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Tucsons Best Day Trips for Wine and Adventure

Escape the city hustle for a peaceful excursion to wine country or an adventure in the Wonderland of Rocks both less than two hours from Tucson's city center.

By: Sarah Levant + Save to a List

Whether you’re a regular Tucsonan, frequent visitor or an investigating guest, these day trips from Tucson will leave you wondering if you are really in the desert after all.

When to go: If you need a quick escape from city life, are looking for cooler temperatures or for a view with a few less cacti.  Whatever the reason, a peaceful excursion to wine country or an adventure in the Wonderland of Rocks is calling your name!

Tucson's best day trips:

Wine Country:  Sonoita-Elgin Valley

The Sonoita-Elgin Valley sits just one hour south of Tucson and is located in the center of Arizona Wine Country. At an elevation of 5,000’ and surrounded by 9,000’ peaks, this region is a picturesque escape you do not want to miss.  Their 13 wineries can keep you busy but don’t expect to visit them all in one day, this guide will lead you through four must sips. But first, a few tips:

  • Print or pick up this map before you go.

  • Double check winery hours before setting out for the day… weekday vs. weekend hours could leave you insatiably thirsty.

The Must Sips:  

Start the day at Arizona Hop and Vines. The vineyard and farm is small and friendly, a great stop to learn a bit about the region. Enjoy their outdoor patio and snacks, which they pair nicely with each tasting. Next, make your way to the award winning, Callaghan Vineyards. Be prepared for wonderful conversation with the wine makers as they pour their European-esque whites and reds. Flying Leap Vineyards is right next door to Callaghan making this next stop an easy commute. Their terrific wines and candid service make Flying Leap a hard place to leave. With the sunset approaching, head to the off-grid Rune Wines for sips with a view. The word Rune translates to mean a mark or letter of mysterious or magical significance, which is exactly what this winery is all about. As Rune Winemaker, James Callahan states, “Rune is about doing things differently. Experimenting, honing, focusing, crafting, and producing something that is truly unique and enticing for those that would be intrigued.”

The Wonderland of Rocks: Chiricahua National Monument

This day trip is truly a hidden gem in the desert. 27 million years ago, a large volcanic eruption in the Chiricahua Mountains, an eruption 1,000 times greater than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens, left behind volcanic ash and debris that has since eroded into a fascinating place called “The Wonderland of Rocks.” Just two hours from Tucson’s city center, become immersed in mountainsides of exotic spires, pinnacles, balancing rocks and hoodoos (very similar to Bryce National Park with 1/10th the amount of visitors)! The park’s nearly 12,000 acres makes Chiricahua National Monument an outdoor enthusiast's paradise.

The Must Hikes: 

Start your day by taking in the beautiful views while driving up the park’s eight-mile scenic drive. The paved road will take you through oak, pine and cypress forests offering several pullouts to enjoy the scenery along the way. Park your vehicle at Echo Canyon Trailhead parking lot where you will begin an epic eight-mile hike that connects the best trails in the Chiricahua National Monument. The Big Loop, which gains approximately 2,000’ in elevation, will wind you through the most iconic rock formations in the park. Save some energy for one last trail and hit it right before sunset. The Sugarloaf Mountain Trail is a short 1.8-mile hike that will lead you to the highest point in the park at a little over 7,000’.  Follow the well-marked trail along the edge of Sugarloaf Mountain for breathtaking views of the surrounding rock formations and valley below. At the top you will reach a CCC constructed hut that is still used in the summer months to monitor lightning strikes. Finally, for a bit of Old West history, take a stroll through the ranch house, barn and garage at the historic Faraway Ranch on your way out of the park. If this sounds like too much to tackle in one day, make reservation and pitch a tent at Bonita Canyon Campground, which is open year round.  

Looking for more to explore in the surrounding area? Check out these day trips and tack on a drive to the historic mining town of Bisbee, AZ (voted best historic town in 2016) and Kartchner Caverns State Park (voted best caves in the U.S).

Written by Sarah Levant, also a contributor for www.partylikeits1995.com

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

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