Oracle State Park is another beautiful place to hike. It is located in the rural town of Oracle, Arizona, about 24 miles north of Catalina State Park on Oracle Road (Route 77). It is about a 30-minute drive there from the entrance of CSP, yet many locals fail to explore it. An annual pass to CSP includes free admission to OSP too.
OSP is located 4,524’ above sea level, whereas CSP sits at 2,600’. That means OSP is always at least ten degrees cooler than CSP. If you love the outdoors as much as we do, a ten degree difference in temperature can feel like a nice break from the heat.
The difference in elevation means OSP has a completely different landscape than CSP. While we love the hundreds of saguaros found at CSP, OSP offers a strange and interesting landscape that feels otherworldly for the Sonoran Desert. Manzanita trees, yucca and agave are in abundance here. You will also find strange boulder formations, called hoodoos, that look like they belong in a spaghetti western or even a sci-fi movie.
One of the most important reasons to hike here are the long-range views of the Galiuro Mountains. They are beautiful and majestic and remind me of the Grand Canyon.
We have been to OSP several times. Each time we have found it to be very quiet, with very few hikers. The guardhouse is always empty. Park fees ($7.00 per car) are paid on an honor system.
If you go, you must explore the visitor’s center first, which is located in the former Kannally Ranch house. It looks like a Tuscan villa, not an Arizona cattle ranch. If we win the lottery some day, we will build a replica of this elegant home.
There is always a friendly park ranger there who lets the public wander the beautiful estate. There is a gift shop too. A public restroom is outdoors in the parking lot.
The Nature Trail is an easy loop about one mile long. It has beautiful views of the Galiuro Mountains. There are a couple of plaques on the trail, explaining the flora and fauna. The trail loops around to an interesting wildlife viewing area, which is a concrete blind with windows cut into it.
Our favorite hike at OSP is the Granite Overlook Loop Trail. It is well-marked, with gorgeous views of the Kannally Ranch House, the Kannally Wash and the Galiuro Mountains in the distance.
The Granite Overlook Loop Trail has very strange and interesting boulder formations. It can be a little steep in a couple of spots. A hiking pole helps. There are plenty of park benches and even a covered Ramada sprinkled along the trail. It’s only about a two mile loop. It is less steep if you hike the loop in a counterclockwise direction.
OSP received a designation as an International Dark Sky Park in 2014. The Park has telescope-viewing parties with performances by local musicians almost once per month.
There are 4,000 acres to enjoy. The Arizona Trail runs right down the middle of it. With such beauty in abundance, it is difficult to understand why so few people visit OSP. Give it a try, you won’t be disappointed.