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While In Tucson

Day Rides

Mt. Lemmon: Estimated time one way = Just under 2 hours.
A trip up the mountain is a sure way to beat any heat we're feeling in the valley. It's roughly 30 miles one way from the edge of town at the bottom of the range to the little burg at the top. You can go further, but in the summer there's not a lot to see past that. The burg near the top is Summerhaven. It's at about 8200 feet, and has a few places to eat and some touristy places to shop. Eclectic and kitschy are both available, but it's fun to check out. Along the way you'll see some of the most spectacular views . . . just try to keep at least one eye on the road ahead, it's pretty curvy. There are plenty of places to pull over and enjoy the views. In fact, you really need to stop at the wayside (near mile post ?). There are restrooms here, and you can walk out onto the rocks to get a one-of-a-kind view of the land below. (I'll update with that mile post number as soon as I can remember it or go see it again.) There are also a number of camp sites and side areas to visit on the way up or down, including a couple of lakes for fishing, if you're so inclined.

Overall, it's a great day trip, especially if you haven't made the ride before. Just watch for other vehicles as it's also a popular trip. Review your mountain procedures before the trip (use your engine and gears to slow you down, not your brakes), and you'll be fine.

Find your way to E Tanque Verde Rd and follow it to E Catalina Hwy. Turn left on E Catalina Hwy. It will eventually turn into E Mt Lemmon Hwy. Stay on it, and life will be good.

Map to Mt. Lemmon
Kitt Peak: Estimated time one way = 1:20.
Also a fun day trip, this time to the Southwest of town. Kitt Peak is an observatory with a couple dozen telescopes. On occasion, they have the Sun telescope up and running with docents to show you how to safely view the sun through it. The drive to the peak is another one full of beautiful views. My particular favorite is a huge rock wall that "appears out of nowhere" when you turn a corner. It begs me to climb it every time I drive by. Again, as hard as it will be, make sure you keep one eye on the road, as the turns are sharp and the drop offs high.

From in town, you'd take I-10 to I-19, and then the Ajo exit. Ajo highway, about 30 miles to the west, runs right out to Kitt Peak. Watch for the sign a few mile past the Border Patrol check point (don't fret, you'll still be about 60 miles inside the US).

Map to Kitt Peak
Tombstone (via Scenic Route): Estimated time one way = Just under 2 hours.
You've seen it in the movies, now see it in real life. Tombstone, Arizona, home of the OK Corral and the infamous shootout between the Earp brothers (Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan) with their buddy Doc Holliday ("I'll be your huckleberry") and members of the "Cowboys" gang, a couple McLaury brothers and a Clanton or two, and Billy Claiborne. Lots of history here, and the people who live and breathe in the town are happy to share it with visitors. Plan on staying a few hours to check out the sites and shopping, and maybe grab a bite to eat at Big Nose Kates or one of the other dozen or so eateries.

The Scenic Route takes you through hills and dales (do we have Dales in Arizona?) and some surprisingly green areas. It's a beautiful ride with some enjoyable curves. Most of it is two lane road, but there are plenty of passing zones for those of you in a hurry.

From the Rodeo Grounds, take 6th Ave north to Ajo Way. Right on Ajo to I-10 East. Follow the signs to I-10 East, but it's actually a left onto Park Ave that gets you to the ramp for the highway. 13 1/2 miles later, take exit 275 and make a right onto Houghton Rd. Just under 7 miles later, another right onto Sahuarita Rd. Eventually, you'll hit AZ 83 aka S. Sonoita Hwy. Take a right on it, then a left on AZ 82, then another right on AZ 80. AZ 80 becomes Fremont St -- the main street of Tombstone.

Scenic Map to MTombstone
Tombstone (via the Fastest Route): Estimated time one way = 1:20.
If you're in a rush and not looking for the scenic backroads, I-10 is still pretty scenic in a lot of areas.

Start out as above, (6th Ave North to Ajo Way to I-10. Stay on I-10 for 41 1/2 miles to exit 303 (I-10 Business Loop) to Douglas / Tombstone. Whenever you get the choice, bear right to stay on AZ 80 (I-10 BL) and eventually it will become Fremont St. You're there!

Map to Tombstone
Old Tucson: Estimated time one way = 30 min.
Directly from their website:

Old Tucson is one of Arizona’s top Wild West attractions, featuring live action stunt shows, musicals and live entertainment, vintage rides for the kids, genuine southwest BBQ and special events throughout the season. Step back in time as you make your way through town, walking the same streets made famous by movie legends such as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve Martin, Sharon Stone and Martin Short.

Immortalized in more than 400 films and commercial productions, Old Tucson remains the region’s premiere film location. For more information about Old Tucson, call us at (520) 883-0100. Old Tucson is located at 201 S. Kinney Road, Tucson, Arizona 85735.

http://oldtucson.com/

There's construction on Ajo (if you're looking at a route on your GPS), and the more scenic route takes you through the mountains, so go that way. Be aware, this route goes through Gates Pass. Speed limit at the top is 15 mph, the turns are tight and the road not super wide with the occasional gravel pile where you'd least like to see it. Never the less, it's a beautiful (but technical) ride with lots of scenic pull out areas.

From the Rodeo Grounds, head north on 6th Ave to I-10 West. Take exit 267 for Speedway Blvd, then left at the stop sign onto Speedway. About 4.7 miles later, veer left onto W Gates Pass Rd. Take it up and over the mountain, staying safe and enjoying the ride until you get to Kinney Rd. Left on Kinney until you see the signs for Old Tucson Studios. It'll be on your left and the actual crossover road might sneak up on you (once you pass the employee and deliveries only entrance, it's real close, stay alert).

Map to Old Tucson Studios
Desert Museum: Estimated time one way = 30 minutes.
Again, directly from their website:

The Desert Museum is ranked on TripAdvisor.com as one of the Top 10 Museums in the country and the #1 Tucson attraction. Unlike most museums, about 85% of the experience is outdoors! The 98 acre Desert Museum is a fusion experience: zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium.
  • • 21 interpreted acres with two miles of walking paths through various desert habitats
  • • 230 animal species
  • • 1,200 types of plants — 56,000 individual specimens
  • • One of the world's most comprehensive regional mineral collections
Beyond merely an attraction, the Museum's conservation and research programs are providing important information to help conserve the Sonoran Desert region.

http://desertmuseum.org/about/

Just up the road from Old Tucson, the best route is the same for the majority of it. Plan on spending at least a few hours there, and wear good walking shoes as most of it is outdoors along several paths.

There's construction on Ajo (if you're looking at a route on your GPS), and the more scenic route takes you through the mountains, so go that way. Be aware, this route goes through Gates Pass. Speed limit at the top is 15 mph, the turns are tight and the road not super wide with the occasional gravel pile where you'd least like to see it. Never the less, it's a beautiful (but technical) ride with lots of scenic pull out areas.

From the Rodeo Grounds, head north on 6th Ave to I-10 West. Take exit 267 for Speedway Blvd, then left at the stop sign onto Speedway. About 4.7 miles later, veer left onto W Gates Pass Rd. Take it up and over the mountain, staying safe and enjoying the ride until you get to Kinney Rd. Right on Kinney and go 2 1/2 miles. Watch for the signs and oncoming traffic. It'll be on your left.

Map to Desert Museum