Photo ops around Tucson, AZ?

I’ll be visiting Tucson, AZ for a long weekend in early April. I have a couple of opportunities for some landscape photography.

I’d be grateful for any suggestions for locations. Thank you!

Saguaro National Park. There are two parts, one east and one west of the city. I’ve only been to the western side - Tucson Mountain District, but it is excellent.
Sabino Canyon if you like easy day hikes and maybe want to photograph rattlesnakes.
Mission San Xavier del Bac on the Tohono O’odham reservation south of Tucson.

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If you enjoy photographing a wide variety of cactus, the Sonoran Desert Museum’s botanical garden is a wonderful location. Maybe some blooming cactus in April.


Hi Matt,

I’ll echo all that’s been recommended already - and I suspect even a “long weekend” you won’t be able to get to all of it.

Saguaro West has a nice auto loop road with plenty of places to park and walk the trails. Saguaro East is a bit more open/remote. I spent more time in the West section, lot’s of variety of terrain, etc.

Highly recommend Sabino Canyon. You can walk -or there is an open shuttle/bus you can take to the end/top of the canyon. You might consider riding the tram all the way in, then walk back. According to the website, it’s 3.8 miles and there are 9 stops. You can hop on and off the shuttle. So, ride it up, make notes of spots you want to stop at, then jump off on the way back… Here’s one such image from one of my several visits… And if you time it right, the walk and area on the way back to visitor’s center you can find yourself a classic Saguaro to silhouette against the setting sun…

San Xavier Mission, Old Tucson, the Desert Museum, all worthy visits as well, although less in terms of landscape photography.

Of course April will start to be trending warm … but not scorching yet…

Have fun!

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@GregVaughn, @Ed_McGuirk, @Lon_Overacker, Thanks for each of your suggestions. We will be hiking in Saguaro National Park and this gives me a great idea of where to hike. We will also go to the Desert Museum and Botanical Garden. It looks like a great place for botanical images and as a gardener and all-around nature dude, I expect it will be a great place to explore with or without camera.

Went to university there…
@Matt_Lancaster Perhaps travel up to Mt Lemmon for a lot of variety in 1 day. The road starts at the desert floor with saguaros and progresses through many microclimates to tall pine forests at 9000 ft elevation at the top. There are many places to pull over and park/hike along the way. Also, many great areas for rock-climbing.
“As you go up, you pass through Saguaro forests, up through canyons, into grasslands, to cedar oak forest, and on up to the pine trees at the 9000ft elevation top”

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Thanks, @BenM, for the suggestion for Mt. Lemmon. I checked it out on Google Earth and it seems just as you described - lots of ecological zones to explore. I’ll probably do it.

If you don’t mind - is Saguaro West a morning or afternoon type of place for landscape photography? From my investigation on Google Earth it seems to have a multitude of aspects so perhaps your answer will be “it depends on where you go.”

Hey @BenM , thanks for mentioning - I didn’t forget, but figured there was only so much one could see on a long weekend… :slight_smile:

Commenting because the road to Mt. Lemon has a special place for me. there is a spot along the way called “Windy Point.” It’s a pull out. I went up there for sunrise one day, hiked up above the road and captured an image that became my first ever framed print. That was about 1982.

Matt, to your question about Saguaro East or West for morning or afternoon… I recall that Saguaro East was good in the mornings for silhouetting cactus against the sunrise - but of course late afternoon light would be good anywhere - east or west. The west section of Saguaro is good for both morning and afternoon/evening light.


Thanks, @Lon_Overacker!

Morning just before sunrise produces some magical light. However, once the sun is up the light becomes very flat and I would suggest finding other subjects. Sunset is usually a good time producing a nice warm light and improved contrast. If you have time, there several interesting small towns southt of Tucson that are worth a day trip and don’t forget Saquro East. Have fun!!

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Thank you, @james23 !