Enjoying the stunning Tucson sunset is the perfect way to end your day while exploring this beautiful city. Given its excellent location and the fantastic clear skies, it is no wonder that Tucson is one of the best cities for stargazing in Arizona and the United States. 

The neighbourhoods around Tucson are surrounded by stunning Sonoran desert landscapes dotted with saguaro and many other types of cacti, bathing and glowing with the warm tones of sunset. And if you are here in spring, you will be rewarded with colourful wildflowers

From quick or adventurous hikes to watch Tucson sunset to an easy-to-access drive-through spot, below is the list of the best sunset spots in Tucson, which is a must-visit activity.

In this detailed guide, check out the best places to watch the sunset in Tucson that needs to go on your itinerary.

WHERE TO WATCH TUCSON SUNSET

GATES PASS

  • Distance from Tucson – 9 miles
  • Driving duration – 20 minutes
  • Parking – Available

One of the top spots for an epic Tucson Sunset is Gate Pass, a favourite among the locals and tourists. Located in Tucson Mountain Park, you will be treated to fantastic views of the sunset in Tucson over the clifftop offering gorgeous panoramas of the desert mountains landscapes filled with Prickly pear, Saguaro, and Chollas spanning miles and miles.

Tucson sunset

Thanks to its immense popularity, expect crowds here almost all the time, and you need to be here early if you need a fantastic spot to enjoy the surreal Tucson sunset views.

It is a beautiful drive to reach this mountain pass just west of Tucson. 

You can access Gate Pass from Tucson by driving on Speedway and up a long hill, which becomes Gates Pass Road, where the road becomes narrow. You will pass through this winding road with many drop-offs, offering stunning desert views as you gain an elevation of over 3,000 feet. 

There are several pullouts to stop and admire the views, but the best is at the central Gates Pass. You have a parking area at the Gate Pass.

sunset Tucson November

You can choose from the many viewing platforms close to the parking lot or take one of the many trails to find your perfect Tucson sunset views, where the incandescent glow of the sun magically transforms the arid panoramas with touches of red, yellow, orange and gold.

TUMAMOC HILL

  • Distance from Tucson – 4 miles
  • Driving duration – 10 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 1.5 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 2 to 3 hours
  • Difficulty level – Moderate
  • Parking – Available

Tumamoc Hill, a nature preserve owned by the University of Arizona is a popular hiking spot and one of the best places to watch epic Tucson sunset and beautiful Tucson sunrise. It is open to visitors from 4 AM to 10 PM, making it a convenient hike for adventure seekers.

The three-mile loop on a well-paved road up and down the hill involves switchback and gets steep on the ascent, where you will climb 700 feet.

Tucson sunset

There are benches along the way to pause, relax and admire the views. You will pass through many types of cacti, and birds. You will be rewarded with magnificent Tucson sunset views at the top, which are worth all the effort.

Wear good hiking shoes, carry water, snacks and a headlamp or a flashlight for your way back down.

SENTINEL PEAK(A MOUNTAIN)

  • Distance from Tucson – 5 miles
  • Driving duration – 13 minutes
  • Hiking duration – 30 minutes
  • Parking – Available

One of the cool spots to watch a fantastic Tucson sunset is Sentinel Peak. Also famous as “A” Mountain due to the iconic painted letter A on the hillside in 1910 by a group of students of the University of Arizona on the east face of Sentinel Peak, it is one of the most convenient places to watch the sunset in Tucson.

You can drive to Sentinel Peak, and if you are in the mood for a workout, you can walk to the summit, a quick hike that will get your heart rate up.

Tucson sunset spots

To reach Sentinel Peak, take Congress Street West from downtown Tucson and turn left up Sentinel Peak Road. Keep going until you arrive at the large parking lot.

From the parking lot, if you want to get to the top, you can choose one of the loop trails that curve around the east face and up to the summit. From the top, enjoy the beautiful colours of the setting sun against the city skyline.

CATALINA STATE PARK

  • Distance from Tucson – 13 miles
  • Driving duration – 23 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 1.3 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 3 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy
  • Parking – Available

If you are up for a short and beautiful hike to watch the gorgeous Tuscon sunset, head straight to Catalina State Park, where you will be treated to a Tucson sunset comprising magnificent grey-tinged granite peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains and thousands of Saguaro cacti forming splendid silhouettes.

Tucson sunset spots

You can choose any of the easy-moderate trails, but the most famous sunset hike in Tucson in Catalina State Park is the Canyon Loop Trail, a 2.3-mile loop hike that takes you through beautiful landscapes, especially vibrant desert blooms if you are here in spring before opening up toe stunning Tucson sunset views with the granite peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the foreground. There are many spots to pause, sit, and take pictures on the way.

You can also camp here at the foothills and admire the stunning displays transforming the Sonoran Desert.

MISSION SAN XAVIER DEL BAC

  • Distance from Tucson – 16 miles
  • Driving duration – 21 minutes
  • Parking – Available

One of the unusual places to enjoy a beautiful Tucson sunset is Mission San Xavier Del Bac, a 16th-century Spanish Catholic church which is considered one of the top landmarks of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States.

sunset in Tucson

This oldest European structure in Arizona is also one of the best spots to enjoy beautiful Tucson sunset views from the top of Grotto hill. You can watch the colourful skies forming a perfect backdrop against the Catalina Mountains and the surrounding Sonoran Desert panoramas.

RILLITO RIVER PARK

  • Distance from Tucson – 6 miles
  • Driving duration – 15 minutes
  • Parking – Available

One of the popular hangout places among locals, Rillito Rover Park, may not be your first choice when thinking of Tucson sunset, but it is one of the best places to enjoy laid-back sunset views in Tucson along with enjoying a lot of other activities the park has to offer

Rillito River path attracts cyclists, runners or locals on their evening walks. Enjoy the quiet views of the trees and the green spaces by taking a stroll. 

If you are here after the snowmelt, you can see the waterfront with higher water levels along with spotting beautiful desert blooms adorning the paved path.

Enjoy the views of Tucson sunset over Mount Lemmon and other mountains of the Santa Catalina mountain range as it turns different hues of pink, red, orange, and purple, making it also one of the underrated places to watch a Tucson sunrise.

RIO VISTA NATURAL RESOURCES PARK

  • Distance from Scottsdale – 4 miles
  • Driving duration – 10 minutes
  • Parking – Available

One of the offbeat places to enjoy a beautiful and quiet Tucson sunset is Rio Vista Park, located at the north end of Tucson Boulevard near river Rillito.

A popular place to hang out with family and pets among locals, it offers plenty of green spaces to relax, wide trails to take strolls with your pets, play areas for kids, and shaded picnic tables.

To enjoy Tucson Sunset views, there are a few loop trails available. The best one is the loop trail east which goes towards the racquetball club, where you can enjoy a beautiful sunset casting its glow over the Catalina mountains.

MORE SPOTS TO ENJOY TUCSON SUNSET(MORE THAN 30 MINUTES DRIVE)

SAGUARO NATIONAL PARK EAST

  • Distance from Tucson – 24 miles
  • Driving duration – 30 minutes
  • Parking – Available

Home to the tallest and the most extensive collection of Saguaro Cacti in the world, Saguaro National Park East is one of the best spots to watch epic Tucson sunset. The national park closes around 5:30 PM and there is an entry fee that can be paid at the visitor centre.

If you cannot make it for the afternoon hike, another alternative is to watch the beautiful Tucson sunset by driving the Cactus Forest.

Tucson sunset

It is a spectacular 8-mile loop that takes you through some fascinating landscapes in the national park along with stunning Tucson sunset views encompassing Rincon Mountain backcountry and lush, diverse plants and wildlife.

There are many trailheads and pullouts to stop, relax and admire the views.

Mica View, a pullout complete with an easy desert trail and picnic area is one of the best stops on the route for a sunset spectacle across a vast expanse of desert packed with giant saguaros, many towering over 50 feet in this cactus forest, Catalinas and the Tucson Mountains on the horizon.

As the Tucson sunset progresses, watch the mountains glow, from deep rose to bright pink and purple.

ARIZONA STATE HIGHWAY 83

  • Distance from Tucson – 21 miles
  • Driving duration – 25 minutes
  • Parking – Available

If you love driving around, one of the best ways to enjoy Tucson’s sunset views and beyond is by getting on Arizona State Highway 83. This drive on AZ-83 for about 30 minutes is perfect if you want to avoid hiking and prefer enjoying watching the sunset in Tucson from your car.

Start your drive by taking exit 281 off I-10 to find State Route 83, also known as South Sonoita Mountain View Highway.

You will experience all the classic hallmarks of Western Americana on this highway, driving through lofty mountains, rolling hills, grasslands and ranches. 

Passing through mountain passes, you have plenty of opportunities for trails and pullouts to unwind, relax and capture the stunning views of Tucson’s sunset.

For the most beautiful panoramas, stop along Sonoita or Vail towns when the views get better as the Santa Rita peaks get painted in purple, orange, pink, yellow and scarlet by the setting sun.

KITT PEAK NATIONAL OBSERVATORY

  • Distance from Tucson – 49 miles
  • Driving duration – 50 minutes
  • Parking – Available

One of the oldest astronomical centres, Kitt Peak National Observatory, established in 1964, is one of the best spots to enjoy spectacular Tucson sunset.

The national observatory is home to one of the largest and most diverse collections of telescopes in the world. They run the popular Nightly Observing Program which you can join after watching fantastic views of the sunset in Tucson to admire the beautiful, clear night skies. 

Note that Kitt Peak National Observatory is temporarily closed to the public. So check before you go on the Kitt Peak Visitor Centre website.

TUCSON MOUNTAIN PARK

  • Distance from Tucson – 16 miles
  • Driving duration – 21 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 1 to 5 miles one way(depending on the trail)
  • Hiking duration – 2 to 4 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy to Moderate
  • Parking – Available

Another place close to Saguaro National Park to enjoy the fantastic Tucson sunset is Tucson Mountain Park, also close to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. 

The drive to the park is beautiful, as the classic Arizona landscapes are packed with many Saguaro cacti, prickly pear, and barrel cactus along the way.

You can stop at one of the many pullouts to enjoy splendid views along this windy road that climbs up the mountain. 

Enjoy the stunning sunset in Tucson from one of the many viewpoints along the way, or head to Tucson Mountain Park, which offers plenty of opportunities for mountain biking, running, and hiking across its beautiful vast expanse of wilderness.

Entry to the park is free, and you can collect maps. You have a few loop trails to choose from if you want to hike to watch fantastic sunset views.

ORACLE STATE PARK

  • Distance from Tucson – 36 miles
  • Driving duration – 50 minutes
  • Average Hiking Distance – 1.2 miles one way
  • Hiking duration – 3 to 5 hours
  • Difficulty level – Easy to Moderate
  • Parking – Available

One of the most famous parks in Arizona, Oracle State Park is one of the best Tuscon sunset spots if you are up for hiking amidst the desert landscapes overlooking the San Pedro Valley.

This high-desert park is known for many trails, but for watching stunning sunsets, the Granite Loop trail is the popular one. This 2 miles loop hike is short but can be moderately difficult due to the climb involved in the last stretch.

You will be rewarded with beautiful views of the Galiuro mountains to the east and the Santa Catalina Mountains further glowing in vibrant colours during the golden hours. 

WINDY POINT VISTA

  • Distance from Tucson – 30 miles
  • Driving duration – 50 minutes
  • Parking – Available

Considered one of the best spots for fantastic Tucson sunset, Windy Point Vista is located up the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains, one of the four ranges surrounding Tucson in the north and northeast of the city. It is one of those places where the journey is as incredible as the destination itself. 

You will need to purchase a permit to drive up the Sky Island Scenic Byway, as you will stop at many places to check out the diverse desert vegetation and spectacular views of forests and canyons.

When you buy the permit at the Visitor’s Center and Ranger Station, you will get a map with all the stops and the landmarks and attractions you can check out, many of them being trails and even picnic spots. 

So allow plenty of time, maybe the whole day or at least the afternoon, as you have many things to do and see before enjoying the spectacular sunset in Tucson.

The sights of the setting sun are incredible, a brilliant combination of city sights and distant mountain ranges with pinnacle rocks on the horizon.

HOW TO REACH

To reach Windy Point Vista, take the Catalina Highway from Tanque Verde Road to the base of the mountain range for about four miles. From here, drive up the paved national forest Sky Island Scenic Byway for about 25 miles, where you will steadily gain about 9,000 feet up the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains to Mt. Lemmon, the highest point.

The Windy Point pullout is situated near the halfway point, a pullout along this winding parkway through the Coronado National Forest. 

Since the spot is very popular, you may find the parking lot to be filled. You can head to Geology Vista mountains for parking and hike to Windy Point vista.

You can watch the sunset in Tucson from many places at Windy Point Vista. Carry snacks, water, jacket, and bring your picnic blanket to enjoy a relaxing evening amidst the gorgeous sunset views.

PICACHO PEAK STATE PARK

  • Distance from Tucson – 36 miles
  • Driving duration – 34 minutes
  • Parking – Available

Among the best reserves to experience the wilderness of the Sonoran Desert is Picacho Peak State Park, which also offers some of the most incredible Tucson sunset views.

A short 40-minute drive from the Tucson area, you can plan an afternoon hike along the short Sunset Vista trail, which takes you through the desert landscapes dotted with many cacti and wildflowers surrounded by rocky mountains. 

The views start appearing once you reach the two prominent mountain crests. Enjoy splendid views of the sunset in Tucson between Picacho Peak and the smaller mountains painted with golden, pink, or purple skies forming a magical backdrop.

MAP OF THE BEST TUCSON SUNSET SPOTS

USEFUL TIPS TO WATCH SUNSET IN TUCSON

  • Check the timings – Look for Tucson sunset time before you plan your sunrise hike, as the time slightly varies depending on the season you are visiting Tucson.
  • Calculate time for hiking – Depending on your fitness levels and your speed, you may take more time than the average estimates provided. It is best to have an idea of how long you may need, which allows you to time your sunset hike in Tucson correctly.
  • Carry essentials – Great hiking shoes with a good grip, headlamps, jackets, water, and snacks are a must, irrespective of the hike.
  • Watch out for snakes and lizards – Although the Rattlesnake season runs from May through October, you may run into snakes at any time of year. Gila Monster Lizards and scorpions can also be seen, but if you stick to the trails and never put your feet where you can’t see them, you should be okay. If you do come across one, move very slowly backwards and alert the staff.
  • Stay hydrated – Although temperatures can be low after sunset, late afternoon hikes can be quite hot no matter which time of the year. Drink sufficient water to stay hydrated.
  • Protecting from the sun – You will be exposed to the heat likely, as most of the trails have minimal or no shaded areas. Carry sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses.

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