We were in the heart of snowy Minnesota winter when we first entered ‘national parks near Tucson, Arizona’ into the Google search bar. We were deserving of a road trip to the city well-known as “The Sunshine Factory” at that point in the year.
We only had two things in mind for our 2019 Arizona road trip: sunshine and #parkchasing.
So, just how many of the more than 400+ National Park Service units are near the Tucson, Arizona area? We were excited in our research to find there are 9 units near Tucson, including 1 national park, 5 national monuments, and 2 national memorials.
That makes it easy to cross of some #parkchasing sites on your list all within a short distance of the downtown Tucson area!
Map of the National Parks Near Tucson Arizona
National Parks in Tucson
Only one national park can claim the status as nearest to Tucson: Saguaro National Park. The west and east units of the park form the mountains that surround downtown Tucson on either side.
Saguaro National Park
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm
Tucson Mountain West Visitor’s Center
2700 N Kinney Rd
Tucson, AZ 85743
Saguaro National Park was first designated as a national monument to protect the largest concentration of Saguaro cacti in the world. These giant icons of the American west only grown in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona and California. Hiking, biking, and scenic drives are some of the top activities in Saguaro — and they’re all within 30 minutes of the downtown area.
- National Park Scenic Drives in Saguaro National Park
- 15 Surprising Things We Learned at Saguaro National Park
- Hiking Saguaro National Park: The Valley View Overlook Trail
- Visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson
National Parks Within 1 Hour of Tucson
Don’t want to drive too far out of the Tucson area? Only have time for a quick afternoon trip? Try one of these national park units within a 1 hour drive of the Tucson area:
Tumacácori National Historical Park
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/tuma/index.htm
1891 East Frontage Road
Tumacacori, Arizona, 85640
Located about 1 hour’s drive south of Tucson, Tumacácori National Historical Park protects the ruins of three Spanish mission communities. The park is divided into three separate units, allowing visitors to hike and wander through the old Mission ruins established in the area in the lat 1600’s.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/cagr/index.htm
1100 W. Ruins Drive
Coolidge, AZ 85128
Located about 1 hour’s drive north of Tucson, Casa Grande Ruins protects what remains of a large, four-story, 60-foot long structure. It’s believed to have been the home of the Ancestral People of the Sonoran Desert in the early 13th century. While archeologists aren’t entirely sure why Casa Grande Ruins was built, it was home to a large community of farmers and hunter-gatherers until it was abandoned around 1450. Visitors today can walk through a museum of artifacts collected from the site before viewing the ruins. They stand just a few hundred yards from the visitor’s center.
Hohokam Pima National Monument
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/articles/hohokam.htm
Did you know that there’s a unit of the more than 400+ sites in the National Park Service that you cannot visit? While we think every unit has something special to offer, as we were finalizing the plans for our 2019 Arizona road trip, we ran into one of the more ‘unique’ spots in the park service: Hohokam Pima National Monument. Located about 1 hour 15 minutes drive north of Phoenix, Hohokam Pima National Monument stands as the one national park unit you can’t technically visit.
There’s no Visitor’s Center. No hiking trails. No unigrid or passport stamps to collect. To find out how we logged a visit, check out our trip log: Hohokam Pima National Monument: The National Park Site We Couldn’t Visit.
National Parks Within 3 Hours Drive of Tucson
Coronado National Memorial
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/coro/index.htm
4101 E Montezuma Canyon Road
Hereford, AZ 85615
In 1540 an armed expedition led by conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado arrived in the area now commemorated by Coronado National Memorial. The team consisted of over 300 Europeans, over 1000 Aztec/Mexica allies, a handful of Franciscan priests, and scores of servants and enslaved peoples. Today visitors can hike the historic trails in the area and tour the Coronado Cave, one of the few open, undeveloped caves in southern Arizona.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/orpi/index.htm
10 Organ Pipe Drive
Ajo, AZ 85321
While many people stop in Tucson to have their photo taken with a Saguaro, it’s also worth driving to nearby Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument for another famous cactus photo. Designated as an International Biosphere Reserve, the park protects the only wild-growing organ pipe cacti in the United States. 95% of the park is designated wilderness area making it one of the most remote places in all of Arizona.
Tonto National Monument
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/tont/index.htm
26260 N AZ Hwy 188
Roosevelt, AZ 85545
Located about 3 hours northwest of Tucson, Tonto National Monument is a small site managed in by the National Park Service in the large Tonto National Forest. Around 1300 AD, a small community of Salado people constructed two dwellings in shallow caves overlooking what is now Roosevelt Lake. The national monument preserves these dwellings and tells the story of the residents who called them home hundreds of years ago.
Chiricahua National Monument
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/chir/index.htm
12856 E Rhyolite Creek Rd
Willcox, AZ 85643
The Apaches once called the place now designated as Chiricahua National Monument “The Land of Standing-Up Rocks.” Located 1 hour 50 minutes East of downtown Tucson, the monument protects a large collection of geologic formations known as rhyolite rock pinnacles. They look like large rock stacks balancing precariously in the mountains. Chiricahua is a popular spot for hiking, birding, and camping.
Fort Bowie National Historic Site
Park Website: https://www.nps.gov/fobo/index.htm
3500 Apache Pass Rd
Bowie, AZ 85605
Closely connected to Chiricahua National Monument, Fort Bowie National Historic Site commemorates the historic outpost inhabited by the United States Army during the Apache Wars. Visitors can wander among the fort ruins and hike to the famous Apache Pass, reflecting on one of the darkest times in Native American history in Arizona.