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The Sonoran Desert is a strange place, unlike anywhere else in the world. The plant life, climate, and wildlife are completely unique. You will find copies–cactus, birds, mammals, and reptiles–but the bigger picture is never the same. That’s one of the reasons why Catalina State Park is so popular. People visit the area because they want to be a part of the desert, feel the heat on their skin, smell the creosote, and stretch their legs.
There are many ways to experience the park. Many people start with hiking. There are 8 trails in all, each varying in difficulty and length. One of the most popular is the Romero Ruins Interpretive Trail, which is only .75 miles long. At the end you’ll find the remains of an ancient Hohokam Village, complete with a Mesoamerican Ball Court. For a more difficult hike–about 7.2 miles one way–try the Romero Canyon Trail, which leads to the Montrose and Romero pools, both of which have seasonal waterfalls.
Camping at Catalina State Park is a sublime experience. You won’t have to hassle with the cold on summer nights, and you’ll have a perfect view of the Milky Way stretching out above you. They have RV and tent spots, each with access to water, electricity, hot showers, and modern flush toilets.
The park is known to accommodate horseback riders. Not all of the trails are designed for riding, but many are. Some are also built for mountain biking, a very popular sport in the area. They have some of the best tracks in the region.