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If you’ve never visited Tucson, images of Arizona’s biggest city, Phoenix, may come to mind. But while Tucson has its share of concrete and urban sprawl just like Phoenix, we tend to invite the desert in rather than pave and irrigate it away.
In Tucson, most of us live in harmony with and welcome the local wildlife. It’s not uncommon to have javelina after your trash cans, bobcats in your backyard, or a coyote and owl chorus waking you up at night.
Today we’ve rounded up a list of five things for nature lovers to do in Tucson, and we tried focusing on some of the lesser-known areas you won’t find in travel guides. Although we couldn’t resist throwing in Mt. Lemmon, which is well-known but just too packed with value for nature lovers to leave out of the list.
Keep reading below to learn about a few must-see wildlife spots in and near Tucson from a couple of locals!
Whitewater Draw is an important bird area southeast of Tucson that's maintained by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. From October through the end of February, it's the winter home of thousands of Sandhill Cranes.
Walking paths, picnic facilities, primitive camping spots, and close proximity to Tombstone and Bisbee make this "must-see for nature lovers" spot convenient and fun.
Keep reading to get directions to Whitewater Draw!
The oldest surviving bridge of its kind in Arizona, today it’s tucked behind I-10 on Marsh Station Road just east of Tucson. This area features views of the nearby Rincón Mountains and, of course, trains!
Nearby Ciénega Creek Natural Preserve offers hiking, birding, and wildlife viewing on around 4,000 acres.
Agua Caliente Park is a hidden desert oasis tucked back in a corner of Tucson's northeast side. With warm spring pools, towering palm trees, mountain views, hiking trails, picnic areas, and much more, there's something for everyone to enjoy.
Sweetwater Wetlands is a haven for photographers, birders, and nature enthusiasts. Originally built as a facility to process water from a reclamation plant, it now serves as an urban oasis for wildlife.
Offering over 2 miles of walking paths, restrooms, and several wildlife viewing areas, Sweetwater is a fun way to spend a few hours in any season of the year.
The Catalina Highway is a 28-mile road that begins at Mt. Lemmon’s base on Tucson’s north side. The base starts at around 3,000 feet in elevation and ends at the top of Mt. Lemmon at around 9200 feet.
You’ll start the journey in the desert among towering saguaro cacti, snake your way through mountain passes with grasslands and waterfalls, and finally end up in an alpine and aspen forest where it’s about 30 degrees cooler and often covered in snow in the winter months.
If you’re a nature lover visiting Tucson, we hope this post gave you a couple of ideas for places off the normal, popular paths to visit and enjoy. We hope you love them as much as we do!