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11/2518 to 12/2/18 Catalina State Park, Tuscon AZ

Highlights: Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Hiking, Gates Pass, Biosphere2

Campground: Site A-7; pull through; excellent views of the Santa Catalina Mountains; plenty of room to spread out; short walk to trails to hike or bike. There are two sections of the campground. Our friends prefer the newer B loop which has updated bathrooms and nice views. We chose the A loop due to availability, but we liked it because the sites are a little more spacious and private and it is slightly closer to the hiking trails – though a short trail connects the two loops.

Our friends Pat and Shelly are very familiar with the area and gave us many great suggestions as well as took us hiking and on a day trip to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.

This is camping! Pat and Shelly laughing at my attempt to do a selfie.

Just outside the campground is a weekly farmers market. Lots of local artisans and food.

Hiking Catalina SP:

Taking a stroll

Shelly led me on a great hike in the campground up to the Romero Pools. It is 2.8 miles to the pools with a 900' elevation gain. A good moderate hike that I imagine would be brutal in the warmer months. All long the trail, there are great views and the interesting desert flora. Shelly is a wealth of information and I ping him often with questions – sometimes the same ones: “what is that one again?”

You can hike to the top if you wish. Long way!

Finding any water in the desert seems odd, but the nice pools half way up the mountain is pretty neat

Shelly is all smiles because we're going back down hill. Actually I have to work to keep up!

Sandy and I took our own hikes on the flatter trails around the campground. They were still great with a variety of landscape including a surprising grove of trees with a grassy floor. Signs on another trail keep you tuned to spotting wildlife.

Can you believe this is in the desert?

Beep Beep!

Gates Pass

We took West Gates Pass Road from Tuscon to get to the A-S Museum. The road twists up to a fantastic overlook and hiking trail access with an ample parking area. Views of Bushmaster Peak and the flat desert valley west of the mountains.

The movie sets of Old Tuscon is in the valley below

A side note. Before arriving at the museum we passed the Old Tuscon movie site / tourist attraction. The web site states it is a “Site for more than 400 film and television projects since 1939, Old Tucson is one of the most active filming locations for Western-themed movies, television, cable shows and commercials in the United States.”

Browsing through the long history of western themed movies, I was interested in the fact that Sidney Poitier's Lillies of the Field was also shot there.

Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tuscon AZ.

This museum has remarkable gardens showcasing the Sonoran Desert, “the lushest desert on earth”. Rated #5 on Trip Advisor for US Public Gardens. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but this may be the most interestinggardens we've seen. The sheer variety of cactus and other succulents is amazing. Many wonderful and whimsical. On the webs site there are interactive maps for many of the cactus and agave plants.

The museum is within the western section of Saguero National Park. This park is odd (though not unique), in having two disconnected sections – on the west and another on the east side of Tuscon. We had visited the east section while camping in Benson AZ on 11/18/18. See that blog post for descriptions and some good photos of the Saguaro cacti.


“Biosphere 2 serves as a unique large-scale experimental apparatus housing seven model ecosystems with active research by teams of multidisciplinary scientists.”

Sandy and I took a day trip and tour of the Biosphere2. A tour is the only option and it is really a must-do because of its uniqueness. It is pretty cool.


If you want to get away from getting away from it all, you can take an easy drive into the city from the campground.

There's an auto museum, a botanical garden and the Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures.

The U of Arizon has a planetarium:

We had a great lunch at the fantastic and very upscale Mexican restaurant Plato Poca Cosa. The lunch menu board outside tells the story. Thanks again to Pat and Shelly for the recommendation!

The afternoon highlight was visiting the Etherton Gallery

The highest caliber photographers are represented. I'm a jazz fan and love the photos of Herman Leonard.

Want a photo of JFK or Einstein with Oppenheimer?

Ansel Adams and many more are available.

The featured exhibit was of a Russian photographer with photos from their space program during the cold war era. Very interesting.


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