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Picacho Peak State Park: A Guide

Picacho Peak State Park Guide Arizona | Picacho Peak 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.

Picacho Peak State Park, situated between Tucson and Phoenix, is one such destination. The park draws visitors due to its resplendent wildflowers, soaring peaks, and challenging hikes.

Never been to Picacho Peak State Park? This guide will provide everything you need to know to camp, hike, climb, or sightsee with family and friends.

GENERAL INFORMATION

How far is Picacho Peak State Park from Tucson?

Picacho Peak is approximately 40 minutes from Tucson, depending on where you live. The park is a cinch to get to! Simply get on to I-10 W and drive until you see signs for the state park. Of course, you will also notice the distinctive peak (with an elevation of 2000 feet) before you get there!

What is the cost to get into Picacho Peak 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 Picacho Peak State Park open? What are the hours?

  • Picacho Peak 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.
  • Hiking trails are open from sunrise to sunset daily.
  • Picacho Peak State Park is open every day of the year, except Christmas Day.

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

Most people visit Picacho Peak State Park to hike one of the five available trails - or to camp overnight when the weather is nice.

What animals will I see at Picacho Peak 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 Picacho Peak State Park?

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

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

Yes. That being said, it is not recommended that you and/or your pet hike when the temperature is over 100 degrees. You may also want to leave your pet behind when hiking difficult trails (Hunter Trail or Sunset Vista Trail).

When is "wildflower season" at Picacho Peak 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 Picacho Peak 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 PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

How many hiking trails are there at Picacho Peak State Park?

There are five hiking trails at Picacho Peak State Park:

  • Hunter Trail: Although this hike is under two miles, don't be deceived by the distance. Hunter Trail, typically rated as difficult, begins on the north side (from Barrett Loop) and will take you to the top of the peak. The first park of the hike will take you to a scenic spot, known as "The Saddle." From there, the route is steep and twisting, with steel cables anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare. Gloves are recommended to protect your hands and to help you grip the cables as you ascend and descend.
  • Sunset Vista Trail: Slightly longer in distance at 3.1 miles, the Sunset Vista Trail begins on the south side from the westernmost parking area and then meets up with the Hunter Trail to reach to the top of the peak. The first 2 miles are moderate, but the route quickly becomes difficult, steep and twisting, with steel cables anchored into the rock in places where the surface is bare. Gloves are recommended {see above}.
  • Calloway Trail: For a short, but still moderately challenging hike, consider this 0.7 miles trail - which leads to an overlook of the surrounding area.
  • Nature Trail: A good choice for kids, the Natural Trail is 0.5 miles of easy terrain.
  • Children's Cave Trail: For the youngest and oldest members in your party, consider this easy 0.2 mile walk. The "cave" at the end is rather anticlimactic, but preschoolers and early elementary students will still be able to find wonder in the small alcove. It can be a fun place to take a few photos too!

Hiking trails are open from sunrise to sunset (not at night!). Note that the park itself is open from 5:00am to 10:00pm. Gates close before and after those times and you will not be able to enter the park.

*Note that there are no restrooms between the Hunter Trailhead or Sunset Vista Trailhead to the top of the peak. Be sure to use the restroom prior to beginning your hike.

How many hours will it take to hike the Hunter Trail or Sunset Vista Trail?

Depending on your fitness level, it will most likely take between 3 to 4 hours for both trails, with Sunset Vista being slightly faster.

PICNICS AT PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

Are there picnic areas at Picacho Peak State Park?

There are 10+ picnic tables throughout the park (most have covered roofs for shade). These are first-come, first-served and are free to use.

Four day-use ramadas are also available for rent at a rate of $25 per day (plus daily entrance fee). Each ramada can accommodate a maximum of 40 people and has four picnic tables, charcoal grills, electricity (lighting and 110 volt outlets), and a water source. Reservations can be made up to one year in advance.

  • Cholla Ramada: Wheelchair accessible. Close proximity to parking, restrooms, hiking trails, and playground.
  • Ocotillo Ramada: Wheelchair accessible. Close proximity to parking, restrooms, hiking trails, and playground.
  • Ironwood Ramada: This ramada also has a fire ring. Wheelchair accessible. Close proximity to parking, restrooms, and hiking trails.
  • Mesquite Ramada: Not Wheelchair accessible. Close proximity to parking, restrooms, and hiking trails.

VISITOR CENTER AT PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

Vistor Center Picacho Peak State Park | Picacho Peak State Park: A Guide

What amenities are there at The Visitor Center and Park Store?

The Visitor Center, which is typically open between 8:00am and 5:00pm, has restrooms, a gift shop (also known as the park store), and vending machines with snacks & drinks available for purchase. At the gift shop, you can buy water bottles, magnets, and other similar souvenirs.

KIDS AT PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

Does Picacho Peak 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 Picacho Peak 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 Children's Cave Trail and Nature Trail are ideal for the very youngest hikers since they are both under one mile. Of course, you can also carry babies and toddlers in backpack or front carriers.

The Calloway Trail is a great "in-between" for kids - moderately challenging, but not terribly long or steep.

Hunter Trail and Sunset Vista Trail, on the other hand, are steep, difficult, and rugged - involving some climbing and dangerous areas. Best for ages 7+, but use your own judgement related to you and your child's physical abilities, experience with hiking, and overall strength & stamina. Consult a ranger or ask in the Visitor Center if you have specific questions or concerns.

* 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 PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

Picacho Peak State Park’s campground has a total of 85 electric sites for both tent and RV camping. All sites are suitable for either RVs or tents. Quiet hours are from 10:00pm to 6:00am. Please be respectful to your neighbors and keep noise to a minimum within this timeframe.

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/fire ring. Some sites have ramadas and/or wheelchair accessibility so choose accordingly if those amenities are important to you.

Some sites are back-in, while others are pull-through.

Are hook-ups available?

No water or sewer hookups are available. That being said, potable water is available at the on-site dump station [not currently available!] and use of the dump station 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?

Generator use is not permitted at Picacho Peak State Park.

How big can my RV be?

There is no maximum size limit, although tractor trailers are not permitted.

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.

Will we be able to access the internet during our camping trip?

High-speed WiFi internet access is available at all campsites for an additional fee.

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.

What should we do if we arrive at the campground after dark?

Be sure to arrive before 10:00pm! The entrance gate to Picacho Peak State Park is closed nightly from 10:00pm to 5:00am.

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?

Not particularly. You will probably need to drive about 30 minutes to get to the nearest grocery store. The best option 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.

What should we pack for our camping trip to Picacho Peak 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 shower house)
  • Towel, soap, shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, hairties
  • For Hiking: active clothing, comfortable (closed-toe) shoes, and gloves
  • Easy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Snacks
  • Water bottles

How can I make a reservation for a camping site at Picacho Peak 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 PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

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

  • Raven Group Area: This is a tents-only camping area with 10 people minimum and six units (vehicles) maximum. The Raven Group Area consists of three campsites with picnic tables and fire-rings. This camping area is within walking distance to restroom/showers and water. There is also a group fire-ring and a small ramada on-site. Cost: $20 + camping fees.
  • Roadrunner Group Area: This is another tents-only camping area with 10 people minimum and six units (vehicles) maximum. There are three campsites with picnic tables and fire-rings. Again, this camping area is within walking distance to restroom/showers and water. A group fire-ring and small ramada are on-site. Cost: $20 + camping fees.
  • Jackrabbit Group Area: This is another large camping area, which is divided into reservable sections (east & west). A minimum of seven vehicles is required to reserve one section. Each section has a large group fire ring, a large group ramada, scattered campsites, portable toilets, and access to restroom/shower buildings. Cost: $30 + camping fees.
  • Quail Group Area: This large camping area, which requires a minimum of 15 vehicles, can be occupied by tents and/or RVs. On-site amenities include: four ramadas with a group grill, electricity to the ramadas, a large group fire ring, eight campsites with picnic tables and fire rings, portable toilets, a water source, and access to restroom/shower buildings. Cost: $35 + camping fees.

SPECIAL EVENTS AT PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

Weddings at Picacho Peak State Park

Yes! You can have your wedding at Picacho Peak 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 PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

What else do I need to know before I experience Picacho Peak 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 6:00am.
  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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