Enjoying that Sights and Stars at Oracle State Park
Oracle State Park is a sprawling 4,000 acres of land in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains located right between Phoenix and Tucson. It’s a great place to visit on your Arizona vacations and here are three reasons why.
1. A Natural Lightshow in the Sky
Oracle State Park is a park with a unique distinction. It’s the first Arizona state park to be designated an official International Dark Sky Park by the International Dark Sky Association. There are only 37 sites including 20 parks worldwide that have received this honor. The reason is that the park is remarkably dark at night, which makes it perfect for enjoying the fantastic natural lightshow of the Arizona night sky.
2. A Center for Environmental Education
You can not only learn about the universe here but also about the earth. Oracle State Park is a center for environmental education. The park is full of interesting flora and fauna you can see and learn about. Common plants include prickly pear and cholla cactus, mesquite, scrub oak, a wide array of wildflowers, and occasionally a juniper or piñon.
Wildlife includes a wide variety of bird species such as golden eagles, prairie falcons, great horned owls and red-tailed hawks; mammals like ringtails, cougars, squirrels, jackrabbits and javelina; and reptiles like bull snakes, box turtles and Arizona alligator lizards.
There are also tours of the ranch of the earliest homesteaders to the area. You can enjoy various programs are led by highly trained and knowledgeable park staff.
3. A Gorgeous Getaway that’s Close to Civilization
The best reason to visit Oracle State Park is that it’s simply beautiful. The park offers an array of stunning views of this unique habitat where oak woodland meets desert. The three habitats found here are oak grassland, riparian woodland and mesquite scrub. This coming-together of habitats is why there is such an abundant mix of plant and animal life. There are also dramatic differences in elevation throughout the park.
There are 15 miles of hiking trails throughout the park, including 7 miles of the historic Arizona Trail. The hiking here is rugged and the trails are closed during certain parts of the year, but the unusual boulder outcroppings and views of the San Pedro River Valley below make it all worth it. Oracle State Park seems like land untouched by humankind.
That being said, there are picnic areas close to the roads where you can take in the rugged beauty without the struggle against nature. This is a great option for those not interested in getting too far outdoors.
One More Reason to Visit Oracle State Park
Finally, there’s one more vital reason to visit Oracle State Park. In recent years, the state of Arizona has drastically cut its budget. It was forced to close for two years several years ago. When you visit Oracle State Park, you show Arizona’s state government that the stunning stargazing, incredible wealth of wild plant life, and pristine desert beauty are worth preserving.