While Tucson is a multi-cultural gathering point in the southwest, the surrounding area is equally stunning. With awesome canyons, sweeping planes, painted deserts, and historic towns, Arizona is an amazing destination for any vacation. Here are the best day trips from Tucson to help you explore Arizona:
Less than an hour out of Tucson, escape the sun by exploring the wonder of Colossal Cave. While Colossal Cave at first appears too difficult for all but professionals, the cave’s different levels make the park open to exploration for almost everyone. But caving isn’t all that awaits you at the park.
Horseback riding, biking, and hiking the trails that surround the area are popular pastimes for visitors. Can’t get enough of the caves in one day? Stay the night at one of the campsites at the park, and keep the adventure going
Colossal Cave State Park
Address: 16721 E Old Spanish Trail, 85641 Vail, AZ
Website: Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Explore another amazing underworld at Kartchner Caverns State Park. Undiscovered until the 1970s and unopened to the public until the 1980s, Kartchner Caverns continues to remain largely untouched by humans thanks to conservation efforts. Guided tours are available daily for all ages allowing you to learn about the cave while exploring the stunning stalactites and stalagmites. Campgrounds and cabins are available at the park, perfect for staying the night in the desert. If you’re lucky, you might get to see the bats that call the cave home on their evening hunt.
Kartchner Caverns State Park
Address: 2980 AZ-90, 85602 Benson, AZ
Website: Kartchner Caverns State Park
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
As the only wine growing region in Arizona to be federally recognized, the Sonoita/Elgin Wine Trail is a perfect way to taste the state, and maybe find a new favorite Cabernet. Thanks to the altitude and ample summer rainfall, the environment is not only a prime location for growing wine grapes but a relaxed and cool place (compared to usual Arizona heat) to spend the day or weekend. While the wine is spectacular, hikers, mountain bikers, and other outdoor enthusiast love the surrounding wilderness, perfect for adventure and exploration.
Sonoita/Elgin Wine Trail
Address: Sonoita, Arizona
Website: Sonoita/Elgin Wine Trail
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Explore plant diversity from around the world at the University of Arizona Biosphere. Built to study and better understand the way certain environments function, the biosphere is a self-sustaining wonder with vegetation from ecosystems as different as the rainforest, the desert, and the ocean. During your tour, you will learn how the plants sustain themselves and how the scientist at the biosphere manage to mimic nature. While like a garden in many ways, the biosphere’s diversity and structure is unique and will have you coming back for more.
University of Arizona Biosphere 2
Address: 32540 S Biosphere Rd, 85739 Oracle, AZ
Website: University of Arizona Biosphere 2
Averaging a temperature around 30 degrees cooler than Tucson, Mount Lemmon is a popular destination during the summer months. At 2,7500 meters (9,157 feet), the mountain is the southernmost ski area in the United States. While skiing usually only lasts from December to March or April, other recreational activities are offered on the mountain including hiking, camping, fishing, and rock climbing, making the area a delightful recreation location year-round. Hungry or in need of recreation equipment? Shops and restaurants call the mountain home, meaning you can enjoy your adventure when visiting Summerhaven.
Address: 85619 Summerhaven, Arizona
Website: Mt. Lemmon/Summerhaven
Experience the Old West in Tombstone, Arizona. As the sight for the historic 1881 gunfight sight between lawmen and a group of outlaws called the “Cowboys,” Tombstone remains a lively town, despite the name. During your visit, you will see the town’s inhabitants walking around in 19th-century clothing, visit the famous Bird Cage Theatre, take a ride on a horse-drawn stagecoach, visit the Old Town Western Theme Park, and more. At Tombstone, history has never been more alive.
Website: Tombstone, AZ
As the home to the largest collection of optical and radio telescopes in the world, Kitt Peak National Observatory has been bringing the skies to Earth since 1964. Visit during the day, and you can visit the museum to learn about the equipment and experiments done at the observatory, as well as their importance to the science community. However, at night, the observatory truly comes alive when you can see the constellations in person. You can even reserve your own telescope! Day and night programs for the young and old aspiring astronomer are held regularly, perfect for a family outing and guaranteeing a great time under the stars.
Kitt Peak National Observatory
Address: Kitt Peak National Observatory, 85634 Tucson, AZ
Website: Kitt Peak National Observatory
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
For another trail that celebrates the wino in us all, head to the Willcox Wine Trail. Serving strong reds, crisp whites, food friendly wines, sweet wines, wines perfect for dessert, and more, the wine rooms of Willcox will help you find the perfect taste for you. When you’ve had all you can drink, check out the local restaurants, art galleries, shops, and museums. Surrounding the town is the natural beauty of the Sulphur Springs Valley, perfect for hiking, birdwatching, and stargazing.
Willcox Wine Trail
Address: 85643 Willcox, Arizona
Website: Willcox Wine Trail
Spend a day on the water at Patagonia Lake State Park. Since 1975, this state park has been the location for many an angler to try their luck on the water, fishing for crappie, bass, bluegill, catfish, and trout, who all call the waters home. Hike the rolling hills of southeastern Arizona that surround the lake and enjoy lunch.
Animal watchers enjoy the area for the abundance of wildlife that roams the shores like the whitetail deer and great blue heron. Stay the night at the park, offering both RV and primitive campsites. Last minute trip to the lake? At the Lakeside Market, you can rent boats and supplies to add adventure to your day.
Patagonia Lake State Park
Address: 400 Patagonia Lake Rd, 85621 Nogales, AZ
Website: Patagonia Lake State Park
Visit the historic town of Bisbee, Arizona for a small-town experience with a lively host of people. Tour the town in multiple venues including a hosted tour, a mining tour, and a Jeep tour of the surrounding hills. In town, art galleries, shops, restaurants, museums, and more are perfect for unwinding outside of the bustle of the big city. Special events and live music are always on the schedule for Bisbee, guaranteeing you a unique and fun experience with each visit.
Address: 85603 Bisbee, Arizona
Website: Bisbee, AZ
Less than two hours away from Tucson is the best-preserved ghost town in Arizona. Ruby, Arizona was once a highly productive mining community with gold, silver, zinc, and copper being taken from the mines from the early 1900s to the 40s. In 1920 and 1921, Ruby was the site of two double murders, adding to the ghosts and legends surrounding the town. During your visit to Ruby, you will see the once-inhabited businesses, school playground, homes, and more that remain as markers of a time long past. After exploring Ruby, catch bluegill and trophy bass at the nearby lake.
Address: 85621 Ruby. Arizona
Website: Ruby, AZ
Take a day trip!
Considering leaving the big city? Whether you’re into historic ghost towns, fishing adventures, or natural wonders, taking a day trip outside of Tucson is definitely worth the gas.
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