Special Places

Mt. GrahamMt. Graham (Pinaleno Mountains) is the single-most diverse mountain range in North America, and hosts 11 endemic species that are found nowhere else on Earth.  Visitors can travel the Swift Trail (Highway 366) through eight distinct zones in just a dozen miles, including Sonoran desert, Sonoran grassland, chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodland, Madrean evergreen oak woodland, Ponderosa pine forest, mixed conifer forest, and finally spruce-fir forest at the highest elevations. Campgrounds and picnic areas range from low to high elevations. Many trails are hiker-ready, and Riggs Lake is a beautiful mountain setting for fishing.

 

 

Cave Creek Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua Mountains is a hotspot for biodiversity, unique habitats and endangered species. Trails, camping, and picnicking areas are easily accessible. The striking beauty of the lichen-covered, rhyolite canyon walls, the lush streamside riparian areas, and the abundance of wildlife ensure this is a popular destination for visitors.

Highlighted Areas

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

 Come visit Sabino Canyon, one of the most premier natural areas in southern Arizona. This recreation area is located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains at 5700 N. Sabino Canyon, Tucson, AZ 85750.

Here you will find outstanding scenery that features steep rock cliffs and unique desert vegetation adjacent to riparian corridors. You may get lucky and view a Gila Monster, Bobcat, Gambel's Quail, Eastern Collard Lizard, Gopher Snake and more. The animals of this area adapt to our 100 + degree summers and mild winters. The Sonoran desert has two rainy seasons: gentle winter rains and a dramatic summer monsoon.  Due to winter snow melt and summer electrifying lightning storms Sabino Creek flows almost year around. Come have a picnic at one of the many pools and cascades that grace Sabino Creek.

Many local people call Sabino Canyon their second home.  Some popular contemporary uses are walking, jogging, hiking, bicycling (with restricted times) shuttle riding, nature study, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, photography and so much more.  The canyon itself has been closed to private vehicles since 1978.  For non-walkers a concessionaire called "Sabino Canyon Tours" operates under a special use permit with the Coronado National Forest and offers a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8 mile tour into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains that follows the stream. They also offer a 1 mile shuttle to the Bear Canyon Overlook leading to Seven Falls.  For more info on the shuttles please call, 520-749-2327.

For those who just want a refresher course on its wonders, the nature trail at the visitor center offers plenty of wildlife and trailside interpretive information.  The Recreation area itself has over 30 miles of trails.  Come talk to one of our amazing volunteers or employees.

Pets are not allowed in Sabino Canyon, Service Animals as defined by The Americans with Disabilities Act are authorized.


Miller Peak Wilderness

Named for the highest peak in the Huachuca Mountains, and is the highest and southernmost peak in the United States. This Wilderness encompasses 20,190 acres and was established in 1984. The Miller Peak Wilderness lies between the city of Sierra Vista and the Mexican border in the southern half of the Huachuca Mountains. The Miller Peak Wilderness is a land of sheer cliffs, soaring summits and deep canyons. In these diverse life-zones lives an amazing variety of wildlife including over 170 species of birds (14 species of hummingbirds). Seventy-eight species of mammals have been observed in the Huachuca’s including coatimundi, javelina, black bear and mountain lion. Over 60 species of reptiles also can be found here.  Seventeenth-century Spanish Captain Juan Mateo Manje referred to these mountains in his expedition journal as Sierra de Huachuca, or Huachuca Mountains. The name was most likely taken from a nearby Piman village. Once cloaked in pine and fir, fires have converted much of this area to predominantly oak and grass vegetation with mixed conifer and aspen stands at higher elevations. Many sheer cliffs rise hundreds of feet above the canyon floors. At least 21 trails lead through the Wilderness from its eastern, western, and southern boundaries. The Arizona Trail traverses this wilderness before reaching its southern terminus at the U.S./Mexican border. From the Crest Trail (11.5 miles) one can reach the top of Miller Peak. Throughout the area, visitors may encounter evidence of the region's bygone mining and ranching days. Trails here climb from 5,200 feet to as high as 9,466 feet at the apex of Miller Peak, and offer some of the most dramatic views in the Southwest.

The Huachucas are rich in history. These canyons, cliffs, and forests are littered with the remains of various late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century mining booms that all eventually went bust. Today, the gold rush has been replaced by a recreation rush which is adding a new chapter to the history of the Miller Peak Wilderness.


Pusch Ridge Wilderness

Pusch Ridge towers over Tucson and the surrounding desert as one of the most prominent features of the Santa Catalina Mountains. With its lower slopes dotted with cactus and its upper reaches dark with pines, this unmistakable landmark makes the point in no uncertain terms that this is a land of extremes–in biodiversity as well as topography. Within the 56,933-acre Wilderness, elevations range from 2,800 to 8,800 feet. Deep canyons separated by razorback ridges crease the slopes; rocky bluffs and pinnacles define the horizon. From the floor of Sabino Canyon to the upper slopes of Mt. Lemmon, life zones vary from Sonoran desert to subalpine forest. The wildlife community that inhabits such a varied setting is diverse as well. Black bears and coatimundis, Stellers jays and cactus wrens, saguaro cactus and Douglas-fir can all be found here as components of a natural diversity that has few rivals. An extensive trail network offers opportunities for day and extended trips into this fascinating area. While its convenient location makes Pusch Ridge Wilderness easily accessible to a growing number of nature lovers, it also means the solitude and primitive surroundings many come to experience are becoming more difficult to find. When you visit this natural wonder, come ready to experience all of its contrasts, even this latter one. Come prepared to take special care of this irreplaceable resource. You’ll be glad you did.

Dogs and other pets are not allowed within the Pusch Ridge Wilderness due to a closure to protect Desert Big Horn Sheep. 

The Pusch Ridge Wilderness Sheep Closer Area includes Ventana Canyon Trailhead, Finger Rock Trailhead, Pima Canyon Trailhead, Linda Vista Trailhead, and portions of Romero, including Romero Pools, and Sutherland Trails accessed at Catalina State Park.


Santa Teresa Wilderness

More than anything else, the 26,780-acre Santa Teresa Wilderness can be described as remote. Trails exist in many places only as routes kept open by cowboys driving their stock. These mountains are characterized by deep canyons, rocky outcrops and bald summits. Vegetation is predominantly thick chaparral with forests of ponderosa pine occupying high ridges. A stand of Douglas-fir grows on the sheltered north slope of Cottonwood Peak, the highest in the range. The granite cliffs, buttes and ridges of the Santa Teresas lend themselves to the weathering forces of nature in such a way that, in many places, they have been sculpted into strikingly picturesque formations. These natural works of art give the Santa Teresa Wilderness an unmistakable character. Because of this area’s remote nature, it serves as ideal habitat for wildlife species that prefer a high degree of isolation. Among those are black bear and mountain lion. Other desert species, such as mule deer, coatimundi and javelina, can be found here as well. When added to this area’s other notable attributes, the possibility of encountering some of these reclusive residents makes a trip to the Santa Teresa Wilderness well worth the effort.


Areas & Activities