Taking a road trip from Riverside to Tucson will lead you through large portions of the Sonoran Desert, which extends through California and Arizona and part of northeast Mexico. You will also drive past Joshua Tree National Park and through several Native American reservations and various wildlife preserves. You will get the chance to personally see images of the western U.S. that have been immortalized on film and in other media. If you have the time to add any of these sites to your Riverside to Tucson road trip itinerary, then you will experience a truly memorable adventure along the way.
Joshua Tree National Park
Your road trip from Riverside to Tucson will take you very close to Joshua Tree National Park, one of the most unique national parks in the U.S. The park is named for the Joshua tree, which is a yucca subspecies of the agave tree species. This plant has served as an important source of food and utility to native peoples of this area for many centuries, and the park has many fine examples of these interesting plants. While you are in the park, you will also see native animals, such as bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, coyotes, and kangaroo rats, and the park also is part of the Pacific migratory bird flyway. Joshua Tree National Park contains two distinct biomes: the Sonoran Desert, a "low" desert of low humidity and sparse vegetation, and the Mojave Desert, which is a "high" desert of higher humidity and more vegetation than the Sonoran.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park is home to the Saguaro cactus, which is the largest cactus in the world. The Saguaro is the iconic symbol of the American West, and everyone is familiar with the "arms-up" appearance of the cacti's side branches. These plants are only found in this small area of the U.S., and the park is dedicated to the preservation of these majestic cacti. Visitors to the park can also view the petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam peoples while trekking along the Signal Hill Trail in the Tucson Mountain District part of the park.
Mount San Jacinto State Park
Mount San Jacinto State Park lies along the summit of Mount San Jacinto, which is 10,834 feet above sea level and is the second-highest mountain in southern California. The Palm Spring Aerial Tramway is a popular access point for the park, which is also part of the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail that crosses three western states from Mexico to Canada. The San Jacinto Mountains are part of the Peninsular Range system, and a large part of the park is in the Santa Rosa and the San Jacinto Mountains National Monument. You will be able to hike any number of trails on the 54-mile trail system, and there are both primitive and electric camping areas. The Palm Spring Aerial Tramway begins in Chino Canyon and ascends 2,643 feet to Mountain Station. While at Mountain Station, you can access trails, a picnic area, a ski center, a snack bar, and other amenities.
Lake Havasu State Park
Lake Havasu State Park is located on Lake Havasu, which is a large reservoir on the Colorado River and is formed by Parker Dam. The lake is on the border of Arizona and California, with Lake Havasu State Park on the Arizona side. The park is home to miles of white sand beaches on the shorelines and is near the popular attraction of London Bridge, which was sold by the city of London in 1967 and erected inside the community of Lake Havasu City. There are multiple boat ramps for either motorized or non-motorized boats, and visitors can also swim and fish. The Mohave Sunset Trail runs through the lowland desert, and the Arroyo-Camino Interpretive Garden showcases many native animal and plant species.
Catalina State Park
Everyone can find plenty of recreational opportunities while visiting Catalina State Park, which is a 5,500-acre landscape of foothills, streams, deserts, and canyons near Tucson. The park is a haven for more than 150 species of birds. There are multiple hiking trails, biking trails, trails for horseback riding, and an equestrian center. Many of these trails wind through the Coronado National Forest and have elevations reaching up to 3,000 feet. You will appreciate the diverse habitats of mountains, deserts, wildflowers, cacti, and various wildlife species.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway begins in Chino Canyon and ascends 2,643 feet from Valley Station at the bottom to Mountain Station near the summit. The tram ride was built in 1963 and allowed faster access to the top than was available at the time. The rotating cars were added in 2000 and rotate continuously for two full revolutions during the ride, which provides a panoramic view for the passengers. The ride takes around 12 minutes and passes through five biomes, beginning in the Sonoran Desert and culminating at the alpine forests of Mount San Jacinto. While at Mountain Station at the summit, you can access trails, a picnic area, a ski center, a snack bar, and other amenities.
Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles was founded in 1935 through a private endowment and donated land from G.J. Griffith for the creation of a public observatory that would be free to all. Today, the Griffith Observatory is one of southern California's most renowned venues and attracts more than 1 million visitors each year. The observatory is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood and is 1,134 feet above sea level. Visitors can view the sky via the original Zeiss 12-inch refracting telescope and also the three solar telescopes. The observatory was renovated extensively in 2006 and has a number of exciting exhibits, such as the Rebel Without a Cause, Ahmanson Hall of the Sky, Gottlieb Transit Corridor, Cosmic Connection, and Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater exhibits.
Desert Botanical Garden
The Desert Botanical Garden is part of Phoenix's Papago Park and is a wonderful collection of more than 4,000 distinct plant species, one-third of which are native to the Sonoran Desert. There are around 50,000 plants, which include large numbers of cacti and agave. There are also plants from South America, Australia, and California. The gardens have themed walks for visitors, where you can learn about the various plants in depth. If you are visiting later in the day, you can see flowering plants that bloom in the evening. If your Riverside to Tucson RV road trip is between the months of March and May, you can visit a butterfly exhibit.
Palm Springs is a resort city in southern California that is located in the Sonoran Desert. It is best known for its spas, golf courses, high-end hotels, and the prevalent hot springs in the area. Visitors love to shop in the city, and there are also plenty of outdoor recreational activities available in the surrounding Coachella Valley area. The Happy Traveler RV Park is situated underneath the San Jacinto Mountains and is within walking distance of downtown Palm Springs. If you are in need of a dump station, there are several sites in the Palm Springs area.
Quartzsite is a popular RV destination, especially in the winter months. There are nine major gem and mineral shows throughout the year, and everyone loves the many swap meet shows that also take place. Every January and February, a two-month-long gem show and swap meet is the pinnacle of RV life. Quartzsite has recently become the home of the Arizona Peace Trail, a series of off-road loop trails through Mojave County, Yuma County, and La Paz County that extend for 750 miles and have many smaller trail offshoots. The La Paz County Park has riverfront and riverview sites and is just north of Quartzsite. You will find an ample number of dump stations if you need to use one.
Phoenix, AZ, is known as the "Valley of the Sun" because of the perpetually dry and sunny clime. While visiting Phoenix, you can visit many cultural, historical, and recreational sites, like the huge and sprawling Papago Park. This beautiful park contains golf courses, seven acres of fishing ponds, hills, trails, sports facilities, sandstone formations, and diverse venues like the Desert Botanical Garden and Phoenix Zoo. The Covered Wagon RV Park has lots of family-friendly amenities and is close to several shopping centers. The city of Phoenix is near the end of your Riverside to Tucson road trip, and you may want to utilize a dump station while in the area.
When you follow this road trip itinerary from Riverside to Tucson, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in Riverside to Tucson.