Picacho Peak State Park
Picacho Peak State Park is a towering, prominent natural wonder in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, about an 18-mile straight shot up Interstate 10 from Downtown Marana. The peak's prominence has made it an important navigational landmark for the various people groups who have inhabited the Sonoran Desert for thousands of years. The 1,500-foot peak can be seen for miles in all directions, due to the relatively flat surrounding desert. Picacho Peak is a gateway of sorts to Southern Arizona - if you're headed south from the Phoenix area, Picacho Peak is the first major landmark that indicates you're getting close to Marana and the Tucson area, and headed north, the peak is the last landmark of the Tucson area before you hit the open deserts of Pinal County.
The park is of unique geologic significance - the peak is known to be made up of volcanic rock from an eroded lava flow, which may be from the same source as the Tucson Mountains. The park is not only of historical significance due to its use as a navigational aid for Native Americans and European explorers alike, but in 1862, it also played host to the Battle of Picacho Pass, the westernmost battle of the American Civil War. Historical markers and re-enactments educate visitors about the battle and lead-up to it.
Picacho Peak State Park is known all across the state and country as a prime location to experience wildflower blooms up close and personal. Every March and April, thousands of people make the trip to see the fascinating explosion of yellow, orange, and purple that makes its appearance as a "first sign of spring" in Southern Arizona. Mexican Golden Poppies and Lupines are the most common type of flower that you'll find. The intensity and abundance of the blooms varies greatly from year to year, based on rainfall and temperature timing. Heavier rains and cooler temperatures in December, January, and February typically lead to larger-than-usual wildflower blooms in March and April.
Please note that Picacho Peak State Park is a very popular destination during wildflower season (March and April), so there will typically be other people enjoying the park along with you. Crowds are typically lighter earlier in the morning.
Picacho Peak State Park offers a variety of trails for different desired experiences and skill levels. The Nature Trail and the Children’s Cave Trail are perfect for leisurely strolls through the meadows at the base of the peak. The Sunset Vista Trail provides a longer hike around the base of the peak, while still being surrounded by flowers, and the Calloway Trail leads to a lower overlook where you can catch good views of the desert below. If you’re up for a real challenge, look no further than the Hunter Trail, which leads to the peak’s summit up steep terrain, smooth rocks, and steel cables. Hikers should be prepared and know their limits, bring plenty of food and water, and wear proper footwear. Hiking in the desert can be dangerous, especially in the summer months when temperatures can soar above 100°F.
Camping and Amenities
The park offers a variety of amenities and facilities for visitors to enjoy. There is a visitor center with exhibits and a park store, a playground for children, a campground and picnic areas for overnight stays or day trips, and restrooms and showers for convenience. The park also hosts special events throughout the year, such as guided hikes, star parties, and bird walks.
The park also offers camping options for those who want to stay overnight and experience the beauty of the desert at night. The park has 85 electric sites for RVs and tents, with a fee of $30 per night. Campers can make reservations online or by phone up to a year in advance.
Picacho Peak State Park is located at Exit 219 off of Interstate 10, between Casa Grande and Marana. From the exit, head west to get to the park's gates. There are two truck stops to the east of I-10, with gas, snacks, clean restrooms, Native American jewelry and other souveniers, and a Dairy Queen.
Park and Facility Hours
- Park is open year-round, from 5 AM - 10 PM (gates close)
- Trails are open from sunrise to sunset
Visitor Center/Park Store
- 8 AM - 3 PM
- Hours may vary in the summer so check their website before you head out
Park Entrance Fee
- Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
- Individual/bicycle: $3.00