Tohono Chul Park in the Northern part of Tucson is an ideal plein air painting site. It offers many amenities in addition to plenty of painting subjects. Tohono Chul is considered one of the best Botanical Gardens in the State of Arizona. I am including a couple of photos of what you may see there. It is also a really safe spot for solo artists. You will feel secure in this spot and can paint all day with no worries.
There is a Cafe for lunch (very good food when I ate there recently) as well as bathrooms with full facilities - including SPF 30 sunscreen in the restrooms!
Address: Tohono Chul Park - 7366 N. Paseo del Norte, Tucson, Arizona 85704 - Tel: 520-742-6455
Pima Canyon Trailhead and Iris D. Dewhirst Park - Northern Tucson area - Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area - Home of the Desert Bighorn Sheep - This site should be visited if you are traveling light and are with a companion. We do not recommend it otherwise. If you can travel up the trail a short distance you will be rewarded with great views of the Tucson area mountains. The trail is rugged - be sure to wear proper hiking boots and take precautions against desert critters such as rattlesnakes etc.
To Get There: Drive north from Tucson on the Oracle Road (US 89). Turn east on Magee
Road and drive to the parking area and trailhead at road's end.
From Tucson, drive north on Campbell Avenue until you reach Skyline Drive. Turn left on Skyline, which will eventually become Ina Road. Continue on Ina Road until you reach Christie Drive. Follow Christie Drive north until it dead-ends at Magee Road. Turn right on Magee and follow it until you arrive at the Iris O. Dewhirst Trailhead on your right. Photo of the parking lot area is below.
ARIZONA-SONORAN DESERT MUSEUM - TUCSON
This is a wonderful painting site if you want to paint cacti of many different types including the giant saguaro cacti. I visited this site in March when the heat was bearable and the cacti were all blooming - lots of different desert shrubs were also blooming making it very colorful.
As this is a park one can feel comfortable painting alone as there are lots of people about. Springtime (March and April) are the best months as the heat later on the year is too much to tolerate.
Toilets available. Also the botanical gardens and a zoo in a wonderful natural setting showing the Sonoran Desert creatures in their natural habitat - well worth a side visit after you are finished painting. Recommend painting early in the day to avoid the worst of the heat.
Picacho Peak Park is about 35 miles north of Tucson in the Sonoran Desert off of Interstate Highway 10
Peak itself is an amazingly shaped lava extrusion that sits on the flat
desert plain like a clipper ship in full sail. It ascends 1500 ft.
into the shimmering heat haze. The park is very well cared for with
lots of shaded picnic tables spread out off of side roads. Bathrooms available - within easy drive from Phoenix, Tempe or Tucson areas.
These plein air painting locations provided by Arizona Plein Air Painter, Cody DeLong – Thank you Cody!
The Verde Valley, which includes Sedona, Cottonwood and Jerome, is one of the most scenic areas in Arizona.
I paint outdoors year round, but the summer months can be very hot and I’m done by about 9am. The rest of the year it’s great.
Sedona is consistently ranked in magazines as one of the most beautiful places in the country and for good reason, there’s almost no bad place to paint. A Plein Air Painting heaven. At the west end, almost any place you go along Dry Creek Road will offer red rock views in three directions, I like this area in the mornings best.
Another good place in the a.m is the dirt lot behind the cultural center offering a panorama of red rock mesas.
Directly south from there is Upper Red Rock Loop road, which has some great pullouts with views of Cathedral Rock and others, and it takes you to Crescent Moon State Park where you can paint along Oak Creek with Cathedral Rock in the background.
Airport road in middle Sedona has a great pullout about half way up, this is good early or late.Additional plein air painting locations present themselves in Uptown Sedona which has some opportunities too if you like to mix some urban scenes with your red rocks and of course there are bathrooms and restaurants too.
Further up Oak Creek Canyon to the north of Sedona there are several great outdoor painting spots along the creek.
Grasshopper Point is a fee area with restrooms and some little cascades and large trees with roots along the banks of the creek.
There are really too many places to mention along this road (89A) just drive north from uptown Sedona and you will see what I mean.
Cottonwood has the Verde River and distant views of Sedona’s red rocks.
Bill Grey Road is a dirt road just north of Cottonwood.
You can’t miss it because there is an enormous church near the entrance.
This is a great spot in the late afternoon, you get Sedona in one direction and the Black hills with Jerome in the other direction.
Sunsets from this area are great.
Last but not least is Jerome itself, where I have my Cody DeLong Studio/Gallery in the center of town at 300 Hull Ave.
Lots of old buildings and trucks left over from the mining days, a painters paradise, just set up anywhere in this small town and you will find something interesting. Whether it’s an old building or Red Rocks in the distance.
The Grand Canyon
As several of our website visitors have pointed out, no Arizona plein air sites list would be complete without the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River! Of course! Due to the extensive nature of this geologic wonder of the world, we will devote a whole page to it at some point. Stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the other exciting and unique plein air sites listed above. Happy Painting.