Adventure Awaits on These 5 Day Trips from Tucson

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Tucson is known for its rich cultural heritage, great eats, and cool vibe, but it's also an adventure destination of the first order. Surrounded by desert, mountains, and Arizona's enigmatic "Sky Islands," there is plenty more to do just outside this city's borders.

This spring, make Tucson your home base for exploring southern Arizona's wild landscapes. Here are just a few of the day trips you can take from Tucson, and still be back in time for dinner and drinks in this city of gastronomic delights.

Patagonia

Photo by Kevin Kaminski // Camp at Patagonia Lake State Park

Patagonia, Arizona that is. Just an hour south of Tucson, Patagonia is a quirky little hill town that is absolutely worth a visit.

Get an early start from Tucson to enjoy the tasty breakfast at Patagonia's Gathering Grounds coffee shop. Order a Green Machine burro for a veggie overload, or go carbs with the stack of pancakes. Once you're full up, head to The Nature Conservancy's Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve for some of the best birding in North America. 

Patagonia is quickly becoming a gravel biking destination. With endless dirt roads and scenic vistas, it is a great place for backroad cycling adventures. If a multi-day, guided gravel or road bike trip sounds fun, check out The Cyclist's Menu, and explore some of Patagonia's best kept cycling secrets during the day and gorge delicious farm-to-table food at night. 

If you have a high clearance vehicle and are up for a little driving adventure, navigate the dirt roads to the sweeping San Rafael Valley, where they filmed parts of "Oklahoma!"

Bisbee

Photo by Sara Sheehy

We hope your legs are ready for the historic mining town of Bisbee, whose buildings and homes crawl up the sides of a narrow canyon. The town's roads and alleys are so steep that they spontaneously turn into staircases — 350 of them in all. Trust me, this is a destination best explored on foot.

Though the mine used to dictate the workings of this picturesque outpost, it's now filled with artisans, sweet little shops, and plenty of great places to eat and drink. Bisbee also has a famous ghost tour, which should definitely be on your list if you love all things paranormal.

Chiricahua National Monument

Photo by Sri Gangam // Camp at Chiricahua National Monument's Bonita Canyon

Never heard of Chiricahua National Monument? Let me welcome you in on the secret: it's dazzling. Tucked in the southeast corner of Arizona, Chiricahua is one of the state's "Sky Islands," isolated mountain ranges that loom over the desert and have their own ecosystems and weather patterns.

While in the park, hike the 8.3-mile Big Loop, tour Faraway Ranch on the weekends, and check out the views from 6,870-foot Massai Point.

Cochise Stronghold

Photo by John Maurizi // Hike the Cochise Stronghold Trail

Granite domes and hoodoos mark the remote but stunning Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains, 1.5 hours from Tucson. If you're looking for a rugged adventure, you'll find it here. Once the refuge for Chiricahua Apaches and their chief Cochise, this remote canyon has excellent hiking and rock climbing. 

The 12-mile Cochise Stronghold Trail will undoubtedly give you enough exercise to earn your dinner in downtown Tucson or try the more moderate 2.2-mile Rockfellow Dome Trail for great views.

If you're in the mood for a detour on your way back to the city, Tombstone is a famous Old West attraction.

Organ Pipe National Monument

Photo by Sara Sheehy // Hike the Desert View Trail

Organ Pipe National Monument, on the Mexican border south of Tucson, is another hidden gem in Arizona's quiver of adventurous destinations. The monument was closed for eleven years in the early 2000s due to safety issues along the border but is now open and bustling during the winter and early spring.

This section of the Sonoran desert is particularly green and lush, especially after a rainstorm. Head down for one of the excellent ranger programs, or drive the Ajo Mountain loop road that twists and winds through hillsides filled with the rare organ pipe cactus. Free hiker shuttles make one-way hikes a breeze on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays in the winter.

Check out more day trips from Tucson and guided tours at Visit Tucson.

Cover photo by Colin Stouffer

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Sara SheehyAdmin

Writer | Nomad