Two nights in Catalina State Park, AZ (visit #2)–Tucson for Christmas trip

We visited Catalina in December 2023 as part of our Tucson for Christmas trip. Read about our first trip in 2021 here.

hiking down from Romero Pass
hiking down from Romero Pass

We loooove Catalina State Park. As I said previously, if you’re in Tucson, please go to Catalina for a day, or a night, or a hike. The park is phenomenal, and we had a fantastic two days there.


out campsite in Catalina

Book your campsite in advance! Catalina’s campgrounds fill quickly. Campground loops A and B have power and water hookups, and after having stayed in both loops now, we think loop A is a bit more scenic. We camped in spot A11, a snug and private spot but with no big mountain views. Our campground scouting report says that spots A16, A19, and A23 are maybe the best.


sunset hike on the Nature Trail
the Nature Trail at sunset

Catalina State Park hiking trails are dog friendly, except for the trail to Romero Pools. We based our hiking plan on our favorite trails from our last visit, building a nice mix of shorter old dog-friendly hikes and a longer wish list item.

Canyon Loop Trail

the wash on the way to hike the Canyon Loop Trail
starting the Canyon Loop Trail

With Bugsy, we hiked the 2.3-mile Canyon Loop Trail to start off our stay. It might be the park’s most popular trail, and with good reason: mountain views, saguaros galore, and little elevation change.

Nature Trail and Birding Loop

sunset hike on the Nature Trail
sunset on the Nature Trail

The Nature Trail is our favorite spot for an evening picnic among the cacti, watching the sun set on the mountains. It’s an easy one-mile loop with informational signage about local flora and fauna.

sunset hike on the Nature Trail

We combined the Nature Trail with the Birding Trail, another easy one-mile hike, for a quick outing before leaving for Prescott.

Romero Pass

Romero Pools
Romero Pools

Last time in Tucson we hiked to Romero Pools and were blown away by the scenery. The trail continues beyond the pools to Romero Pass and we immediately put a hike to the pass on our to-do list.

hiking to Romero Pass
hiking down from Romero Pass

The out-and-back is an occasionally brutal, always gorgeous 14.2 miles, and we saw hardly any other hikers past the pools.

hiking down from Romero Pass
hiking down from Romero Pass

If you can arrange a shuttle or drop a car, consider these incredible one-way adventures: at Romero Pass you can turn left and continue to Mt Lemmon for a total of 15.2 miles one way, or drop down into Sabino Canyon for a 20-mile one-way hike.

the view from Romero Pass into Sabino Canyon
looking down into Sabino Canyon from Romero Pass

We covered most of the latter hike between this hike to Romero Pass, and our hike a few days later to Hutch’s Pool in Sabino Canyon on the West Fork Trail.

Next up: Prescott, three hours north of Catalina, where we hiked what J said was maybe his favorite trail of the entire trip!

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