1. Driving down a dirt road is good for the soul. Bobbing along to a change in scenery. Better yet, getting DIRTY! At the farm you get to dig your hands into dirt and vines. New-agey perhaps, but let your soul connect with the earth here. (AKA: grounding.) Apple Annie's is a multigenerational Arizona farm. That in itself is impressive! It's the experience though, picking your own food, that your family will cherish. Both with their hearts and their hungries.
10-15 degrees cooler and 1.5 from Tucson. Apple Annie's
2. Madera Canyon is the cute "cousin" to Oak Creek Canyon (Sedona.) But this fairy-land is much closer! Pick from shady hikes 2.7 or .5 miles. All looping back to picnic tables. Do you love bridges? I certainly do! The easy (and kid-friendly) .5 mile trail starts off with a gorgeous bridge! Bring heavy snacks and leave your fancy charcuterie boards at home. If you must bring the vino and "salam" (salami), be ready to fight off the wild turkeys.
Only a 1 hour drive from Tucson. These woods manage to be 15-20 degrees cooler too! Madera Canyon
**DO NOT I repet do not forget cash or check for $8 to park. I tried to barter with a $10 gift card, but my husband thought that was tacky and we would be towed. Also, phone service is spotty here. (Which I think is pretty great.)
3. Did you know a beach exists right outside of Tucson? It's quaint but CLEAN! Climb trees, link up hammocks, and listen the waves crash onto the rocks at Patagonia Lake. Challenges the kids to climb "That Dang Bridge." A mini general store awaits for the underprepared or the groups who gorged on snack during the drive. Clean bathrooms are located at the Welcome Center. Benches for smooching-sweethearts line the water. Kick off your shoes and enjoy the day. Remembering we will get through these troubling times.
Boat rentals here! Man does kayaking QUIETLY seem luxurious. I gotta wait until all of my littles can wear life jackets. Bonified grownups you go for it. Rent the boat WITH the sun shade and do not worry, you will still get a tan! Hah. (Boat rental shop does not take calls, so bring your mask to reserve on site.)
Patagonia Lake is about 1.5 hours and a breezier 10-15 degrees cooler.
4. The largest stretch of Ponderosa Pine trees is in Arizona. Take that North Pole! The prettiest bits of pine forest can be found in Pinetop. And boy can you smell it! Ahh. Dip your toes (or paddle boards for you athletic-types) into cool lake water first thing in the morning. Show Low Lake is the largest lake currently open. Take in the trees' reflection while you chow down on local bakery-made from scratch at Baked in Pinetop. Rainbow Lake is cute but sort of stinky. (For kids like me who grew up there, it's where we did our science projects. So don't drink that water!.) Woodland Lake is taking a pause due to vandalism. DO NOT trash my hometown. Please! Take care of it. AND take care of the firefighters by cooking and camping responsibly.
The Rim trail is breathtaking but overcrowded. You will be hard pressed to find a better playground than the one at Show Low Park. Even Banff's pales in comparison to this gem! For littles, it's the break they need to be wild and motor. While here, PLEASE socially-distance with other families. Nobody knows each others' stories. Better to just respect their space and take turns. Easy paths with wildflowers not to mention a real-grass baseball field, make perfect waiting spots. Wear them out here and THEN go to the cabin should you be staying overnight.
Fool's Hollow Campground spoils its campers with a private pond. There is a waiting list, but it's worth getting on. Recharge your batteries on a less-traveled trail at Sky High. There you will see purple thistles beside buzzing bees. Locals come here so its not the place to go necking or host beer-chugging competitions. It's more sacred than that.
25-35 degree cooler temps in P-town because you are on a mountain! 3.5-4 hours from Tucson. Oro Valley residents: y'all win with the shorter trip. This may be the biggest stretch for a "day trip" but with two or ore drivers, it's pretty easy. Globe marks the halfway point with a large gas station.
5. Thanks to the brave Wildland Firefighters, Mount Lemmon remains. Play in the creek that runs along the trails. With all of us in survival mode (no judgement) screen time feels like ALL THE TIME. Let the kids build stick forts and make pebbles go "Ker-plop!" in the water. Let them be kids. Get messy. Love every memory-making second of it! The general store up here is my secret weapon. Everything you need is here! For parents, it is a lifesaver.
The butterfly trail is "Eh." Rose Canyon Lake is beautiful but crowded! Steep hikes with sweeping views are the less-marked. So make your own adventure! Atop the mountain is the ski lift. Saddle up to the sky and admire all that God has made. Beautiful. BELLÍSIMA!
Pizza by the slice is the secret to staying on budget. The Cookie Cabin serves up pizza AND cookies. Ask what slices they HAVE instead of ordering what slices you want. It's key to sealing this foodie deal. Gluttons like me, and maybe you, can order a cookie flower! Varied cookie scoops baked to perfection.
As the roads are rebuilt, plot out your next 25-35 degree-cooler hike. About 1.5 hours to the top of Mount Lemmon.
Praying you all find yourselves again. On your own adventures. Supporting local along the way. AND SMILING AGAIN,