Tucson and the Sonoran Desert

Tucson and the old west

Tucson is in the Sonoran Desert. It has been a relaxing visit to Tucson. Unlike the summer there is nicer weather this time of year. It is lots greener than the Mojave Desert. The Sonoran Desert has the Saguaro cactus (pronounced suh-war-oh) and lots of other vegetation, all with sharp parts. They don’t need signs telling people not to touch them. We were very surprised to see these signs in Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert.

Originally published February 15, 2019 

Picacho Peak State Park

After leaving Gila Bend we drove first to Picacho Peak State Park which is about the halfway point between Gila Bend and Tucson. Picacho Peak is a well-known landmark used for centuries by travelers crossing between the Gila Bend and Phoenix areas toward Tucson. It has a very distinctive profile that is easy to see for more than thirty miles.

Picahco Peak has a very distinctive shape that can be seen for at least thirty miles.
Picahco Peak has a very distinctive shape that can be seen for at least thirty miles.

In my mind, Phoenix and Tucson are both very hot and pretty much equal when determining a good place to winter over. We have only briefly visited Phoenix during our travels and never stayed very long. Until now I had only been to Tucson when flying helicopters with the Navy. I had never stayed there either. Tucson was about the maximum range for my helicopter and typically we would fly from San Diego to Tucson and back on the same day. doing overland navigation all the way.


A lone Saguaro at Picahco Peak State Park.
A lone Saguaro at Picahco Peak State Park.

What I didn’t expect in Tucson were two things. At Davis Mothan Campground they don’t take reservations. I expected that after spending a couple of days in the overflow section of the campground then we would transfer to the section that had full hookups. After checking and expecting to spend a week at Davis Monthan that we shouldn’t expect to move at all. The waiting list was long. The second thing I didn’t expect was that it was going to get cold. Had we known this we may have stayed in Gila Bend or Yuma. Those two options were in the wrong direction. We were headed east and maybe further south.

When in Tuscon we stayed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in the overflow section of the RV park. The park is operated on a first-come-first-served basis and at this time of the year, you can expect to be in the overflow section before getting to say in the normal part of the campground.

Saguaro National Park

While in Tucson we visited Saguaro National Park both the east section and the main part of the park to the west of the city. Both are beautiful but if you only have a small amount of time, the east section is the way to go. South of the west section of the Park is Tucson Mountian Park which extends and seems to double the side of the National Park.

Tumacacori National Historical Park

Tumacacori National Historical Park is a small Spanish Mission that has been largely restored to its original condition which was by the early 1900s almost falling down. The museum was very interesting. Tumacacori Mission was first established by a Jesuit Priest Father Kino in 1691 on one of his expeditions north across Mexico, Arizona, and Southern California. The Tumacacori mission is the oldest mission in Southern Arizona.

After the Pima rebellion in 1751 and the destruction of the original mission site, the mission was moved to its current location. By 1848 which we consider the beginning of the old west (Cowboy) period the mission was abandoned and began falling into disrepair. In 1854 Arizona was established as a United States Territory with the Gadsen Purchase. The restoration was started in 1908 and continues to this day.

Tumacacari National Historical Park
Tumacacari National Historical Park

2023 update

Now in the spring of 2023, we have been to Picaco Peak and Tucson three times. On each visit and revisit we find new and wonderful things to do while in the area. Picaco Peak is still our number one stop between Gila Bend and Tucson. Some of the links below were developed on subsequent visits.

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As you know, our blog income is zero – this allows us to be independent and just tell the truth.  We do not get income or commissions. No, we don’t make paid endorsements.  We don’t make recommendations but instead, we will tell you what we like (or dislike). The links are only provided as a quick reference to help our readers.

Picacho Peak State Park

Picacho Peak State Park FoxRVTravel Campsite Review

Saguaro National Park

Tucson Mountain Park 

Davis Monthan Air Force Base 

Davis Monthan Air Force Base FoxRVTravel Campsite Review

Tumacacori National Historic Park 

Storming Arizona

Old Relics – Like Me at the Pima Air & Space Museum

The Biosphere #2 Crazy Experiment

Food Desert? Not in Tucson!

Catalina Campground FoxRVTravel Campsite Review

KOA Tucson FoxRVTravel Campsite Review

Ancient Casa Grande Ruins of the Hohokam People

The Wonder of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum


11 thoughts on “Tucson and the old west”

  1. to Aron

    Driver’s license, voter registration, a place to live. You must stay out of CA for 180 days a year and be able to prove it. The only difficulty will be filling out tax correctly.

  2. to Aron

    Proof of residence, receipt, for the hotel. South Dakota law requires one night and a statement that you intend to become a South Dakota resident and return to South Dakota. Google “South Dakota domicile”.

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