Holiday Hiking in Tucson

Tucson, AZ

As she has each year since we began full-timing, our daughter, Jessica, flew out Christmas Day for a visit.  This year she was coming to Arizona.   A flight from Baltimore to Tucson would require changing planes in either Chicago or Minneapolis.  Since we didn’t want to risk stopping where winter weather was possible, we had her take a direct flight to Phoenix and we drove up to get her.  With all the flight delays that occurred over the holidays in those cities, that turned out to be a good move.

Welcome to Phoenix

On the drive back to Tucson we stopped in nearby Chandler and had Christmas dinner in a nice Irish Pub called Murphy’s Law.

The restaurant is in a commercial area surrounding a small park decorated with holiday lights.  The centerpiece of the display was a Christmas tree made out of tumbleweeds, a Chandler tradition.

The Tumbleweed Tree

While Tucson is at about 2,700 feet of elevation, Mount Lemmon, at 9,000 feet, sits just north of the city.  At the top of the mountain is a small ski resort.  With all the warm weather back in Pennsylvania, we decided to give Jessica a taste of winter and drove up to the ski area.  We took the Catalina Highway, which winds for over 25 miles up to the top of the mountain.  While it was a bit cool in the city (mid-40s), the temperature dropped steadily as we gained elevation.  Soon we left the sunshine of Tucson and went into the clouds covering the mountain.  That’s when the little white flakes began to blow around us!

The temperature at the top was much too cold for us.  Eighteen degrees!

It was the first significant snow of the season on the mountain and there was not enough to open the ski slopes, but a crowd of people were enjoying the snowfall and riding the chairlift.

The next day we drove over to nearby Tucson Mountain Park for some hiking.  After parking at the 36th Street trailhead we set out  for a hike that combined the 36th Street Trail, the Starr Pass Trail, and the Yetman Trail.

The experienced hiking planner in our group described a nice six mile hike but apparently there was a calculation error, as the hike turned out to be just over nine miles!  But the planner was very happy as we saw a number of Crested Saguaros along the route.

The next day we drove northeast of Tucson to Catalina State Park for a hike up the Romero Canyon Trail which goes up Montrose Canyon to the Romero Pools.  This hike (5.5 miles round trip) starts off on a nice, wide, flat trail but soon narrows and becomes rough as it goes steeply up the canyon.

We arrived at the Romero Pools to find a large number of people enjoying the area.  But we found a nice spot on the rocks high above the pools away from the crowd and enjoyed lunch.

Lunch with (a bit of) a view

Beauty among the rocks

One of the numerous Romero Pools

Jessica with the Catalina Mountains in the background

A view of the Oro Valley along the trail

Crossing the stream at the end of the trail

After a great four day visit we drove Jessica back to Phoenix for her return trip back to Pennsylvania.  We had planned to leave Tucson on Sunday and join Dave and Sue in Naco, AZ near Bisbee, but the weather prediction is for chilly temperatures and rain for most of the week.  So we’ve decided to delay our visit to Naco and stay put for a few more days here in Tucson.

More on that later . . .

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35 Responses to Holiday Hiking in Tucson

  1. Gay says:

    So glad you had a nice visit with Jessica and pretty weather. Hope to follow your foot prints come February when we return…those saguaros and especially the crested ones, sure make my heart flutter! As much as I love the ocean, the desert is my favorite place to return to.

  2. pmbweaver says:

    Pam, you are the “Crested Saguaros Queen. ” You wear the crown well!

    We are so glad the weather was awesome for Jessica’s visit. She looks great! How very blessed our families are to have such wonderful loving kids. Enjoy Tucson! We love that city.

  3. Janna says:

    Wise choice to stay put, our weather doesn’t look nice for the next few days, guess I will start painting again!

  4. Nancy says:

    How fabulous! And 6 feet in the lunch picture! Woo Hoo! My kids are coming in April and I can not wait!

    • placestheygo says:

      April is a great time to visit with the desert flowering! We are still waiting for our son to visit, hopefully, later this month. He came to see us in Apache Junction last spring and the desert was at its peak blooming. A real treat to go hiking so he could see the best of the desert:)

      It was nice to have six feet in the lunch with a view:)

  5. Looks like you did some great hiking with Jessica!
    Yes, this week sure is looking like a washout, but we’re hoping they’re wrong.

    • placestheygo says:

      We were planning to do Wasson Peak with Jessica, but after our three crested saguaro (she wanted to see what all the fuss was about) first day hike, I thought we should change up the scenery and do a little rocky, water hike.

      Boy, other than tomorrow, this week is a bust. It would be nice if they were wrong:)

  6. Lenore says:

    What a beautiful daughter you have and how fortunate you are to have her with you for Xmas. That tumble weed Xmas tree is a hoot! Best use for tumble weed yet!

  7. Jim and Barb says:

    Looks like you had a great visit with your daughter. It is raining right now in Quartzsite, just a nice gentle light sprinkle with the smell of creosote in the air.

  8. Sue says:

    Its so nice to be able to have these special nuggets of time with our kids. We’re so lucky. Our time with Jesse and Erin in Santa Fe went so quickly but gave us more lasting happy memories.
    Finger’s crossed that the weather predictors are wrong and we can get out on the golf course in Naco next week, we’re looking forward to it! See you soon.

    • placestheygo says:

      Glad you had a great time with Jesse and Erin:) Now we just need to get Kevin out for his holiday meal!

      The weather looks good for Naco next week…not hot but sunny:) See you Sunday!

  9. Ingrid says:

    Visits with daughters are always special and treasured. It’s so much fun when a shared activity like hiking in beautiful country is included. Hope the weather warms up enough to allow you to get out on the golf course with buddies.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, our daughter visits are special. I am so glad that Jessica enjoys hiking, too:)

      It looks like the Naco weather should be much better next week so we can get in some golf!

  10. Sherry says:

    We too are lucky that our daughter has flown to see us every Christmas on the road and from Baltimore too. Does that make us twins? Maybe also that the hiker planner has been known to underestimate. But sadly I don’t have those beautiful crest saguaros to take the pressure off the mistake. What beauties they are. I agree with pmbweaver, you’re the queen. Love the tumble weed tree, the 6 footed lunch with a view shot (but what’s that on your ankles? Gators?). Also love that you got to have just the right amount of snow for the holiday. I need to figure out how to do that in Florida. Aren’t daughters wonderful!! We’re all so lucky to have one.

    • placestheygo says:

      It was so nice that several of us had our daughters with us over the holiday:)

      I decided to get Gators because I got tired of stones and prickers going down the back of my boots. My boots have a V shape in the back and because of the bigger size needed for hiking, they aren’t tight around my ankles. I love that I no longer have to keep stopping trying to find what was digging in to me:)

  11. You sure do work Jessica whenever she visits!

    Happy New Year to you!

    • placestheygo says:

      We sure do:) She really enjoyed the long hikes because they added to her Fitbit challenges at home. She was a winner with our nine mile hike!

      Happy New Year to you and Hans! See you next month:)

  12. geogypsy2u says:

    The best Christmas present ever.

  13. Laurel says:

    What a fun holiday visit with Jessica! It’s so great that she enjoys the same activities that you guys do — you all look so healthy and happy. 🙂 We’ve made those kinds of miscalculations in mileage — glad you had some beautiful crested saguaro to take your mind off the extra miles! Love that Romero Pools hike — even though you said there were lots of people around, it looks like you had it to yourselves. Are you going to hike Wasson Peak while you’re waiting for the weather to improve in Naco? Wish we were there to hike it with you! It’s so FLAT here. :-))

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Florida is very flat. Another reason I don’t miss it:)

      We won’t be hiking much this week I’m afraid which is why we put off Naco. This whole area will get rain this week. We had four hours of heavy rain today, tomorrow is iffy, then the rest of the week is rainy. We figured we would be better off here in Tucson with unpleasant weather than Naco since everything we want to do there is outside. The skiers will be happy. Mt. Lemmon is suppose to get two feet of snow!

      We’ll get to Wasson Peak again when we return mid Jan:)

      • Laurel says:

        The weather is apparently crazy everywhere! I can’t believe you’ve had so much rain in Tucson. This isn’t ordinarily the season for rain, is it?? I agree, better to be in Tucson with rain — there are lots of other things to do if you can’t hike.

  14. Kim Nowell says:

    Enjoyed your blog and thats awesome your daughter came. Thanks for sharing

  15. Looks like you had a great time. I still haven’t seen any Crested Saguaros. Your pictures of them are always so interesting.

  16. I bet you must have done most of the trail in and around Tucson. Are there any left for us to hike together?
    Im piqued at that gator that you are talking about for I too hate whats digging me in my soles.

    You are truly the Crested Queen, no doubt about it!

  17. Jodee Gravel says:

    What a wonderful time with Jessica – cresteds and water pools are such treats for all the miles covered! We’ve finally gotten where we can sit still and have internet for a while, so I’m getting caught up with your adventures. Hope the weather lets you four get to Naco – even with the rain moving out, the lows in the area look Cold!!

    • placestheygo says:

      It is nice isn’t it to be forced to not use the internet ever now and then. But I wonder how we survived without all the answers at our fingertips. It looks like next week should be nice in Naco. We won’t sweat any, for sure, but 50’s with sun will be fine for walking the golf course and carrying that bag of clubs. I am hoping to get in another trip doing the 1000 steps so we don’t want too much heat for that climb:)

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