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Photo Adventure : Sky Island Parkway and the Catalina Mountains Near Tucson, Arizona

Photo Adventure : Sky Island Parkway and the Catalina Mountains Near Tucson, Arizona

When you think of Tucson, you think of Saguaro Cactus and the Sonoran Desert, right?  This is my second visit to the city, and that is the impression I got last time I was here.  Saguaro National Park is beautiful, and we loved exploring both the East and West side.   However, on day three of our Tucson stay, we started looking beyond the National Park for more adventures.  What we found was something completely different.  Just northeast of town are the gorgeous Santa Catalina Mountains.

altocirrus clouds catalina mountains tucson arizona

I call them wispy and white, but the husband said they were alto cirrus clouds.

Usually just called the Catalina Mountains, I was impressed. Parts of the area looked a lot like Colorado or Northern New Mexico – full of pine trees.  It didn’t look anything like the desert that was just 15 minutes away!

The beautiful winding Catalina Highway took us on quite the scenic journey.  The road (also called Sky Island Parkway)  is part of the US National Scenic Byways and it lead us to an elevation of over 8,000 feet on the largest peak in the range is Mount Lemmon.  It houses a ski resort.  Yes… I said a ski resort.  Take a look at this surprising place!

catalina mountains tucson arizona

At the beginning of the Sky Island Scenic Byway you can still see a few of the iconic Saguaro Cactus.

Catalina mountains tucson arizona

A balancing boulder along the drive.

tucson arizona rocks

Hoodoos in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

tucson arizona hiking

There are lots of hiking opportunities.

tucson arizona children

The kids enjoyed their time hiking and climbing, too.

tucson arizona snow

And everyone enjoyed the snow!

  1. Lish 18 February, 2013

    Beautiful! Gotta add this to my travel list.

  2. Average Traveller 20 February, 2013

    Gorgeous photos! We’re planning a California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah road trip next year and this might make the itinerary!

  3. Life Images by Jill 20 February, 2013

    fantastic images. I love the first one of the climbers. Thanks for taking us with you. Have a great week.

  4. Johanna at ZigaZag WA Travel & Lifestyle 20 February, 2013

    Love the idea of the hiking and climbing possibilities and your photos make it look like amazing country to visit. Love the pic of the hikers on a rock in the distance 🙂 Very cool!

  5. Muza-chan 21 February, 2013

    Amazing photos 🙂

  6. budget jan 21 February, 2013

    Love the first photo – you can almost see the climber hanging on by his toes – and the whispy whites.

  7. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista 21 February, 2013

    The desert has some amazing weather and views! I’m glad to know my husband isn’t the only one who calls clouds by their proper names.

  8. Terri @ Travel 50 States with Kids 22 February, 2013

    Wow! The sky looks AMAZING. Great photos.

  9. Becca@R We There Yet Mom? 23 February, 2013

    Gorgeous pictures as always! Thanks for linking up this week!

  10. Lisa from Gone With The Family 23 February, 2013

    Such beautiful photos! Scottsdale is the only part of Arizona that we have ever been to so I definitely equate the state with the Sonoran desert and the saguaro cacti. I had absolutely no idea that there were even mountains in Arizona – let alone ski resorts!

  11. InsideJourneys 23 February, 2013

    Definitely not what I expected! Your shots are fantastic. Thanks for showing me another side of Tucson.

  12. Sonja 23 February, 2013

    I’ve been to Tucson only once and don’t remember much – your photos are beautiful, especially the color of the sky!

  13. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} 24 February, 2013

    I would have never expected that scenery so close to the Sonoran desert. That 1st picture is gorgeous.