This Hidden Gem, Western Mountain Town Is A Slice Of Mexico

Oro Valley, which means "Valley of Gold" in Spanish, is nestled within Arizona's majestic Santa Catalina Mountain range, just 82 miles from the Mexican border. The picturesque town provides an incredible destination for anyone interested in arts, culture, or the great outdoors. Located just 10 miles outside of Tucson and surrounded by the rugged Sonoran Desert landscape, there is no shortage of breathtaking views.

With a population of about 49,000 people, Oro Valley, a suburb of Tucson, hovers between a large town and a small city. The streets are packed with unique shops and art galleries, and Indigenous People and Mexican culture heavily influence the region. Oro Valley and nearby Tucson were part of Mexico until 1854 when the United States purchased the land from the Mexican government. At the time of purchase, the area was populated by a small group of Mexicans who shaped the city and its unique culture over the following decades.

On a trip to Oro Valley, you can enjoy activities like hiking through some of the largest cacti in America, biking along scenic paths, exploring art galleries, shopping, enjoying live performances, and dining on incredible authentic Mexican cuisine. You'll be close to various parks like Catalina State Park and Honeybee Canyon Park and can visit one of the world's top botanical gardens at Tohono Chul. It's an excellent destination for a romantic couples getaway, a relaxing solo trip, or a fun-filled family vacation.

Oro Valley offers fun for every type of traveler

Oro Valley is jam-packed with exciting things to do for a small city. You'll be able to explore more than 50 miles of incredible hiking trails all around town with options for all skill and experience levels. For an easy hike that's just under two miles long, try the Honey Bee Canyon Southern Loop Trail. The path goes through the desert and has minimal elevation gain. For a more challenging full-day adventure, embark on the Wild Burro, Loop and Ridgeline Trail. The 12.5-mile trail takes more than five hours to complete, and there is a significant elevation gain. You'll likely have the trail primarily to yourself. According to reviews on AllTrails, it's an excellent place to admire the blooming wildflowers in the springtime. You'll also find some amazing horseback riding adventures nearby. Mountain biking enthusiasts flock to the Oro Valley area, as it offers some of the best routes in the state of Arizona.

Once you've had your fix of the scenery, head into town and check out the local arts scene, which is heavily influenced by Mexican cultural heritage. You'll find hundreds of unique public art displays like murals and sculptures throughout town. Check out the convenient online art map to plan your walking tour.

The area is also famous for golfing and features some excellent courses. The Views Golf Club, El Conquistador, and the Stone Canyon Club are all highly rated spots for golf enthusiasts to visit while in town.

Planning your perfect trip

Unless you're traveling across the United States on a scenic road trip, your best bet to reach Oro Valley is to fly into Tucson International Airport, Phoenix Sky Harbor, or Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. Tucson International Airport is located about 40 minutes away. Both Phoenix airports are about an hour and 45 minutes from Oro Valley. Renting a car is a good idea if you want to explore everything the area has to offer, and you can usually find rentals for around $50 per day in the area.

Oro Valley doesn't have as many hotel options as nearby Tucson, but you'll still find a few different options ranging from high-end to laid-back. For a luxurious option, check out El Conquistador. The Hilton Resort hotel features outdoor pools, hot tubs, a spa, tennis courts, and some great views of the mountains for around $230 per night. There are also a few relaxed chain hotels near town, including a Holiday Inn Express and a Fairfield Inn and Suites. Both have rooms starting at less than $150 per night. Airbnb is another excellent option, especially for large groups. Only a few rentals are available, but you can find a few private homes for about $200 per night and private rooms for around $100.

If you do happen to run out of things to explore in Oro Valley, you will be less than a 30-minute drive away from the eclectic city of Tucson, Arizona, and the sprawling Saguaro National Park.