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36 Hours in Tucson, Canine Edition, Part 2

Catalina State Park, view from Canyon Loop Trail

Okay, I’ve got you halfway through your dog-friendly visit  to Tucson, with an introduction to the desert and our quirky — in that it has no river — river walk. This finishing lap adds a bit of local history. I know, dogs live in the moment, but they’ll like these forays into the past because they take place outdoors and, in one case, involve meat.

In my last post, I left you in the Trader Joe’s across the street from St. Philips Plaza — not a bad place to be stranded — buying picnic supplies for your visit to…

1pm …  Catalina State Park. I might ordinarily recommend Saguaro National Park West  to Tucson newbies; it’s a bit closer to my chosen dinner destination for this evening and a classic local attraction. However, even leashed dogs are not permitted on trails in the park, only on the paved roads shared with automobile traffic. So this gave me an opportunity to send you to a wonderful patch — well, 5493 acres — of pristine desert that’s off the beaten tourist path. Its lures include an ancient Hohokam ruin on an abandoned ranch compound. Read about the Romero Ruin interpretive trail and other state park activities here.

Moral bonus points: Arizona’s state park system is strapped for cash and only the most popular parks will continue to be funded. By coming here with your dog you’re helping to keep Catalina State Park open.

Alternatively, if it’s too warm for a midday walk and your pup is water- (and other dog-) oriented, head instead to Christopher Columbus Dog Park, Tucson’s first off-leash dog park and still its largest, with lots of shade ramadas and an agility course. It’s part of a larger park with a lake that is, theoretically, off limit to canines. Tell that to the many dogs  you’ll see splashing around and shaking themselves off happily at the shore.

Another advantage to this option, especially for those who want to cut down on their driving: It’s directly en route to my dinner pick.

Christopher Columbus Off-Leash Dog Park

5:30pm Where better to chow down after a hike or romp in the dog park than a casual steak and rib house with outdoor tables?  L’il Abner’s, on the site of a 19th-century Butterfield Express Stage Coach stop,  fits the bill to a T-bone. Although the city has encroached on this once remote setting, when you’re sitting out under a canopy of stars, listening to live country or bluegrass music (weekends only), it’s still easy to imagine you’re in the Old West.  Keep your dog close by you — that shouldn’t be difficult while you’re enjoying your steak — because  the outdoor mesquite grill smells mighty enticing.

9am After you’ve had breakfast and checked out of your hotel, it’s time to go downtown to the Presidio Trail — an easy two-mile loop that’s sometimes called the Turquoise Trail because its 23 historic sights are linked to one another by a painted blue line (which looks, in spots, like it was applied by a drunk on a unicycle — but your dog won’t notice or care). At this writing, the link to the online printable version of the Presidio Trail isn’t working, but you can write ahead or drop in for a map at the Tucson Visitor Center, which is an excellent source of information of all kinds.

Plaques detail the sites, among them the Spanish Colonial-style Pima County Courthouse (1929) with its striking cerulean mosaic dome; El Tiradito, a folk-art shrine to a pair of star-crossed lovers; and the Hotel Congress, built in 1919 as a railroad hotel. In 1934, two members of John Dillinger’s gang holed up here until a fire forced them out. This led to the eventual capture of the famed outlaw — and to an annual celebration of Dillinger Days at the hotel.

The Hotel Congress is also home to the Cup Cafe, where you and your pup can sit out on the patio and get an omelet to order or, perhaps, eggs with biscuits and andouille sausage, fortifying you for your journey home. Yes, it’s time to head for the airport if your canine companion is small enough to travel in the cabin — and if that’s the case, check out the excellent DogJaunt.com for tips on the best carriers (airlines) and carriers (bags) — or for the freeway, in which case GoPetFriendly.com can help you plot out your route and find places to stay along the way.

Update: I just learned Loews Ventana Canyon Resort & Spa, my recommended lodging, is running a Pumped-Up Pet special, to help you get your pudgy pup — and you — back in shape. Love it!

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18 Comments

  1. Posted February 1, 2010 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    A great addition to your first post on Tucson. Thanks for adding all these things to the 36 hours–which has now become 180 hours if my math is correct.

    • Edie
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Thank you! What with our laid back Tucson calendars — as you pointed out in your excellent contribution to the 36-hour meme — I’d say it’s probably somewhere between 180 and 200…

  2. Posted February 1, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    What a great adventure. And I love Trader Joe’s. I was stranded in NYC–my dad’s car died right in front of Zabar’s. That was luck! We feasted until TripleA came along.

    • Edie
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      I love Trader Joe’s but it doesn’t hold a candle to Zabar’s. I dream of the baked whitefish salad — and make sure to have some, every time I go back to my hometown. Maybe I should do a “Where would you most like to be stranded?” series…

  3. Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    Love these two posts! Now I’m really eager to get to Tucson!

    • Edie
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      Thank you! I hope you come, and blog about your journey with Chloe and tell us how she likes the desert.

  4. Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Edie,

    How fun! We are researching the dog-friendly hiking trails, sadly, none in the Saguaro National Parks, but Bug Spring Trail and Babad Do’ag up the Catalina Highway are good for pooches and people.

    Hint…it would be neat to have a listing of all the dog-friendly eateries and caferies…Ellie isn’t quite ready to be the test girl, but we are working on it!

    • Edie
      Posted February 1, 2010 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I was disappointed that neither side of Saguaro National Park was very dog friendly. Thanks for the info on Bug Spring Trail & Babad Do’ag. Frankie’s not a big hiker, so I can’t use him as a test boy either!

      I’ll be happy to add to the list of dog-friendly eateries in a separate post. Off the top of my head, there’s also Jamba Juice, Ghini’s, Ric’s Cafe, and El Charro.

  5. Posted February 1, 2010 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Sounds like a great place! We’re looking forward to visiting!!

    • Edie
      Posted February 2, 2010 at 5:59 am | Permalink

      Hope to see you when you do!

  6. Posted February 1, 2010 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    Loved your review and though I’m not a happy camper in AZ or any sunbelt state-allergic to the sun (yeah, weird I know!)–your review gives me the sense of being there, right down to the bison blue cheese sliders! And after that, you can hit the gym with your pup at Loews:)) Thanks, Edie!

    • Edie
      Posted February 2, 2010 at 6:03 am | Permalink

      You’re not the only one; a good friend of mine who lives in San Francisco has the same problem — which wouldn’t be a problem except that her husband loves the desert. Glad you enjoyed the review; can you tell I’m interested in food? ; -)

  7. Posted February 2, 2010 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    I’m glad you mentioned Catalina State Park, Edie. Arizona State Parks are going through tough times. We sure don’t want to lose access to all of those hiking trails. What a bonus that the park allows dogs (and horses too).

    • Edie
      Posted February 2, 2010 at 8:44 am | Permalink

      Yes, I was disappointed to learn that Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park were (more or less) off limits to dogs — and very pleased to learn that Catalina State Park wasn’t. Frankie’s not a great hiker (those short legs!) but I might have to take him up to the Romero Trail to soak in some archeology/ranching history.

  8. Posted February 2, 2010 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Two great things about this post. #1 Your writing is so vivid that I feel like I am there. #2 Feeling like I am there is not enough – I wanna visit! Amazing the weather difference between Flagstaff and Tuscon that you commented on in your first post. The two cities don’t seem that far apart to have such dramatic climate extremes … AND I’ll take your word for it!

    • Edie
      Posted February 2, 2010 at 11:00 am | Permalink

      Why, thank you, Rod! I hope you and Amy make it here soon (or next winter)… Flagstaff’s a great place in the summer (elevation is all)!

  9. Posted February 3, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    My brother lives in Tucson and I enjoy coming to visit with my dog Nora! We look forward to exploring it more on our next visit.

    • Edie
      Posted February 4, 2010 at 7:02 am | Permalink

      I’m glad I could provide entertainment ideas for dog star Nora’s next visit to Tucson. And I was very excited to see your comment on my blog. I love Underdog to Wonderdog and watch it faithfully, armed with a box of tissues…

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