Four Tucson Weekend Getaways

by Summit Hut Friday, April 19th 2019

Beat the heat and escape the crowds for an ideal weekend at some of our favorite campgrounds in the greater Tucson area. We’ve hiked it, biked it, and loved every second of it, so get outside and see for yourselves! Whether you want to spend the night in a convenient campground or far away from the sounds of the city, these four Tucson camping experiences will give you the weekend escape you’ve been looking for.


Catalina State Park

A quiet place to listen to nature right on the edge of Tucson. Take a break from city life by staying at one of 120 campsites, with electric and water hookups. The park rests at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains with 5,500 acres for hiking, camping and more.

  • Location: Base of the Santa Catalina Mountains, northern Tucson.
  • Fee: $5 non-refundable reservation fee for each reserved site and a $15 per night fee for second vehicles at a campsite.
  • # of Units: 120
  • Season: Open year-round.
  • Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.
  • Reservable: Yes, link:
  • Stay Limit: 14 consecutive nights.

How to Get There:

Head north on AZ-77 N/N Oracle Road past Oro Valley 6.2 miles. Take a right at Catalina State Park at 11570 N. Oracle Rd.

Extras & Insights:

Hiking Trails: There are eight trails at the park, varying in length and difficulty, but all with amazing views. Leashed dogs are welcome on all trails.

Mount Lemmon

Mt. Lemmon

If you want to beat the heat and get out of the city, head to Mount Lemmon. It averages 30 degrees cooler than Tucson and is well within driving distance. Mount Lemmon hosts a multitude of outdoor options, from skiing to camping and climbing. There is something for everyone.

  • Location: Coronado National Forest, northeast of Tucson.
  • Fee: There are a number of free and paid campsites available.
  • # of Units: 200+.
  • Season: Open year-round.
  • Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.
  • Reservable: Dependent upon campground.
  • Stay Limit: Dependent upon campground

How to Get There:

Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. There are a number of campgrounds all the way up the mountain.

Extras & Insights:

This is a four-season recreational area. Spring and summer, go hike/climb/bike/camp and in the winter, snowshoe/ski/snowboard. See below for the full list of campgrounds available.

  • General Hitchcock Campground
  • Gordon Hirabayashi Campground
  • Molino Basin Campground
  • Palisades Ranger Residence Cabin
  • Palisades Visitor Center
  • Peppersauce Campground
  • Rose Canyon Campground
  • Spencer Canyon Campground

Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountains

With approximately 20,000 acres of public land access and 62 miles of non-motorized shared use trails, Tucson Mountain Park is a haven for all things outdoors. While hiking and mountain biking, you will have no shortage of breathtaking views and terrain to enjoy.

  • Location: Directly west of Tucson.
  • Fee: $10 per nights for tents and $20 for trailers and RVs.
  • # of Units: One main campground Gilbert Ray Campground, 130 units.
  • Season: Open year-round.
  • Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.
  • Reservable: No.
  • Stay Limit: 7 days.

How to Get There:

Speedway Boulevard west of I-10. At Camino de Oeste, Speedway Boulevard turns into Gates Pass Road. Follow Gates Pass Road across Gates Pass (not recommended for trailers or RVs more than 24 feet) to the “T” intersection with Kinney Road. Turn right on Kinney Road. Travel approximately 0.6 miles and then turn left on McCain Loop. The campground entrance is on the left.

Extras & Insights:

With this much land to roam, there is no shortage of areas to explore. Be sure to grab the TMP hiking map and chat with a Summit Hut staffer to find the best-of-the-best hiking trails. There is also an Environmental Education and Desert Discovery Center. It’s a great option to check out if the heat gets to be too much.

Picacho Peak State Park

Right off the interstate, Picacho Peak State Park is hard to miss. It has a trail that takes you to the top of the 1,500-foot peak and is home to a unique geological significance, outstanding and varied desert growth, and historical importance.

  • Location: North of Tucson.
  • Fee: $30 per night (Oct–May) $25 per night (June–Sept.) Group areas: $15 per night.
  • # of Units: 85 sites.
  • Season: Year-round.
  • Pets: Yes, must be kept on leash.
  • Reservable: Yes, use this link to reserve.
  • Stay Limit: 14 nights.

How to Get There:

Stay on I-10 W and it’s an hour’s drive or 44 miles.

Extras & Insights:

From skydiving to the ever-popular Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch nearby, Picacho Peak State Park is a wealth of outdoor activities. Be sure to check out Biosphere 2 and the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, which is home to the National Park Service ruins of the ancient dwelling of the Hohokam tribes.

Sit Up & Enjoy the Mountain Sunrise


Whether you’re chopping your toothbrush in half or carrying a glampsite on your back, NEMO’s camping collection covers the range.

Shop Now >>

Need more information?

Stop by Summit Hut at our Oro Valley or Speedway locations. We have a full trip planning area, and love to help people find their perfect adventure.

Activities | Gear | Hiking Report

The Best Places to See the Desert in Bloom

by Stephanie Daniels Monday, April 1st 2019
Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

Happy Spring! If you haven’t already noticed, the wildflowers are out in full force in the Sonoran Desert. Driving around Tucson, you can see Mexican gold poppies, desert marigolds, brittlebush, desertbells, and scorpionweed, all bursting with color.

Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

There are many accessible parks and open space to view the Sonoran super bloom. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Picacho Peak State Park, 15520 Picacho Peak Road, Picacho, AZ 85141
  • Catalina State Park, 11570 N. Oracle Road, Tucson, AZ 85737
  • Saguaro National Park, East: 3693 Old Spanish Trail, Tucson, AZ 85730, West: 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 85743
  • Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson, AZ 85743
  • Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson, AZ 85712

Please follow Leave No Trace principles and refrain from picking wildflowers or going off trail to get a better look. Many flowers have already been smashed and trampled from visitors going off trail. It can take years for vegetation to return, so let’s help keep our wild places beautiful by respecting park rules.

Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park

Activities | News

How do you layer?

by Stephanie Daniels Friday, February 8th 2019

Layering your clothing is a useful technique that is designed to help you get the most out of your outdoor experience. By giving you flexibility in your wardrobe to accommodate inevitable weather changes, layering will keep you comfortable in temperatures that may otherwise send you back indoors. There are three key components to a proper laying system: Base layer, mid layer and outer layers. These layers often come in various “weights” and are generally classified using the terms light, medium or heavy. The weight of the layer correlates to warmth, so the weight you choose should match the activity and energy you are exuding.

  1. Base Layer – Moisture Control
    The base layer is the first layer in a proper layering system that sits closest to the skin. The main purpose of the base layer is to wick away moisture, dispersing sweat throughout the rest of the garment so it can evaporate quickly. Base layers can be manufactured in many fabrics, the most popular being merino wool, polyester/synthetic and silk. Merino wool is known for having a soft hand, quick-drying fibers, and natural odor-resistant properties. Synthetic fiber base layers are often more affordable and easier to care for, but they can retain body odors over time. Silk is often the lightest weight option and most appropriate for light physical activity. With all the fabric options out there, it is important to remember that cotton is not your friend when layering. It will hold on to moisture, often making garments heavier, and cotton garments will take longer to dry.
  2. Icebreaker 200 Oasis Long Sleeve

    Patagonia Capilene Daily Long Sleeve

    Kuhl Kondor Krew

  3. Mid Layer – Insulation
    The mid layer is all about insulation, allowing you to retain body heat and stay warm. As with base layers, mid layers are produced in many fabrics. Fleece, down, or synthetic filled pieces are all popular mid layers. Fleece is a great option for additional moisture management and breathability. Traditional down provides the most warmth-to-weight ratio and it keeps its lofting capabilities when compressed; however, it loses its warmth properties when wet. Hydrophobic down has been treated with a water-repellent chemical that allows the down to stay lofted when wet; it is not as widely used at this time, but many consider this technology a game changer. Synthetic fiber is durable and will often dry faster than down. It also holds onto its warmth properties more successfully than down when wet, although synthetic can be bulkier compared to its down counterpart.
  4. Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket

    Columbia Mountain Crest Fleece Full Zip Jacket

    Mountain Hardwear Stretch Down DS Hoody

  5. Outer Layer – Water & Wind
    The outer layer is arguably the most important in the layering system. It is designed to keep all other layers dry and needed to keep the wind out, which allows every layer to perform their roles most efficiently – thus keeping you warm. For most activities, the perfect outer layer should be waterproof, windproof, and breathable. Almost all will have some sort of DWR (durable water repellent) treatment, which allows water to bead up and roll off the surface of the garment, preventing it from soaking through the top layer. When trying on an outer layer, it is recommended that you wear all of your intended layers underneath, ensuring you have enough room for movement. It is not uncommon to size up in an outer layer to prevent the feeling of constriction.
  6. Outdoor Research Foray Jacket

    The North Face Apex Risor

    Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell

One final component to consider for your outdoor clothing arsenal is the “accessories.” By having a hat, gloves, and socks on hand, you can increase your warmth and protect your extremities from the elements.

For more information on how to layer and to get personal recommendations, come visit the Summit Hut!

Gear | News

3 Steps to Finding the Perfect Backpack

by Alec Meyer Tuesday, February 5th 2019

Consider the Options

With so many options available, start by determining overall capacity required, which is measured in liters or cubic inches. Day hikes and overnight trips usually require fewer than 45 liters for most individuals. Longer excursions often require more capacity from 60 liters and up. Volume requirements vary from one person to the next and also change depending on where the backpack will be used and the conditions of the area.

Osprey packs

It is also important to consider the construction of the bag. Certain backpacks feature ultralight material (Levity 60 above), which brings overall weight down, but compromise on durability. Some bags have plenty of pockets, which are a tremendous help when it comes to organization and being able to find gear or equipment easily.

Measure & Adjust

Torso length is the distance from hips (iliac crest ) to shoulders (C7 vertebrae ). This measurement is crucial in determining which pack size is optimal for an individual. Dialing in torso length of a backpack ensures that both the hip belt and shoulder straps can adjust to be comfortable and effective. A soft tape measure or pack sizer (picture below) can be used to determine torso length.

Osprey measure

Once the correct size is determined, the overall torso length of the pack will need to be either shortened or lengthened in most cases. The backpack should be adjusted so that the hip belt sits on the top of the hip bones, while the shoulder straps should rest on the top of shoulder comfortably. Ideally, the shoulder straps should conform to the back without any additional space between the wearer’s back and the pack. Torso length does not require adjustment once the proper fit is achieved.

There are four additional points of adjustment on most backpacks including the hip belt, shoulder straps, load lifters, and sternum strap. These adjustments can be changed from one use to the next. It is important to place the middle of the hip belt on the top of the hip (iliac crest) first, and then tighten both shoulder straps. The load lifters, just behind the shoulders, should be pulled until the body of the back is parallel with the wearer’s torso. Finally, the sternum strap should be tightened until there is no slack left and the shoulder straps rest in a comfortable place. This strap does not need to be overly tight.

Try Multiple Backpacks

It is important to explore and try on multiple models and designs to see what they have to offer. Backpacks have different suspensions systems that carry differently from one model to the next. Trying on more than one is crucial to finding the perfect pack. This process is just like trying on multiple pairs of shoes in order to find which is most complimentary to an individual’s body.

Find the pack that’s right for you by shopping Summit Hut’s huge selection of backpacks and gear.

Gear | News

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!