Fun and Free in Tucson: Agua Caliente Park

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Tucked in a corner on Tucson’s northeast side, there’s a 100-acre, hidden desert oasis where you can see mountains, snow, water, palm trees, and much more.

Agua Caliente Park has a rich history of human activity dating back over 5,000 years. It has been many things throughout its lifetime, from an Army camp to a ranch, a resort, and finally, a park.

The palm tree-circled main pond is a perennial warm spring that attracts turtles, owls, bobcats, waterfowl, songbirds, and many other types of wildlife.

Phainopepla at Agua Caliente Park

What will stand out to you the most about this park is the size and number of the 150-year-old, absolute unit palm trees. They were brought to the area in the 1850s when it was used as a stagecoach stop and have continued to grow and thrive.

On the north side of the property, there’s a network of hiking trails that wind through an orchard and a number of smaller ponds. In winter months, views of the nearby Catalina and Rincón mountains provide a chance to see palm trees and snow wrapped up together in one unique landscape.

The former ranch house on the site now serves as a visitor center featuring an art gallery and gift shop, and the grounds feature amenities like large grass areas, picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and viewing scopes.

Agua Caliente Park before the 2019 restoration project. The cattails have been cleared and you can now walk out to an island in the middle of the main pond.

In 2019, a park improvement project was undertaken to deepen the main pond and contribute to water-saving and conservation efforts. A walking path was built for access to the island, and 500 endangered Gila topminnow were introduced to the main pond.

Getting to Agua Caliente Park

Agua Caliente Park is on the northeast side of Tucson on Roger Road:

The park staff do a fantastic job keeping it clean and maintained, and leashed dogs are welcome to come along and enjoy it with you. While services are currently limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the park is free to visit and open daily from 7 a.m. until sunset.

For more information on Agua Caliente Park, check out the Friends of Agua Caliente website here.

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