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Catalina State Park: A Guide

tents camping Catalina State Park Tucson | Catalina State Park: A Guide

Arizona's state parks are well-known for their beauty, cleanliness, and friendliness. Campers, hikers, and RVers travel from near and far to experience the incredible scenery and coveted tranquility of the Arizona wilderness.

Catalina State Park, located at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains in northwest Tucson, is one such destination. The park draws visitors due to its immaculate campgrounds, interesting hikes, towering saguaros, and equestrian trails.

Never been to Catalina State Park? This guide will provide everything you need to know to camp or hike with family and friends.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Where is Catalina State Park?

Catalina State Park is located in northwest Tucson at 11570 N. Oracle Road.

What is the cost to get into Catalina State Park?

The cost is $7 per vehicle (maximum of 4 adults in the car) or $3.00 per individual (if you are arriving on foot or bicycle).

Is the America The Beautiful Pass accepted for entry?

No. That is a pass for national parks.

When is Catalina State Park open? What are the hours?

  • Catalina State Park is open from 5:00am to 10:00pm daily.
  • The Visitor Center and Park Store are open from 8:00am to 5:00pm daily.
  • Catalina State Park is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day. There are also shortened hours (8:00am-2:00pm) on Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

Is there an entrance/exit gate at Catalina State Park? If so, does it close nightly?

Yes, there is a gate. It is open 24 hours to accommodate camping. There is an Iron Ranger that accepts day use and camping fees after hours.

What kinds of activities would you do on a day trip to Catalina State Park?

Most people visit Catalina State Park to hike, bike, or horseback ride on one of the eight available trails - or to camp overnight when the weather is nice.

What animals will I see at Catalina State Park?

It depends on the time of day or night, the season, and the amount of people at the park. It is possible - but not particularly likely - that you will see rabbits, squirrels, bats, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, bobcats, javelinas, lizard, gopher snakes, garter snakes, rattlesnakes, toads, tortoises, and mountain lions.

Are there restrooms at Catalina State Park?

Yes. There are restrooms at the Visitor Center, as well as at six other spots around the park.

Note: Flush restrooms are available in the visitor center, picnic area, group areas, and campgrounds. Waterless restrooms are available at the trailhead and equestrian center.

Are pets permitted on hiking trails and/or at campgrounds?

Yes. Leashed dogs are welcome on all trails. That being said, it is not recommended that you and/or your pet hike when the temperature is over 100 degrees.

When is "wildflower season" at Catalina State Park?

Wildflowers typically start blooming in mid- to late February and continue through the beginning of March. You can see bladderpods, brittlebush, Mexican poppies, chuparosa, globemallow, and other various cacti species.

I found a pretty rock, flower, tree, or cactus. May I bring it home with me?

No. You'll have to enjoy and/or photograph the beauty on-site. Removing natural rocks, vegetation, native wood, or public property is prohibited.

What is the best time of year to visit Catalina State Park?

The best months for hiking and camping are October, November, December, January, February, March, or April when daytime temperatures typically range between 65-86 degrees.

That being said, the "shoulder months" (September and May) can also be quite pleasant if you check the weather ahead of time.

June, July, and August tend to be unbearably hot with temperatures sometimes hitting at or above 100 degrees.

HIKING AT CATALINA STATE PARK

How many hiking trails are there at Catalina State Park?

There are eight hiking trails at Catalina State Park. We have listed them in order from shortest to longest in distance.

  • Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail: This is a hiking-only trail, which is under 1 mile. The easy loop starts at the main parking lot (near the picnic area) and features signs that explain the history and culture of the Hohokom village. Note that this trail crosses a wash so water may be present after rainfall.
  • Nature Trail: A great option for kids, Catalina State Park's Nature Trail is a 1-mile loop for hikers and bicyclists to enjoy.
  • Birding Trail: Another 1-mile loop, this easy hiking and biking trail is also used by birdwatchers since it passes through three different types of habitats. Like Romero Ruins, this path crosses the wash and water may be present.
  • Bridle Trail: This flat 1.4 mile trail, which is often used by horseback riders, connects the Equestrian Center and the trailhead.
  • Canyon Loop Trail: Beginning at the park trailhead, this 2.3 mile loop crosses a wash several times and takes about an hour to complete.
  • Romero Canyon Trail: One of the most popular hikes at Catalina State Park, this trail begins at the park trailhead and immediately crosses a wash (you may need to hop over rocks or remove your shoes to get to the other side). Montrose Pools are within one mile of the trail, but note that they are typically dried up and it is unlikely that you will find water there. If you want to venture beyond Montrose Pools, you will need to leave your pets and/or bicycle behind as they are not permitted beyond that point. You'll have to go two more miles on a somewhat steep trail (with a total elevation gain of 1000 feet) to get to Romero Pools. You are welcome to continue hiking after Romero Pools, but the trail enters unmaintained wilderness at that point and will eventually lead you to Romero Pass.
  • 50-Year Trail: Sometimes used by daring mountain bikers, the 50-Year Trail begins at the Equestrian Center and goes for 7.8 miles. Arizona State Parks & Trails recommends that you plan 4 hours for hiking each way.
  • Sutherland Trail: Rated the most difficult among the trails at Catalina State Park, this 10.8 mile trail climbs 700 feet into the Coronado National Forest. Like many of the trails at Catalina State Park, this trail crosses a wash and water may be present, depending on the time of year and the seasonal rainfall.

PICNICS AT CATALINA STATE PARK

Picnic Area Ramada Catalina State Park | Catalina State Park: A Guide

Are there picnic areas at Catalina State Park?

Yes. The Picnic Area has two BBQ grills, a modern flush restroom, and one 20x40' shade ramada (which features ten picnic tables and two grills). Day use hours are 5:00am-10:00pm. The Picnic Area is not available for use or rent between 10:00pm and 5:00am. The reservation fee is $35, plus the day use entrance fee of $7 per vehicle. Recommended for 15-50 people.

Call the park at (520) 628-5798 with questions or to make reservations.

VISITOR CENTER AT CATALINA STATE PARK

What amenities are there at The Visitor Center?

Located at the park entrance, The Visitor Center is typically open between 8:00am and 5:00pm. At this center, you can pay entrance fees, purchase a souvenir or snack at the gift shop, and/or use the restrooms.

A second gift shop is open seasonally near the bathrooms at the trailhead.

KIDS AT CATALINA STATE PARK

Does Catalina State Park have a Junior Ranger program?

Yes! Kids, who are between the ages of 6 and 12, are eligible to become a Junior Ranger at Catalina State Park. Stop by the Visitor Center, Ranger Station, or Office to ask for a complimentary Junior Ranger booklet. Complete the activities during your visit and then bring it to a Park Ranger for review. When a Park Ranger approves your work, you'll be asked to take the Junior Ranger Pledge and get sworn in as our newest Junior Ranger. You'll also be given a Junior Ranger Button.

What ages are best suited for each hiking trail?

The Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail, Nature Trail, and Birding Trail are ideal for the very youngest hikers since they are all relatively easy loops, one mile or less.

The Canyon Loop Trail and Romero Canyon Trail are great for elementary age children, teens, and adults.

* Before you go hiking, be sure to stop at the restrooms as they may not be accessible once you set out from the trailhead.

RV & TENT CAMPING AT CATALINA STATE PARK

Catalina State Park has a total of 120 electric and water sites for both tent and RV camping. There are two campgrounds: Campground A and Campground B. All sites are suitable for either RVs or tents. Because of the popularity of campgrounds at Catalina State Park, camping is limited to 14 nights in a 30-day period.

What is the difference between Campgrounds A and B? How many sites are in each campground?

A Loop has 48 sites, B Loop has 72. B Loop is newer and has access to the 50-Year and Bridle Trails.

What are the sites like?

Sites are paved, fairly level, and located in a natural Sonoran Desert setting (ie plenty of sunshine and lots of cactus). Each site has its own picnic table and barbecue grill.

Are hook-ups available?

All sites offer water and electric. Sewer hook-ups are not available.

There are two RV dump stations at Catalina State Park. Use of the dump stations is included in the price for camping.

If you are passing through the area and need to use the dump station, the fee is $15.

Can we bring our generator?

Yes, but note that generator use is only permitted between 8:00am and 8:00pm.

Are there designated quiet hours?

Yes. Quiet hours are from 10:00pm to 7:00am. Please be respectful to your neighbors and keep noise to a minimum within this timeframe.

How big can my RV be?

There is no maximum RV length.

What time is check-in and check-out for camping at Catalina State Park?

Campground check-in is at 2:00pm. Check-out is at 12:00pm (noon).

Are there restrooms at the campground?

Yes. There are two modern, handicapped-accessible restroom and shower buildings (with hot showers!), which are available at no additional charge for campers. One is in Campground A; the other is in Campground B.

How many people can be at one campsite?

There can be no more than six adults and 12 people total per site. Only one motorhome/RV can be at each site.

Can we bring more than one vehicle?

Yes, but note that there is a per night fee for second vehicles. The fee must be paid upon arrival at the park. The fee does not apply to vehicles towed behind a primary vehicle when the primary vehicle remains at the site and the towed vehicle is used for transportation.

Are campfires permitted?

It depends on the season and the fire danger level. Be sure to call the park ahead of time to see if any restrictions are currently in place.

Is there a grocery store nearby?

Yes! A Walmart Supercenter is directly across the street (about 1.6 miles from the park entrance) and Safeway is just over three miles away.

The best option, however, is to come to the campground well-stocked with food and other supplies. Plan meals ahead of time and bring snacks, water bottles, and other treats with you.

Is internet/WiFi available? For free or for a fee?

WiFi is free, but only available in the B Loop area. However, this is temporarily out of service.

What should we pack for our camping trip to Catalina State Park?

Pack as you would for any other hiking and camping adventure in the Sonoran Desert.

Here is a list to get you started:

  • Clothing, undergarments, and socks
  • A sweater, sweatshirt, or jacket
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • A sun hat, ball cap, or visor
  • Tennis shoes or hiking boots
  • Flip flops or sandals (if you plan to use the showers)
  • Towel, soap, shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, hairties
  • For Hiking: active clothing and comfortable (closed-toe) shoes
  • Easy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Snacks
  • Water bottles

How can I make a reservation for a camping site at Catalina State Park?

Call the Reservation Center between 8:00am and 5:00pm at 877-697-2757. You may also reserve campsites online.

GROUP CAMPING AT CATALINA STATE PARK

There are four group camping sites at Catalina State Park, which are available by reservation only. Reservations can be made up to a year in advance by calling the park directly.

  • Flycatcher Group Area: Tents & RVs. Reservations for this group camping area includes 18 picnic tables, access to restrooms & showers, a fire pit, BBQ grills, use of a 20x40 ramada, and parking for 50 vehicles. Minimum of 20 people to reserve. Cost: $15 + camping fees.
  • Gila Monster Group Area: Tents & RVs. Reservations for this group camping area includes 18 picnic tables, access to restrooms & showers, a fire pit, BBQ grills, use of a 20x40 ramada, and parking for 100 vehicles. Minimum of 20 people to reserve. Cost: $15 + camping fees.
  • Granite Group Area: Tents-only. Reservations for this group camping area includes 7 picnic tables, access to restrooms & showers, a fire pit, BBQ grills, use of a 20x40 ramada, and parking for 9 vehicles. Minimum of 8 people to reserve. Cost: $15 + camping fees.
  • Ringtail Group Area: Tents & RVs. Reservations for this group camping area includes 18 picnic tables, access to restrooms & showers, a fire pit, BBQ grills, use of a 20x40 ramada, and parking for 75 vehicles. Minimum of 20 people to reserve. Cost: $15 + camping fees.

SPECIAL EVENTS AT CATALINA STATE PARK

Weddings at Catalina State Park

Yes! You can have your wedding at Catalina State Park! Your first step? Download a Wedding Packet and Wedding Pre-Application. Next, call the park directly to inquire about reservation dates, amenities, and fees.

TIPS FOR VISITING CATALINA STATE PARK

What else do I need to know before I experience Catalina State Park?

Here are some things to keep in mind before you go:

  1. Be kind and courteous to other people as you hike and camp. Say hello with a smile. Observe the quiet hours between 10:00pm and 7:00am.
  2. Keep the hiking trails & campgrounds clean and beautiful. Do not take anything (or leave anything) on the path or trails. Pick up and properly dispose of litter.
  3. Stay safe and be prepared. Protect yourself on your hikes with light layers, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Bring plenty of water. Hike with a friend or family member, when possible. Always tell someone where you are going and for how long.
  4. Be thankful. Notice the blossoming flowers, the sparkling sunshine, and the fresh air. Arizona is a beautiful state to work, play, and live.
  5. Have a great time! Getting outside is always a good idea. 

* For other ideas of things to do around Tucson, be sure to subscribe to our FREE This Week In Tucson newsletter and to like TucsonTopia on Facebook.

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