Tucson at Christmas with the family dog
November 12, 2018 10:35 AM   Subscribe

My wife, two teen daughters and our dog are escaping Seattle this Christmas to (hopefully) enjoy some sunshine and short sleeve weather. We enjoy walking neighborhoods and hiking and hope to spend lots of time outside. I know the National Parks restrict dogs on trails- where can we go where Fido won’t be a problem?

Not just hiking. We’ll want to enjoy some of the great food there, but either will need to leave dog in car (yes, aware this is problematic), eat in shifts, get take-out, or eat at dog-friendly places. Also looking for decent Asian food, fun places to see on U of A campus, things worth driving to nearby. Also fun things for one of us to do with the kids while the other does dog duty. Also- do we need to worry about our leashed dog getting bit by spiders/scorpions/etc? Thanks!
posted by carterk to Travel & Transportation around Tucson, AZ (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I really like using AllTrails to find hiking trails in unfamiliar areas - the dog-friendly toggle seems to be very reliable, it lets you filter by elevation/length/attractions/etc, and recent reviews can provide fairly up-to-date information on trail condition.
posted by mosst at 10:59 AM on November 12, 2018

Dogs (leashed, of course) are welcome on trails in Catalina State Park in Oro Valley (a NW suburb). I've also gone hiking in Madera Canyon (near Sahuarita, a little ways south) with a friends' dog, so that's an option too. Broadly, the Coronado National Forest allows dogs, but Sabino Canyon is a notable exception.

There are tons of dog-friendly places to eat and drink. Many of the restaurants, cafes, and bars in the downtown area and along 4th Avenue have outdoor patios that welcome dogs. It will probably not be short sleeve weather in the nights and early mornings, but may well be at lunchtime.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a standard "worth driving to" recommendation, but is not dog-friendly.
posted by egregious theorem at 11:01 AM on November 12, 2018

There are some paved trails (I guess paths would be a more accurate term) in Saguaro National Park that do allow dogs. Also dogs are allowed on all roads - both paved and unpaved - in the park. See this page for sections of road the Park Service considers safe for walking.
posted by theory at 1:04 PM on November 12, 2018

Best answer: I live in Tucson and have a dog. He is walked on-leash for miles every day, all over the city and county. We have never once had a big problem with spiders, scorpions or snakes, and in the winter you'll be even less likely to have an encounter. The biggest issue to be aware of will be the spiky plants. EVERYTHING out here has thorns or prickers, so when packing up your day-hiking kit be sure to include a decent pair of tweezers, a few feet of gaffer tape or the like for lifting out small invisible spines, and a comb. The comb is for quickly flicking off a piece of cholla that might get stuck to you or to the dog. You won't be able to grab it with your bare hands to remove it. In all my time here I've only needed the comb twice, but both times I REALLY needed it.

It will be sunny even in winter so put on sunscreen and have a bottle of water for you and the dog. However, it is often very chilly in the morning before the sun rises so if you are early-morning people bring a warm layer.

The town of Tombstone is a very easy drive an hour or so from Tucson, and it is both a fun place and EXTREMELY dog friendly. Dogs can even ride in the horse-drawn carriages and I believe join one of the mine tours. See the OK Corral, watch a gun fight, visit Boot Hill. As a day trip it's hard to beat for that Old West feel.

The Pima Air & Space Museum is also dog-friendly, and fun if you like airplanes and the like. I've actually never been but have been told it's very enjoyable.

Saguaro National Park allows dogs on paved trails, paved roads, dirt roads and picnic areas reached by road. In practice, this means that in the eastern section of the park your best bet for a decent hike with the dog is to walk the paved Cactus Forest Loop Drive (around 8 miles), or a section of it. This is awesome to do because the Cactus Forest Loop has some of the most beautiful parts of the park right alongside it. I personally bring my dog out there and walk the loop several times a year because I just love it. Be aware that you'll want to bring a good way to pack out any bathroom breaks your pup takes because there are no trash cans along the road. I personally double-bag anything I need to scoop and then put it inside an old lidded yoghurt container or the like so I can throw it into my backpack and not have it be a smelly mess before I can throw it away.

For the west section of the park, definitely take the Gates Pass road out from town through the Tucson Mountains as it's very beautiful and has several great places to stop at overlooks. Once at the park, the Bajada Loop drive is a long dirt road in the park that is another good scenic place to walk the dog. Be aware that the road is one-way for most of its length so once you decide to drive it you're sort of committed. I personally prefer to park at the Sus Picnic Area and walk in along the road for a few miles, then turn around and walk back out. The picnic area is very picturesque, too.

As for just walking around town, the Sam Hughes neighbourhood just east of the U of A is very cute and filled with lovely old adobe houses and nice yards. Fourth Ave has several dog-friendly restaurants and cafes. Depending when you'll be here there is a big street fair on Fourth Ave which is a great place to get frybread.

Seconding the recommendation by egregious theorem for the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum - it's FABULOUS - but it's a big place. Really it's a full-day event that is not dog friendly. You may want to look into a doggie day-care option for a day or two while you're here in order to do the no-pets-allowed stuff.

As far as just tiring the pup out and letting him off leash, there are many decent dog parks. I go to the Reid Park or 6th Avenue dog parks in the mornings (both get a little too crowded for us in the evening) and to the Smiling Dog Ranch dog park later in the day. It's a good bit further away from the city center but it's a very large, nicely shaded dog park.

You'll have a good time! Tucson is pretty great - I moved out here for 'just a year' six years ago and I'm not going anywhere.
posted by DSime at 2:04 PM on November 12, 2018 [4 favorites]

Mercado San Agustin is a great dog friendly open courtyard area. Two restaurants that are good there are Agustin (new American with some local food focus) and Seis (Mexican), and additionally has some great Mexican pastries and shaved ice in other stores there. You will not find good Asian food in Tucson compared to any coastal city. I beg you not to try, but if you must, Noodleholics is not dog-friendly, but is a favorite of Chinese graduate students I know and would be pretty easy for take out.
posted by permiechickie at 2:36 PM on November 12, 2018

You'll know if this will work for your dog, but when we travel, we try to grab a dog-friendly AirBnB so that we can leave our pups at "home" sometimes while we're at a restaurant, for a few hours while we're at a museum, etc. This works great for us, and prevents a lot of the "it's too hot to leave them in the car" stress and machinations.
posted by nosila at 8:32 AM on November 13, 2018

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the recommendations. We are staying in a dog-friendly Airbnb, but Fido is so neurotic I’m more than a little hesitant to leave her alone in a strange place after freaking her out with a three day drive. Still, it’s a thought.
posted by carterk at 5:15 PM on November 13, 2018

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