Entertainment Magazine: Arizona: Tucson

Gates Pass– Gateway to Tucson's Sunset

Gates Pass Chad Tucson by Might

West of Tucson, along Speedway in the Tucson Mountains, is the popular sightseeing area of Gates Pass.

Well known as the best 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.

Gates Pass provides areas for picnicking, trails for 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.

This section of Tucson Entertainment Magazine explores Gates Pass Tucson with photos by local photographers and hiking tips.

Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains by Robert ZuckerExplore the legends and history of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Read chapters and DOWNLOAD FREE SAMPLE PDF of "Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains"

Amazing Sunsets at Gates Pass

Gates Pass, Tucson, Arizona

Spectacular sunsets with vivid orange and yellows dance across the sky as the sun slowly sets each night at Gates Pass. There is no better vantage point, other than Mount Lemmon, to see such a brilliant sunset. See more sunsets at Gates Pass.

Products on Gates Pass

  • Tucson Hiking GuideTucson Hiking Author: Betty Leavengood. The best guide to the Tucson, Rincon, Santa Catalina, and Santa Rita Mountains completely revised. This third edition includes: 37 hikes rated easy to difficult by mountain range; revised information on precautions for desert hiking; historical notes, photographs, and anecdotes; and detailed maps and descriptions with elevation/distance.

Directions to Gates Pass
Scenic drive from Tucson

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.

Gates Pass, Tucson, ArizonaGetting to Gates Pass from Tucson is easy. Drive west on Speedway. After passing North Camino de Oeste, West Gates Pass Road begins. Follow until you see the sign on your right to turn right.

Cars can pull off the main road and park close to the hiking or viewing spots.

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. If you continue to drive west, the road takes a narrow turn along a winding road to Tucson Mountain Park, down the mountain towards Old Tucson and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Print out a map of Gates Pass and examine closely the hills, trails and parking areas.

Driving the Pass

Gates Pass, Tucson, ArizonaGates 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.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.

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.

Thomas Gates was a local Tucson pioneer, saloon and ranch keeper. Gates purchased the land to build the road. Wikipedia: Gates Pass.

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.

Gates Pass, Tucson, Arizona

© Gates Pass photos, content by Bob Zucker

Tucson Entertainment Magazine

© 2006-2016-2023 Tucson Entertainment Magazine. All rights reserved.