Spring comes early in the desert. The rainy season is short and unpredictable, feeding the soil with desperately needed moisture in hopes of creating a short but vibrant display of color. When the desert is in bloom in Tucson and gold and blue flowers dot the saguaro and ocotillo dominated landscape, it truly is Mother Nature at her best. Early spring is also one of the best times of year to enjoy Tucson’s outdoor offerings.
Explore Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park, one of the most recent additions to the national park system, is home to a literal forest of giant saguaro cacti. The park is divided into two districts, Rincon Mountain District in the east and Tucson Mountain District in the west, by the sprawling city of Tucson. Its proximity to an urban area makes this park perfect for day trips. If you only have time to visit one side of the park and are traveling with younger children, I recommend the Tucson Mountain District. Start at the Red Hills Visitor Center to get your national park passports stamped, check out the exhibits, and grab Junior Ranger materials for the kids. There are two short trails next to the visitor center, the Cactus Garden Trail and Javelina Wash, which are great places to get acclimated with different types of desert flora.
From the visitor center, try taking the scenic Bajada Loop Drive through the cactus forest. The road is dirt, but 2 wheel drive vehicles should be able to handle the short drive with no problem. A great short trail within the park is the Signal Hill Petroglyphs Trail. There is a nice shaded picnic area near the trailhead, so I recommend planning this hike around lunch time. The trail to the petroglyphs is short but does involve quite a few stairs up the side of a hill. The reward at the top of the hill is the opportunity to get up close and personal with pictures that were carved into rocks over 800 years ago.
Visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
Part zoo, part museum, and a whole lot of fun, a day at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a must for families visiting Tucson. The expansive grounds are filled with animals and plants that inhabit the surrounding region. Exhibits are authentic and blend with the landscape seamlessly. A walk on the long trail will make you feel like you are having the best nature walk of your life. First a coyote appears from behind a saguaro cactus. Then a few yards later, a javelina pops out from behind an agave plant. And just when you think your walk can’t get any better you spot a Ferruginous Hawk in flight. Besides the wonderful animal exhibits, the ASDM has an Earth Sciences Corridor, complete with cave for exploring and an impressive mineral collection.
Stay at the Westward Look Resort
Located in northwest Tucson at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains on 80 beautiful acres of rolling desert, the Westward Look Resort is a great spot for families to call home base. The resort embraces the beauty of the region with immaculate desert landscaping and peaceful walking trails. Guests can swim, play tennis, enjoy the sports park, and go horseback riding without ever leaving the resort. The guest rooms are recently remodeled spacious, and contemporary. No trip to the Westward Look is complete without an order of dessert nachos at either the Lookout Bar and Grille or via room service. Trust me, I still have dreams about them.
Read my entire review of the Westward Look Resort.