SP Campground Review – Catalina State Park, Tucson, AZ

Panoramic view of A & B loops from 50-year trail in Catalina
Distant view of A & B loops from 50-year trail in Catalina State Park.

A lovely State Park campground surrounded by stunning mountains & lots of hiking trails just north of Tuscon, AZ.

Link to campground here: Catalina State Park, Tuscon, AZ
Link to map location here: Catalina State Park, Tuscon, AZ

  1. Site Quality = 3/5 
    Sites vary from very nice to very poor depending on which loop you end up in. A & B are lovely, but Ringtail is a dissapointment:
    A-loop -> This loop has 48 sites all paved with nice “sittting areas” containing picnic table and fire-pit. Sites are spacious, decently flat and have a lovely natural layout and feel. Half the sites have 30Amp/water (sites on left-hand side of loop) while the other half are primitive/no hookups (sites on right-hand side of loop). All sites are nice here, but the most desirable IMHO are outer-facing back-ins.
    B-loop -> This is the more “modern” loop and has 75 sites all paved with 50Amp/water and nice “sitting areas” containing picnic table and grill. They are laid-out in a grid-like fashion with equal spacing between each site. Not much privacy but good separation and decent size and levelness everywhere. The very nicest sites are outer-facing back-ins (B10-12, B45-48, B68-75) some of which have excellent (unobstructed) views and their own little trails directly into the mountains.
    Ringtail Loop -> This really (honestly) shouldn’t be called a loop at all. This is simply the old overflow parking lot which was recently converted into a “loop” by placing poles marking “sites” around the lot. There is no separation, no sitting area and you’re basically just camping right next to your neighbor in the dirt with no hookups. It’s a poor excuse for a loop and I would (personally) be rather pissed off to have to pay $15/night to stay here. Unless there is no other choice I would stay away from this area.
    NOTE/ There is also a separate equestrian camping area. This is just north of loop B and is a large open dirt parking area wih picnic tables, BBQ pits and 12 pens for horses.
  2. Facilities = 3.5/5 
    Once again great to so-so facilities depending on which loop you’re in. The B-loop and Ringtail loop both have ultra-new facilities with large (enormous) individual hot showers (separate bench area, detachable shower-heads, temp control) and clean flush toilets. These are wonderful! On the other hand the A-loop has an older facility which sadly doesn’t mach up. Toilets here are clean and sizeable, but the showers have horrible spray head and button timing (in women’s the shower spray was so strong it was painful to stand underneath it). Several on-site dump stations (one near park entrance, one in B-loop).
  3. Location = 5/5
    This is a fabulous location. You are right next to the awesome Catalina Mountain Range which dominates the view and provides endless hiking/biking trails. You are also just north of Tucson with super-easy access to shopping (Walmart is across the street with Trader Joe’s/Sprouts/Fry’s just a few miles down the road) and all the sightseeing that Tucson has to offer.
  4. Pet Friendliness = 5/5
    Another fabulous pooch park. Lots of space to hang out in camp plus dog-friendly trails all around (only one trail, Romero Canyon is banned to dogs). There is also a creek in Canyon Loop Trail where doggies can splash in the water (such a treat in the desert). Another bonus is that the campground is grassy so no need to worry about cactus on the paws.

Overall Rating = 4.1
BONUS ALERT = Camp will full views of the gorgeous Catalina Mountains!

Summary: We’d heard alot about Catalina State Park before we came to Tucson and I have to agree with all the positive reviews. This is a lovely State Park set beautifully right at the base of the Catalina Mountains. The camping loops are in a grassy valley with Mesquite trees and excellent views of the range. Sites in A & B loops are all quite nice with paved driveways, good separation and decent “sitting areas” although the very nicest sites are the outer back-ins some of which have their own little trails into the hills.  There is a mix of either 50amp/water (in B-loop) or 30Amp/water & primitive (in A-loop).  The biggest negative to the campground is the Ringtail loop. This is the old overflow which they recently “converted” into a reservable loop, but it is really just a dirt parking lot with poles yet it is still charged the same price as the developed (non hookup) sites in A-loop. If you stay at Catalina I’d advise avoiding Ringtail and booking in either A or B-loops. Outside of the loops, the facilities are excellent and there are many wonderful miles of hiking/biking trails from easy to strenuous. Plus you’re within easy access of Tucson and all there is to see and do there. Then again, you could easily pass all day here just sitting around in camp and looking at the mountains (we certainly did!). Park does get very popular in winter so definitely book ahead if you want to stay here. A lovely spot and one we’d most certainly come back to.

Extra Info: Good Verizon signal (3-4 bars on both 3G & 4G). ~140 sites of which ~75 have 50Amp/water, ~24 have 30Amp/water and the remainder are nonhook-up all reservable on-line. Sites cost $25/night for electric/water, $15/night for primitive. There is NO overflow camping. Several on-site dump stations (by front entrance and in B loop).

View down the road from our 1st site (B75). Site B73 behind us. This was a lovely back-in!
View down the road from our 1st site B74. Site B73 behind us. This was a lovely back-in with 50Amp/water.
View of the "sitting area" in B74. No-one behind us.
View of the “sitting area” in B74. No-one behind us.
View opposite our site in B-loop. Site B61 on right with site B62 to left.
View opposite our site in B-loop. Pull-through site B61 on right with site B62 to left.
Typical pull-through in B-loop. Site B24 shown. RV in B25 on right.
Typical pull-through in B-loop. Site B24 shown. RV in B25 on right.
View of our 2nd site in A-loop. This is pull-through A24 (no hookups).
View of our 2nd site in A-loop. This is pull-through A24 (no hookups).
Another view down A-loop. Site A35 on left with A33 behind it. RV in site A34 on right.
Another view down A-loop. Site A35 on left with A33 behind it. RV in site A34 on right. These all have 30Amp/water.
Another view down A-loop. Site A5 on left with A28 on right.
Another view down A-loop. Site A5 on left with A28 on right, both pull-throughs.
Typical back-in in A loop. Site A4 shown. This has no hookups.
Typical back-in in A loop. Site A4 shown. This has no hookups.
View into Ringtail Loop. RV in "site" 22 on right.
View into Ringtail Loop. RV in “site” 22 on right.
Another view in Ringtail. From left to right site 15 (RV), 16 (RV), 17 (empty), 18 (RV), 19 (empty)
Another view in Ringtail. From left to right site 15 (RV), 16 (RV), 17 (empty), 18 (RV), 19 (empty). No hookups or “sitting areas” here.
View of facilities in B-loop.
View of facilities in B-loop.
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

    • libertatemamo says

      They always take more time to put together than I expect, but I love having them as reference when I go back to the area. Glad you like ’em.

  1. Jaff and Cheryl says

    We’ve stayed at Catlina several time in the last 4 years as Cheryl’s sister lives about 5 miles away. Love the location and the views. Our stays have been in Loop B. Love it. The one quircky thing I’ve noticed is that overnight temps in the park are about 8 degrees cooler than at SIL house. So overnight low expected in Tucson is 40 so low in the park is 32. Shower time is closer to noon than 8am unless of course you like cold air around your feet!
    Don’t know if you have tried Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument but is is another desert venue worth a few days of exploring and relaxing.

    • libertatemamo says

      I think I would agree with you on that temp drop. We definitely got some chilly nights at Catalina (chillier than forecast).
      Don’t know if we’ll hit a Organ Pipe this year. It’s definitely on the list…just depends what route we decide to take out of SE AZ.

  2. twoscamps says

    Nicely done. This is one of our favorite campgrounds – when it’s not full! We were there in Dec and it was very low key. It’s odd that Tucson really has only two (nonRV park) campgrounds available in the winter … unlike PHX with all of it’s Maricopa county parks…. Which do you prefer? GilRay or Catalina? -Maureen

    • libertatemamo says

      Well I’ve never actually been to Gilbert Ray simply because they don’t allow dogs on any of the trails there. That’s a big no-no for us. So, although I’ve heard the campground is lovely, we probably won’t be staying there.

  3. Bob Nuttmann says

    Very nice looking campground. I am putting it on my google map to plan on staying there. We stayed at Lazy Days last month and it is a very nice private campground but with nothing but industrial stuff surrounding it.

    • libertatemamo says

      Yeah, this spot is VERY natural with lots of green/hiking. I think it’s *the* place to stay in Tucson. You do require reservations in winter though. It’s a popular spot.

  4. says

    Great job with the photos. Really helps to understand the feel of the place. Looks like a good one to store away for future reference. Thank you!

  5. Maggie says

    I was trying to choose between Catalina and GilRay for our trip last December but ended up choosing GilRay because it was closer to the stuff we wanted to do in Tucson. It was a really nice park but in addition to the no dogs on trails (which I hadn’t heard), there really wasn’t a good place to walk the dogs – it was mostly all gravel and cactus. Our site was large once you got into it but there were no water hookups, only scattered water spigots. It sounds like either would work for short visits but Catalina was probably the much better choice for longer visits, especially since it was better for the pooch.

    • libertatemamo says

      That’s kinda the feedback I’d heard on Gilbert Ray, but it’s nice to know from someone who’s been there firsthand.

      Catalina is great for dogs that way. Lots of dog-friendly hiking plus the surroundings are mostly shrubs, trees and Saguaro, so very easy on the paws. No cactus in camp either.

      Catalina is a little further away from many of the popular Tucson sights (the Desert Museum, Pima Air Museum, Old Tuscon, The Mission etc. are all south of town), but it’s closer to major shopping. Overall Catalina wins out for me, especially for doggie.


  6. says

    You definitely do THE best reviews. Every time I read one I’m convinced I must go there soon. Thanks for such detailed information. I know I should do this too. Perhaps you’ll inspire me and I’ll steal ummmm I mean borrow, only with your permission of course, your format since IMO it’s perfect!!

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