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Southern Arizona Road Trip

This isn't your average desert adventure: mountains; a vibrant culinary scene; and centuries-old Spanish missions await.
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Rating: 5 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Easy
Duration: Multiple days
Family Friendly

Overview :  Southern Arizona
(330 miles round-trip from Phoenix)

All hail the saguaro—a plant that can weigh up to eight tons and live more than ... more »

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Points of Interest

Just north of the university, 14 sublimely private and controlled acres deploy a succession of gardens crazed with flowers and trees, separated by little gates and laid out with the whimsy of an English estate. It is a feat to find your room, but on your way you bump into teams of gardeners busily planting pansies and stock, trimming hedges,... More

John Wayne ate here, so a meal is obligatory for all True Grit fans. Keep in mind: real cowboys order steak. And don’t let the kitschy steer on the roof put you off.

Address:
28802 S. Nogales Hwy.
Amado, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 398-1999

Whether or not you’re a fan of Ted DeGrazia’s much reproduced art, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is worth a visit: the adobe walls seem to glow in the morning light, and the open-air chapel, built by the artist in the 1950’s, features his colorful murals.

Address:
6300 N. Swan Rd.
Tucson, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 299- 9191

4. Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory

One of the world’s largest telescopes sits atop Mount Hopkins. Amateur astronomers can check out the scaled-down models at the visitors’ center, 10 miles below.

Address:
670 Mt. Hopkins Rd., Mount Hopkins
Amado, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 670- 5707

Hammered-tin lamps and carved-beam ceilings add old-world atmosphere to this charming property. Set in the Catalina foothills, the 1929 former girls’ boarding school has lush gardens and an award-winning restaurant.

Address:
5601 N. Hacienda del Sol Rd.
Tucson, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 299-1501

This refurbished 1919 hotel built for passengers of the Southern Pacific Line has basic rooms but an unbeatable downtown location. It even played a role in the 1934 capture of John Dillinger.

Address:
311 E. Congress St.
Tucson, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 622-8848

7. Mesquite Valley Growers

Seventeen acres of prickles and thorns mean heaven for succulent lovers at this nursery that stocks a vast selection of garden art.

Address:
8005 E. Speedway Blvd.
Tucson, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 721-8600

8. Mt. Lemmon General Store & Gift Shop

The shop sells sinful slabs of homemade fudge (locals swear by the cookie-dough variety).

Address:
12856 N. Sabino Canyon Pkwy.
Summerhaven, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 576-1468

Once a fort that marked the northern frontier of New Spain, the 150-year-old Old Town Artisans houses a cluster of charming shops (although the turquoise-jewelry quotient is a little high). The best part: sitting in the courtyard with a prickly-pear margarita.

Address:
201 N. Court Ave.
Tucson, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 623-6024

10. Saguaro National Park

Hike the sprawling preserve of mature saguaro stands (found only in the Sonoran Desert). Go to the west side to see petroglyphs left by the Hohokam Indians. Take in the landscape of green paloverde trees, purple cacti, and fuzzy teddy-bear cholla, not to mention cartoonish road-runners and piglike javelinas.

Address:
3693 S. Old Spanish Trl.
... More

An upscale, 60,000-acre resort near Tucson, Tanque Verde is best visited in spring or fall, when temperatures are cooler and the desert more lush. The surrounding Sonoran Desert landscape, strewn with saguaro and prickly pear cacti, is a world away from that of the typical Rocky Mountain ranch, but horseback riding reigns equally supreme. Riding: ... More

The remnants of not one but three Spanish missions are on hand at Tumacacori National Historical Park, accessible via a 41/2-mile trail from Tubac.

Address:
1891 E. Frontage Rd.
Tumacacori, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 398- 2341

13. W Boutique

The two locations are good sources for warm-weather staples, including slouchy linen pants by Georgie and Warhol-print swimsuits by Diane von Furstenberg.

Address:
4340 N. Campbell Ave. and 7049 N. Oracle Rd.
Tucson, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 577-3470

The lovable dive, has been serving tasty beef enchiladas for more than 60 years and three generations. Order one of their mason-jar margaritas and deep-fried, cinnamon sugar-dusted fruit “burros.” Even the fiberglass chicken statues are larger than life.

Address:
1931 E. Frontage Rd.
Tumacacori-Carmen, Arizona
United States

Phone:
(520) 398-2397