DesertUSA

Southwest Adventure, Living & Travel


Catalina State Park

5,500-acre, high desert park north of Tucson, AZ




A vast array of desert plants, wildlife and archeological sites are located in the foothills and canyons of this 5,500-acre, high desert park north of Tucson. The environmment at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers great camping, picnicking and bird watching -- more than 150 species of birds call the park home. An equestrian center provides a staging area for trail riders and plenty of trailer parking is also available. Miles of equestrian, birding and hiking trails wind through the park and the adjoining Coronado National Forest, as well as an interpretive trail to a prehistoric Hohokam village.

General Information

Seasons / Hours

  • Open year round, 24 hours a day.

Rates & Fees

Per Vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
Individual/Bicycle: $3.00
$15 per night, Camping: $25 per night for hookups Prices subject to change.

Food/Supplies
There are no food or supplies within the park. Nearest services 1 miles away.
 
Accessibility
Park facilities, including rest rooms and showers, are handicapped accessible.
Things to Do
Group Use Areas for picnicking and camping

Climate, Geography, Setting

Setting

Catalina State Park is located 10 north of Tucson's city limits off State Route 77. It encompasses 5,493 acres (8.6 square miles) in the northwestern foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains at an elevation 2,650 feet.

Climate

Month High °F Low °F  Precipitation
 Jan 57.7 34.3 1.60"
 Feb 60.4 36.0 1.55"
 Mar 64.0 38.3 1.85"
 Apr 73.1 45.0 0.81"
 May 82.5 53.1 0.23"
 June 91.6 61.4 0.34"
 July 93.2 67.3 2.89"
 Aug 89.7 65.0 3.16"
 Sep 87.6 61.0 1.84"
 Oct 78.6 51.5 1.18"
 Nov 66.2 47.7 1.23"
 Dec 58.9 35.7 2.23"

Description

Cultural History

Prehistoric Peoples
More than 1,500 years ago, a small Hohokam village was established on a ridge above Sutherland Wash, now within Catalina State Park. Now called Romero Ruin, it is one of several large Hohokam villages in the Tucson Basin. It was occupied for about 1,000 years before being abandoned about 1500AD.

This village covers 15 acres, spans the entire width of the ridge and extends about 1/4 miles to the base of the Catalina Mountains. This was an extensive prehistoric occupation as indicated by the presence of numerous trash mounds, two ballcourts and the remains of stone structures still visible on the surface.

A large prehistoric agricultural field system extends for 1/2 mile south of the village site and contains two cobblestone field houses and numerous rock piles and rock terrace borders. These features were used to trap moisture and prevent erosion for the growing of crops which fed the village.

During 3 archeological field seasons at Romero Ruin during the past 10 years, many potsherds, chipping waste and projectile points dating between 700 and 1100 AD were excavated. Manos, metates, marine shell, animal bones and bracelet fragments were also discovered.

Thirty-three other archeological sites have been discovered within what is now the park boundaries. In 1940, a hiker stumbled upon a cavity about 3 miles from Romero Ruins that contained a treasure of Hohokam artifacts.

The cache held an olla (ceramic jar) containing about 100,000 stone and shell beads, as well as 30 copper balls. Twenty years later, midway between the village and the olla cache, a canyon containing petroglyphs was discovered. It was located near "tinjas," natural water catchment basins that were of practical and spiritual importance to the Hohokam.

Exploration & Settlement
Sometime about 1850, cattle ranchers Francisco and Victoriana Romero built their home, within the prehistoric compound wall on top of the Hohokam remains. Apache raids may have ultimately driven the family away, for Francisco died in Tucson in 1905. His son Fabian, inherited the ranch, expanding it to 4,800 acres and built a new house across Sutherland Wash from the original homesite.

The earliest records referring to the prehistoric site come from 1875. Around the turn of the century, two locals -- historian Donald Page and miner George Hand -- described the site in writing. In 1910, Yale climatologist and and geographer Ellsworth Huntington, wrote the first scientific description of the site.

Catalina State Park, comprising 5,493 acres and including all 34 archeological sites, was established in 1983.

 

Natural History

Plants
Plants within Catalina State Park lie within the Lower Sonoran Life zone. They include mesquite, paloverde and acacia trees; crucfixuion thorn, ocotillo, cholla, prickly pear and Saguaro Cactus. Desert Willow, Arizona Sycamore, Arizona Ash and native walnut grow along the washes.

Animals
Jack and cottontail rabbits, Mule Deer, Javelina, Coyotes , ground squirrels, packrats, and numerous lizards and snakes live within the park. More than 150 species of birds call the park home. Mountain Lions, Bighorn Sheep and Black Bear have also been observed on rare occasions.

Geology
The central core of the Catalina Mountains is granite of Laramide origin, altered by metamorphism to gneiss along its western side. Catalina State Park is located near the base of the fore range anticline, which drains into Cañon de Oro to the west. The park land is situated on sedimentary Miocene (25 million-year-old) deposits of sandstone, limestone, mudstone and conglomerates.

Things To Do

  • Group Use Area for picnicking an partying
  • Picnic areas
  • Hiking trails
  • Equestrian trails
  • Interpretive archeology trail to Romero Ruins
  • Birding and wildlife viewing
Trails
Hiking and riding on the trails are popular activities, with eight trails varying in length and difficulty.

The Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail (3/4-mi.) meanders through the ruins of a prehistoric Hohokam village site that is over a thousand years old. The mile-long Nature Trail offers beautiful vistas of the Sonoran Desert and Santa Catalina Mountains, with signs explaining the desert ecosystem and its inhabitants.

The Romero Canyon Trail (7.2 mi.) and the Sutherland Trail (10.5 mi.) offer longer, more strenuous hikes through beautiful desert terrain and riparian canyons. Both climb to cool natural pools and connect with other Coronado National Forest trails which continue on to Mount Lemmon at the top of the Catalina Mountains.

The Canyon Loop Trail (2.3 mi.) is representative of the various habitat types found in the park. The 50-Year Trail (7.8 mi.) is popular with equestrians and mountain-bikers, and the Birding Trail (1 mi.) offers hikers a chance to see some of the park's 170+ species of birds in three different types of habitats.

The Bridle Trail (1.4 mi) is the only completely flat trail in the park, connecting the Equestrian Center with the main trail head.

Download a park trail map PDF!

Lodging

Hotels/Motels

There are hotels and motels in Tucson, with something for every taste and price range. For more information and a complete list. Click Here. (Rates, availability and reservation online)

Camping & RV Parks

There are 48 campsites at Catalina State Park, 24 with RV hookups for electricity and water. Restrooms are Handicapped Accessible with Showers that are also Handicapped Accessible. A dump stations is also available in the park.

Camping Fees: contact park
P.O. Box 36986
Tucson, Arizona 85740
(520) 628-5798
Fax (520) 628-5797

Rules, Regulations, Precautions

Campground

  • Camping is allowed only in designated areas.
  • Camping is first come, first served. No reservations are available.
  • Generator hours are 8am to 8pm (including vehicle engines).
  • Checkout times is 2pm.
  • Quiet Hours are 10pm to 7am.
  • Stay limit is 14 nights within a 30 day period.

General

  • Drive only on designated roadways.
  • Wood fires are prohibited. Charcoal and Duraflame fires are acceptable.
  • No soliciting or selling.
  • Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
  • Obey posted speed limits.
  • Visitors are responsible for knowing all park rules and regulations, which are posted in the park

Resources & Nearby Attractions

Resources


Cities & Towns

Parks & Monuments

Recreation & Wilderness Areas

  • Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge: 60 miles southwest.
  • Sabino Canyon Recreation Area: 25 miles southeast.
  • Coronado National Forest: Surrounds the park.

Historic & Points of Interest

  • Biosphere 2: 15 miles north.
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum: 12 miles west.
  • Old Tucson Studios: 12 miles west.
  • Tucson Mineral Museum: Tucson.
  • Kitt Peak National Observatory: 59 miles west.
  • Gila River Indian Reservation: Southeast of Phoenix.

 


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