Hiking Hotspot: Tumamoc Hill in Tucson
Tumamoc Hill is a local Tucson hotspot for getting in a scenic workout close to the city. This urban oasis is one of the best options when it comes to hiking within a picturesque urban landscape. A very steep climb of approximately 1.5 miles leads you to a scenic overlook of the entire city. Along the way up, you will take in nice views of the mountains as well as the beautiful Saguaro cactus.
A few pics from my sunrise hike
With an elevation gain of 800 feet, this is no easy hike. Although the road up is paved, it’s still quite a challenging workout even for the avid hiker. Thus, if you are looking to get in a nice invigorating cardio workout outside in a nice natural setting vs. inside on a boring treadmill, Tumamoc is a great alternative. Just be prepared for an intense workout!
A convenient choice just 10 min from downtown
One of the major benefits of hiking Tumamoc is the convenient location, which is just minutes from downtown. Most of Tucson’s trails are located at least 30 minutes outside of town, making Tumamoc a great choice for those limited on time. Plus, there are lots of great restaurants and coffee shops nearby, and we all know that we should eat a good breakfast after an intense workout! I recommend stopping at Mercado San Agustin, a beautiful outdoor marketplace, for a delicious cup of coffee at Presta and a hearty Mexican breakfast at Seis.
How to survive the desert heat
Be aware that constant brutal 100+ degree summer temperatures make hiking Tumamoc unbearable at any time during the summer season. Although many hikers still choose to set their alarm for 5am or so to “beat the heat,” even morning hikes offer little respite from the harsh conditions of the desert. I have hiked this trail at sunrise and even the temps are still too uncomfortable, especially considering the elevation gain.
Keep in mind that summer temps often reach the 90 by 6am, and adding in a rough uphill climb makes it that much harder. Additionally, the trail offers zero shade so on the trip downhill the sun will likely be shining directly on you, making it feel at least 20 degrees hotter. The “but it’s a dry heat!” myth comes into play here! In short, plan hiking Tumanoc in the cooler early spring, fall, and winter months. Drink plenty of water before your hike as well as during the walk. Refuel afterwards with plenty of electrolytes and a quality meal.
History of Tumamoc
Tumamoc is owned by the University of Arizona and used as a research center. The desert laboratory is a site of ongoing research. You’ll see a few signs informing you to stay on the path, which would be wise anyways as getting stung by a cactus is not fun! Additionally, the Steward Observatory of U of A maintains a small observatory at the top of the hill.
Tumamoc was home to the Hohokam tribe 1300 years ago and is the site of the earliest Trincheras village. More than 400 petroglyphs have been found.
One thing is for sure – hiking this beautiful trail definitely beats climbing a stairmaster for an hour in an overcrowded, stuffy gym! Hiking Tumanoc is a great way to get outside the house, enjoy a fantastic overall body workout, and take in the scenery of both the Sonoran desert and the city of Tucson simultaneously.
Tips for a fun & safe hike
Avoid summer visits. If hiking in the summer is your only option, arrive by 6am at the latest.
Wear sunglasses and sunblock.
Wear a camelbak or bring a large water bottle.
Make sure you are physically able to walk up a very steep hill for 1.5 miles. Turn around at any point if you feel tired, overheated, or dehydrated.
Wear workout clothes and gym shoes!
Bring your camera. There are lots of pics to take of the mountains and Saguaro!
Wear a GPS watch so you can track your mileage. It seems to make the time go by faster!
Stop for breakfast post-hike at Seis, located in a lovely little Mexican marketplace known as Mercado San Agustin
Directions & Parking
Tumamoc Hill is located at W Anklam Rd & Tumamoc Hill Rd Tucson, AZ 85707. Parking is free, although it can be a hassle to find especially near sunrise and sunset. Unfortunately pets are not allowed. Hiking is not allowed on weekdays from 7:30am-5:30pm