The distinctive Picacho Peak soars 1500 feet above the desert floor just north of Tucson, Arizona. If you enjoy hiking, camping, picnicking, and enjoying the great outdoors, then you’ll love Picacho Peak State Park.
With hikes for all abilities, Picacho Peak offers something for everyone. Both the Sunset Vista Trail as well as the Hunter Trail takes you to the peak to an elevation of 3374. The Hunter Trail is steep and twisty. Bring gloves for the grasping the steel cables that are anchored into the rock where surfaces are slick and bare. Easier hikes include the ½ mile round trip to the Children’s Cave, the ½ mile round trip Nature Trail and the .7 mile Calloway Trail to a scenic overlook.
With higher elevations come cooler temperatures. Even during the heat of the summer, Picacho Peak is cooler than the desert floor below. The hottest months here are between June and September where the average temperature hovers just over 100 degrees. The State Park is open year-round offering 3500 acres of wilderness.
Picacho State Park is just 35 miles north of Tucson just west of Interstate 10 (exit 219). These mountains are light-colored hills across from the highway. Gneiss rock composes the mountains along the northern end of the range while the southern end is composed of granite. The summit of Picacho Peak contains a large chunk of Precambrian granite.
You’ll recognize plants here from the Lower Sonoran Life Zone. You’ll see paloverde, mesquite, and acacia trees as well as ocotillo, cholla, prickly pear, crucifixion thorn, and saguaro cactus. Animals that call this area home include javelina, mule deer, rabbits, squirrels, snakes, lizards, coyotes, bighorn sheep, and the occasional mountain lion.
Picacho Peak State Park offers about 100 campsites on a first-come, first-served basis. Restrooms with showers are available as well as 22 developed RV sites with hookups. Camping fees are reasonable at $10 per night or $15 per night with hookups. Group camping is also available and requires advance reservations.
Each spring, an annual Civil War re-enactment takes place here. In April of 1862, the most significant Arizona battle of the Civil War took place here when Union forces from California attacked a Confederate scouting party. The battle lasted for just an hour and a half and three Union soldiers were killed.
The Battle of Picacho Pass is brought back to life as over 200 “re-enactors” take over the mountain on the horse and on foot. They re-create military camps complete with authentic uniforms, clothing, food, and the lifestyle of the 1860s in the southwest. Mock battles are held for all to watch and learn. Families are welcome to take part each year and view demonstrations and hear stories from the soldiers. This event is extremely family-friendly and reveals a little known piece of Civil War history.
Along with the Civil War re-enactment each spring comes the spring wildflower bloom. This is an excellent time to hit the trails of Picacho Peak State Park and enjoy a sea of desert wildflower blooms.
Entrance fees range between $3 and $6 per vehicle (with four adults) depending on the season. Bicyclists or walk-ins pay just $2 to enter the park.
Pets are welcome but must be leashed at all times.
Picacho Peak State Park
P.O. Box 275
Picacho, Arizona 85241