Catalina State Park, established in 1983, is located in Oro Valley, Arizona, just north of Tucson. The park encompasses 5493 acres and adjoins parts of Coronado National Forest including the Desert Bighorn Sheep Management Area and area designated as wilderness. Much of the park is in a very lush part of the Sonoran Desert with about 5000 majestic Saguaro Cactuses and countless other desert plants. Early spring brings a profusion of amazing wildflowers that light up the trail sides.
The park has 120 camping sites with water and electricity. These sites are very popular in the cooler months, so reservations well in advance are highly recommended. Picnic sites are also available. An outdoor amphitheater with a stunning view of the Catalina Mountains is a popular venue for weddings and educational activities.
There are many hiking trails in the park (link to hiking page), some of which are relatively flat and others which go up into the Catalina Mountains. It is possible to hike from the park all the way to the top of Mt. Lemmon (9159 ft elevation at the summit). However, there are many easier walks where one can enjoy the varied plant life and the animals that live among them. Most of the trails are open to horseback riding and pets on leashes. The 50-Year trail is popular with mountain bikers.
The park features many outdoor activities that can be enjoyed individually or as part of a guided walk or activity, including astronomy, birding, geology, history of the park area, and geocaching, led by rangers or expert volunteers. (links where appropriate). A very popular activity in the cooler months is an opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the exotic creatures that inhabit the park. Every Saturday, starting in October and running through March, a group of volunteers set up a display with live snakes, tarantulas, scorpions, and other scary creatures. Visitors, if they wish, can handle certain non-poisonous snakes, under supervision, but the more dangerous creatures are kept in enclosures that allow close viewing without danger. The volunteers can answer visitors’ questions about the flora and fauna of the park.
Another popular activity are monthly concerts in the park, featuring local artists using a variety of musical genres. There is no additional charge for attending the concerts.
If you enjoy the park, please consider becoming a park volunteer and/or joining Friends of Catalina State Park.