids. It is ranked in TripAdvisor as one of the Top 10 Museums in the country and the #1 Tucson attraction. The best part is 85% of the experience is outdoors!
You don’t really need us to write a guide for this one. Just show up, buy a ticket, and have fun. It is great for kids of all ages and you can easily spend hours here.
Madera Canyon Recreation Area & Mt. Wrightson
Madera Canyon is our favorite hiking spot in Tucson with kids. Part of the reason is proximity. We stay in Green Valley and Madera Canyon is a short drive away. Also, Mt. Wrightson is what we look at every morning and every evening from our house and we can’t help but dream of a summit attempt!
Madera Canyon offers a ton of outdoor opportunities, even in the heat of the desert summer. It is a world renowned bird-watching area with a great platform not far from the picnic area. Santa Rita Lodge, Chuparosa Inn, and Madera Kubo B&B all offer unique and secluded lodging experiences and the hiking trails are seemingly endless.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Sabino Canyon is located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains and is one of the more popular natural areas in southern Arizona. It is one of our favorite spots near Tucson for hiking with kids.
The recreation area has over 30 miles of trails for hikers of all abilities. They also offer shuttle services which are a great option for young kids or for accessing some of the more remote hiking options.
Saguaro National Park (West)
Saguaro National Park is split into two sections, one to the West and one to the East of Tucson, and is home to the nation’s largest cacti! It is also home to some amazing kid-friendly hikes.
You can find our full hiking guide for the West district (Tucson Mountain District) below. We will publish a guide for the eastern section once we’ve had a chance to explore!
Catalina State Park
Catalina State Park is another gem that showcases the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. If you have family at any of the retirement communities in Oro Valley, then this is your spot! It is only a couple of minutes north of Oro Valley proper and is an excellent place in Tucson for hiking with kids. . The park also has a Junior Ranger program open to kids 6-12 years old. You can find our full hiking guide for families below:
Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area
One of our favorite hikes (no kids yet) is the hike up to Pusch Peak via the Linda Vista loop Trails. The round trip is only four miles but you climb 2,700 feet. It is a quad killer but well worth it for incredible views of Tucson and beyond. Plus you get to come home feeling accomplished! This hike is well documented. Full trail instructions can be found here. I don’t think there is a better place to take in all of Tucson than from Pusch Peak. This too is right in Oro Valley.
Canoa Hills Trails Park
Canoe Hills Trails Park is another gem tucked away among the retirement communities in Green Valley. It is a wonderful spot to take grandma and grandpa for a walk. While not technically a hiking trail, and not technically in Tucson, it is a great kid-friendly option with paved trails stunning views of Mt. Wrightson.
Desert Meadows Park
Desert Meadows Park is a fun educational park located right in the heart of Green Valley. Back in 2014 a group of volunteers called Green Valley Gardeners signed a long-term lease for 4.2 acres and turned it into a wonderful desert garden. There are hundreds of native plants with name tags. We enjoy walking the paths and learning about all of the cacti that we come across on our hikes. They even have outdoor chess and some games/toys.
Canoa Ranch Conservation Park
The The Raúl M. Grijalva Canoa Ranch Conservation Park is located about 30 minutes south of Tucson and is the perfect hiking destination for families with very young kids.