One of the best things about Tucson is that the Arizona city is surrounded by some beautiful nature. These are the best day trips from Tucson – from city escapes to scenic parks and more!
Tucson is located in southern Arizona and the landscapes are truly mesmerizing for someone like me, who grew up on the hot and humid East Coast. There is something so raw about the desert and landscapes of the southwest.
These Tucson day trips offer a mixture of history, nature, and city life for those looking to get out of the city for a day.
I know that the obvious Tucson road trip is Phoenix so I left it off of the list in favor of other places (no offense to Phoenix – I love the city)!
Did we miss any amazing day trips from Tucson? Let us know in the comments!
Be sure to also check out our guide to the best things to do in Tucson (if youʻre wanting to stick around the city)! Thanks!
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Best Tucson Day Trips
Below, you will find some incredible day trips from Tucson and reasons to visit the Arizona destination, how long it takes to get there, and some quick info about the place!
1. Saguaro National Park
Distance: 14 miles
Driving Time: 18 minutes
If you’ve ever seen stunning pictures of cacti in the deserts of Arizona, chances are, those were pictures of the Saguaro National Park.
Located to the east and west of Tucson, you will be able to see the giant saguaro cacti in this underrated national park, which can only be found in a small region of the United States.
They are considered to be the symbol of the American west, and the cacti here are protected by the Saguaro National Park service. Many people especially enjoy taking a trip out to the park to catch the sunset in the backdrop of these magnificent cacti.
All visitors need to make sure that they get a pass beforehand, and it is a good idea to bring your own water and food due to the fact that the park does not offer any. In addition, there are only campsites available in the East District of the national park.
You can also check out the visitor center for maps and Saguaro National Park’s hiking trails.
2. Mt. Lemmon
Distance: 43 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour 14 minutes
Located an hour away from Tucson, Arizona, Mount Lemmon is one of the most popular vacation spots for people visiting the town. Among those who especially enjoy the summer retreat include mountain bikers, bicyclists, and hikers.
It is the perfect spot to stop by in the hot summer weather because the mountain area is 30 degrees cooler than Tucson, making it a great day trip from Phoenix and Tucson both.
It is surrounded by the Coronado National Forest, which is home to many trails and campsites where visitors can rent cabins. People especially enjoy camping under the dark skies while checking out the mountain’s observatory.
Some other activities that visitors enjoy are fishing, birding, and rock climbing. It is even a favorite in the winter, as many people enjoy visiting Mount Lemmon for skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and snowshoeing.
There are three campgrounds and even a place to eat homemade fudge. The views along the drive to the mountain peak are especially rewarding!
3. Colossal Cave Mountain Park
Distance: 29 miles
Driving Time: 34 minutes
A fantastic day trip from Tucson is the Colossal Cave Mountain Park merely fifteen minutes southeast of the city.
There is so much to explore at Colossal Cave and it is a great place for families to visit. The caves date back to 80 million years ago and they are one of the largest dry caves in North America today.
Located in the Rincon Mountains, the earliest inhabitants were the Hohokam and then they eventually played a role in the Wild West when robbers would hide out there.
Today, you can do adventurous activities there – from exploring the caves to camping to mountain biking and beyond. There are more than 2,400 acres waiting to be explored!
4. Picacho Peak State Park
Distance: 40 miles
Driving Time: 41 minutes
Picacho Peak is considered to be the most famous mountain in the Sonoran Desert, which is located between Phoenix and Tucson. It is also one of the most famous landmarks of the American Southwest, and a perfect spot to visit for those who enjoy hiking, camping, rock climbing, and priceless views.
For history lovers, Picacho Peak is also the site of the only Civil War battle to take place in Arizona, as well as the site of the westernmost battle.
The mountain is also famous for the spring wildflower display, which is especially beautiful after the rain. There is plenty to do at the state park, including checking out the hiking trails, campgrounds, and picnic areas.
The park offers some challenging hiking trails for adrenaline lovers. You can choose your own hotels and lodging, or you can bring an RV and some tents. You can also check out the nearby skydiving facility in Eloy.
5. San Xavier del Bac Mission
Distance: 9 miles
Driving Time: 12 minutes
If you’re a history buff and want to learn a bit more about the history of the area, take a day trip to San Xavier del Bac Mission located just a short distance from downtown Tucson. This is a historic Spanish Catholic mission that is set up on the Tohono O’odham Nation San Xavier Reservation.
Founded in 1692, the mission that can be seen today was built between 1783 and 1797. It is the oldest European structure in all of Arizona and it receives over 200,000 visitors annually.
The area is known for its white stucco and Moorish-inspired details and architecture. Many consider it to be the best example of Spanish mission architecture in the US and it is worth the trip if you’re curious to learn more about the history.
Distance: 44 miles
Driving Time: 44 minutes
Tubac is a small village town located 45 minutes from Tucson, Arizona. The central point of the village is the Tubac Presidio State Park, which features many exhibits, hundreds of galleries, shops, and restaurants.
The Tubac Golf Resort is also many people’s favorite place to stay as it offers B&B’s, inns, spa and facial treatments, therapeutic pools, and infrared saunas.
Along with your stay, you will be able to get away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life and enjoy the rural desert environment, which is full of plenty of restaurants and excellent cuisine.
For outdoor lovers, you will also be able to enjoy the hiking and biking trails, as well as the golf course. Check out the shops that offer unique regional fashion, antiques, jewelry, leather, crafts, and so much more.
You can also check out the Tubac Center of the Arts, which features jazz, cellos, and more ensembles.
7. Chiricahua National Monument
Distance: 117 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour 52 minutes
A unique day trip from the city is Chiricahua National Monument, also known as the ‘Wonderland of Rocks’. It is an 8-mile scenic drive that has 17 miles of hiking trails, allowing you to explore this spectacular natural sight in Arizona!
Spanning over 12,000 acres, you visit the Faraway Ranch Historic District and take tours to learn more about the area and the people who have previously called it home.
You will also find a lot of birdwatchers in the park, as well as those looking to climb and learn more about the rock pinnacles that resulted from erosion of volcanic ash from the (extinct) volcano that is situated just south of the park.
Distance: 75 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour 13 minutes
Located in Cochise County, Arizona, Tombstone is a famous historical town that is known for being one of the last boomtowns on the American frontier. The town is also known for being the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Now, it is a tourist center in Arizona and home to the Tombstone Brewing Company, which is rated as being the best brewery in Arizona. The center of town, East Allen Street, is full of promenades that offer gift shops, saloons, and eateries.
In addition to that, you can check out the historical O.K. Corral, where you can see mannequins reenacting the fight. It is also possible to pay to watch a reenactment of the gunfight.
The town’s Wild West image is best preserved through many performances, such as the Helldorado Days, which is the oldest festival in Tombstone. In addition, Tombstone is home to the world’s largest rose bush.
Distance: 95 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
Close to Tombstone is Bisbee, located in southeastern Arizona. Here, visitors will be able to participate in a multitude of events, including birdwatching, gallery-gazing, fine dining, and more. Home to many shops and nightlife attractions, there is so much that you will be able to do during your trip.
Some of the other historical attractions to check out include the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour, the Lavender Jeep Tours, the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum, and the Bisbee Seance Room.
The Bisbee Seance Room is perfect for anyone who loves a thrill because visitors can learn about the haunted history of the town and “meet” infamous ghosts during the seance.
The town is also home to many events and festivals, such as the 1,000 Stair Climb, which is a five-kilometer run over 1,034 stars. It also features the Ice Man Competition and the annual Blues Festival.
10. Klondyke Ghost Town
Distance: 143 miles
Driving Time: 2 hours 40 minutes
Home to around fifty people currently, Klondyke is an Arizona ‘ghost town’ located in Graham County. It was founded somewhere around 1900 by miners who had recently returned from working in Alaska during the famous Klondike Gold Rush.
This place is a wonderful day trip from Tucson for those into history and ghost towns (which the southwest has no shortage of)! Southeast of Klondyke, you will find the Galiuro Mountains and to the north, you will find the Santa Teresa Mountains.
Historically, the town was an epicenter for lead and silver mining and the population had around 500 people at its peak.
Today, you can visit the preserved Klondyke General Store and Power’s Cabin.
11. Kartchner Caverns State Park
Distance: 53 miles
Driving Time: 50 minutes
Back in 1974, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts found limestone caves at the base of the Whetstone Mountains in Arizona, which were eventually acquired by the State Parks service in order to properly protect the limestone.
Luckily, now you will be able to visit the Kartchner Caverns during your trip to Arizona! The caverns feature tours and a trail system that is accessible to people of all ages, and even for those with limited mobility.
Aside from the underground caves, visitors can also explore the wildlife above ground, and go on hikes ranging in difficulty around the Whetstone Mountains.
You can also check out the Hummingbird Garden Walk, which includes a variety of local vegetation such as yellow bells, desert spoon, fairy duster, chaparosa, and beargrass.
Be sure to wear comfortable clothing, durable shoes, and have plenty of water on you when you visit the Caverns! Visitors will also be able to go camping in cabins or on the campgrounds.
12. Sonoita and Elgin Wine Trails
Distance: 49 miles
Driving Time: 50 minutes
In Arizona, you have three different wine regions. In the south of Arizona, you will find the Sonoita and Elgin Wine Trail.
This area was one of the first wine-growing regions in the United States that was given the status of AVA and was Arizona’s first recognized wine-growing region, so it is definitely a great Tucson day trip for wine enthusiasts!
It has the largest number of vineyards and wineries in all of Arizona and is also one of the top wine trails in the country.
13. Kitt Peak National Observatory
Distance: 51 miles
Driving Time: 1 hour 1 minute
For astronomy lovers, the Kitt Peak National Observatory is the best place to be in southern Arizona! It is the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories, so you will be able to study the night sky and even conduct daytime studies of the sun.
The facility features three major telescopes, 22 optical telescopes, and two radio telescopes. Visitors will also be able to check out the many exhibits, daytime tours, and nighttime public programs.
Be sure to keep in mind, however, that Kitt Peak does not offer any hotels or restaurants, so you should bring something to eat with you and make accommodations elsewhere.
You can choose to go on guided or self-guided tours, as well as public solar observings, a nightly observing program, the Dark Sky Discovery Program, and the Night of the Marvelous Moon Program, where you will be able to learn all about the surface of the Moon.
What are your favorite day trips from Tucson? Let us know your top picks for Tucson day trips in the comments – especially if we failed to mention the destination! Thanks!
More Arizona Travel Resources
- Road trip from California to Arizona
- Things to do in Tucson
- Things to do in Prescott
- Hikes in Saguaro National Park
- Places to visit in Arizona
- Day trips from Phoenix
- Best places to stay in Prescott
- Weekend in Tucson itinerary
- Day and weekend trips from Sedona
Pin this Day Trips from Tucson Guide
Megan is a travel blogger and writer with a background in digital marketing. Originally from Richmond, VA, she now splits her time between Frankfurt, Germany and Arctic Finland after also living in Norway, Armenia, and Kazakhstan. She has a passion for winter travel, as well as the Nordic countries, but you can also find her eating her way through Italy, perusing perfume stores in Paris, or taking road trips through the USA. Megan has written for or been featured by National Geographic, Forbes, Lonely Planet, the New York Times, and more. She co-authored Fodor’s Travel ‘Essential Norway’ and has visited 45 US states and 100+ countries.