Gates Pass is the Gateway to Tucson's sunsets
© Gates Pass photos, content by Bob Zucker
West of Tucson, along Speedway, is the popular sightseeing area of Gates Pass.
Gates Pass is a well know sunset viewing site (and date spot). Gates Pass is one of the best vantage points to watch the sun drop out of sight in the Tucson area.
Scenic drive from Tucson
Getting to Gates Pass from Tucson is easy.
Where Speedway ends on the Tucson's west side, after passing North Camino de Oeste, Gates Pass begins.
As a public stop off point to climb the mountains and view the scene over the valley, Gates Pass is the bridge between Tucson and the Saguaro National Park. From there, Kinney Road winds around the Tucson mountains.
Just past Gates Pass, along a winding road to Tucson Mountain Park, lies the famous movie location Old Tucson, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the International Wildlife Museum.
Gates Pass provides areas for picnicking, hiking, wildlife observation, nature studies and camping. A visible trail head winds around the mountains. Natural desert vegetation of saguaro cacti, brush and other native cactus surrounds the area.
History of Gates Pass
In 1883, Thomas Gates built a road through the pass between the Tucson valley and the other side of the Tucson Mountains as a shortcut.
The other route is south of the Tucson Mountains along today's Ajo Road. Gates was a local Tucson pioneer, saloon and ranch keeper. Gates purchased the land to build the road. wikipedia: Gates Pass
Driving the Pass
Gates Pass is one of the most dangerous areas to drive around Tucson. The road is narrow and winds around the edge of a large mountain with just a few feet space between the edge of the road and a deep drop off to the valley below. Because of this driving danger, Gates Pass is not open to commercial and large vehicles over 40-50 feet long.
While it is a shorter drive to reach Old Tucson and the Desert Museum, many people choose to take the Ajo Road to Kinney Road route to avoid the steep driving conditions.
Biking Gates Pass Loop
Another popular use for Gates Pass is the bike ride from Tucson to the entrance and back. Traffic is often heaviest around the Gates Pass ascent.
Early Saturday and Sunday mornings are often the lightest traffic days.
Amazing Sunsets at Gates Pass
Spectacular sunsetsets with vivid orange and yellows dance across the sky as the sun slowly sets each night at Gates Pass. There is no other vantage point, other than Mount Lemmon, to see such a brilliant sunset.
To get the best sitting spot, it is advised to park no later than an hour before the sunset. Parking spots at Gates Pass are limited and fill up fast. Parking is not allowed on the sides of the main road.
Once parked, take a short hike along the dirt path towards the sunset. Be courteous to others who have already made their perch.
Dozens of people gather to watch the sunset everyday. It gets very crowded on Friday and Saturday nights.
Print out a map of Gates Pass and examine closely the hills, trails and parking areas with a Googlemap.
Sunset photos by John Archer.
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