Santa Cruz River Park Trail


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Santa Cruz River Park Trail Facts

States: Arizona
Counties: Pima
Length: 41.8 miles
Trail end points: N. Sanders Rd. (Marana) and W. Valencia Rd. (Tucson)
Trail surfaces: Asphalt
Trail category: Greenway/Non-RT
ID: 6518844
Trail activities: Bike, Inline Skating, Wheelchair Accessible, Horseback Riding, Walking

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Santa Cruz River Park Trail Description

The Santa Cruz River Park Trail follows the Santa Cruz River throughout Tucson, providing access to various amenities and neighborhoods, as well as the Rillito River Park Trail, Cañada del Oro River Park Trail and Julian Wash Greenway. It offers more than 40 miles of pathway along both sides of the river, which is a dry wash during most of the year.

Much of the paved trail is paralleled by a soft-surface path preferred by equestrians and joggers. The greenway is also part of a larger trail network called The Loop that will one day encompass 130 miles of trail throughout Tucson.

Parking and Trail Access

You can access the Santa Cruz River Park Trail wherever it crosses a road. Parking is available at the following locations:

  • the ballfields off El Camino del Cerro west of the river
  • Christopher Columbus Park off Silverbell Road
  • off Riverview Boulevard just north of where it meets Apache Drive
  • at the end of Ontario Street at Riverside Road
  • a trailhead shared with the Julian Wash Greenway on Santa Cruz Lane (south of Silverlake Road)

Santa Cruz River Park Trail Reviews

Most of the path is beautiful! Riding alone is great except that almost every bridge and intersection you will not be alone. You will find people sleeping on or near the path, evidence of people living on or near the path, and gratuitous litter in these hot spots. Obviously it is mostly safe but for many miles it does not feel or look safe

It is easy to access the Santa Cruz River Park Trail from the Rillito River Trail just west of the I-10. You can access this starting point by parking or riding to anywhere on the Loop Trail system in Pima County. I ride up north along the Santa Cruz scenic riparian habitat, and this is an enjoyable river grade ride returning the same route. Instead of returning as I came, I use the local roads to connect to some of the possible loops. Both Twin Peaks and Picture Rock are pretty going west (though the bike lanes are narrow) to access Saguaro National Park West; I then return via the McCain Loop and over Gates Pass which is a great hill climb with beautiful desert scenery, and gives access back to the Santa Cruz Trail, or downtown Tucson, as you desire. Instead of going west on Twin Peaks or Picture Rock, I can stay on a more level ride going east on Twin Peaks, and continue on Tangerine Rd or Moore Rd at Dove Mountain. There are good bike lanes on these roads, which take you over to the Canada Del Oro bike path near Catalina State Park. This gives a nice return ride to the Rillito River Trail. Depending on where you start on the extensive Loop Trails, and as long as you don't mind mixing in some riding on roads with decent bike lanes, you can do some beautiful loops of 40-70 miles with views of the Santa Cruz River, Catalina's Mountains, and Tucson Mountains.

Arrived in Tucson two weeks before the 34th El Tour de Tucson (early November 2016). I stayed at the Candlewood Suites on River Road. The parking lot adjoins the Rillito River Trail which is part of the Loop system. I used to ride my bicycle where the hotel now sits.

My trip was particularly nostalgic because I grew up within a mile of the hotel in the late 50s and early 60s. I was enjoying riding as well as being on home turf. It's changed a bit, indeed, but it was home to me. I hadn't had a serious visit in nearly thirty years.

The morning I rode the Santa Cruz Trail was cool, sunny and clear warming into the low 80s F. I rode NW via the Rillito, crossing over to the south side at N Camino de la Tierra (public street, fast traffic, dump trucks, rough pavement). Coming back up onto the trail there are restrooms and water. Continuing on NW I crossed under I-10 and connected with the Santa Cruz Trail heading back SE. The trail is paved and you will parallel I-10, passing businesses (trucking, sand/gravel, construction) until you reach Camino del Cerro where you cross (you hop into the median to cross, watch the traffic) and now parallel the river (east side). The views down into the river are majestic.

Side note: I find that people either love the desert or hate it. Maybe it's because I grew up here that sand runs in my veins and cacti permeate my dreams, but I love the Sonoran Desert. Seeing the giant Saguaro and other cacti, lizards, Gambel Quail, the Santa Catalina Mountains... Sigh..... Hey, I'm retired now and I'm moving here in time to catch the spring flowers. I don't mind the summer heat and I tell people that the frogs wear headbands and carry canteens. Some get it and some don't. 8-]

Back to the trail now. I continued on south along the river passing an impressive solar farm and a water treatment plant (didn't have to hold my nose). I passed under Grant Road, Speedway and St. Mary's all the way to Congress where I would have to cross Congress itself (near downtown) if I continued SE. At that point I crossed, in a bike lane, to the west side of the river and headed back NW.

The ride back north took me along the river in places and through some picturesque open spaces until I crossed again at Camino del Cerro. From there I backtracked to the hotel. It was a an enjoyable ride covering 26.5 miles at an average of 7.8 mph on my Catrike 559, according to Strava. When I return I'll be riding a Catrike Dumont. I'm counting the days.

There were no challenging climbs and the views were spacious. I enjoyed the ride and traffic on the trail was light since it was Monday. I recommend this trail for the views and the wide open spaces. In another several days I would be riding 37 miles in El Tour de Tucson. That's another story.


Nice trail without a lot of road crossings. It's open now (as of my writing this review) north to a small neighborhood park with water and shade called El Rio Park that's just north of Twin Peaks Road.

There is only one major road crossing on this path which extends from 29th/Silverlake Rd north to El Rio Park - that crossing is at Ina Rd. You have to head west over the bridge and rejoin the trail.

There are a couple of places between Orange Grove Rd and Ina that you have to pay attention to where the trail detours - just keep heading north until you get to a parking lot area (south of Ina) where there's a restroom - you'll see arrows directing you south to get back on the trail that follows along a pretty stretch of the Santa Cruz until you get the Ina crossing. Have fun!

Here's a link to a map of the Tucson Loop Trail System:

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