Southern Arizona’s National Parks and Forests: Treasures of the Desert (Part Two)

Summertime is the perfect time for short road trips that let you and your family explore the majesty and splendor of Southern Arizona. There are a million ways to get out and explore in the Tucson area, but one of the most beloved activities that Arizonans love to take part in is getting back to nature.
To the uninitiated, it may seem like Southern Arizona is just deserts, but the truth is that there are a variety of landscapes to explore, from the tops of our mountains to our green, flourishing valleys. Our national parks and forests are true treasures in the desert, and everyone should take the time to visit them each year.
In last week’s blog, you got to know three of our national parks, Saguaro, Organ Pipe, and Tumacácori, and here are four more nearby places where you and your family can get back to nature and breathe in some fresh air!
Coronado National Forest
At 1,780,000 acres, Coronado National Forest is one of the largest and most biologically diverse areas of the southwest. Running from Southern Arizona through New Mexico, Coronado has varied elevations across twelve mountain ranges from 3,000 to nearly 11,000 feet. These staggering elevations allow Coronado Forest’s Sky Islands to host an incredible amount of wildlife, and is home to 576 species of animals that are found only at Coronado National Forest.
Visitors flock to Coronado National Forest every year to enjoy the 23-mile scenic drive, explore the unique wildlife, and of course, go camping and hiking in one of the coolest spots around. You cannot beat those views!
Patagonia Lake State Park
One of Southern Arizona’s premier water spots for boaters, Patagonia Lake is a popular destination that sees thousands of visitors each year. Surrounded by beautiful scenery, Patagonia Lake State Park is one of the most unexpected and treasured locations in southeastern Arizona, and it offers visitors campgrounds, beaches, boating and boat rentals, nature hikes, and lots of water sports to get outside and beat the heat.
Mount Lemmon
Everyone in Tucson will tell be eager to tell you all about how amazing Mount Lemmon is, and that is for a good reason. Mount Lemmon is a picture-perfect refuge for Southern Arizonans who spend weekends driving up the road to the top of the mountain to the town of Summerhaven where lush pine tree forest that remains gorgeous year-round.
During the summer months, Mount Lemmon is truly a “summer haven,” providing visitors with much more agreeable temperatures and a tons of greenery. In the winter, Mount Lemmon becomes Tucson’s premier ski spot, and drawing in visitors from all around the world. Mount Lemmon is great for camping, hiking, and birdwatching. Don’t forget your camera, and be sure to stop at the scenic vista pull-offs on your way up the mountain for some views you’ll never forget.
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
In Arivaca, Arizona, southeast of Tucson, lies a wildlife refuge that will make any birdwatcher or animal lover’s heart sing. The Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge has fantastic trails that bring you up close and personal with some native wildlife including a staggering amount of bird species as well as deer, bats, shrews, foxes, coyotes, skunks, bobcats, javelin, coati, salamanders, tortoises, and so much more!
Protecting this habitat is the primary goal at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, and this 118,000-acre space is dedicated to preserving the animals and plants that help make Arizona so biologically diverse. Guests are invited to picnic, hike, and even hunt on the refuge, but don’t miss a chance to learn all you can about this environment from the helpful staff.

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