Not your average Tucson hike!
Overview: The Pima Air and Space Museum, located south of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, is certainly not your average hike! This isn't a rolling grassy meadow in the high country, a tight slot canyon in red slickrock, or a hard-to-reach peak in the Superstitions. Instead it is a walk through the history of flight on the flat, hot, Tucson desert floor with the roar of A-10 fighter jets and rumble of Union Pacific locomotives as your background noise. If you're looking for a wilderness experience, this isn't the hike for you!
Hike through History: The hike starts out at Hanger 1/The Freedom Hanger near the parking lot. Here's where the lobby and entrance desk are located. Pay the entrance fee and proceed into the hanger. If possible, make a reservation to view AMARG (The Boneyard) on Davis-Monthan Air Base. This part isn't a hike, its a bus ride, but it is really neat and the only way to view the huge collection of stored aircraft at the Boneyard. Either way, after the entrance station, you walk through Hanger 1, where a collection of early civilian aircraft are on display. There are also some displays for children in this hanger, including a flight simulator and a few small airplanes that they can climb into. The Freedom Hange contains a collection of seaplanes and important warplanes.
From the Freedom Hanger though the real hike begins. You leave the hanger and begin to hike around the grounds of the Air and Space museum. It is very useful to take along the map that the entrance desk provides to find your way around this massive collection of steel. Aircraft on the grounds range from small civilian aircraft like Beechcraft Bonanzas and Cessna 182s, to jetliners, to firefighting aircraft. The real core of the collection though is military aircraft, from air tankers and transporters, to piston engined fighters, jet fighters, bombers. Even former Soviet airplanes like MiGs are present on the sprawling grounds. New aircraft are being added every year and going on display. The museum docents like to say that it is the fastest growing air and space museum in America.
Also scattered across the grounds are several other hangers which contain very nice and interesting displays on the history of space exploration, the 390th bomb wing, WWII aircraft, and even an active restoration area where you can view progress on a variety of active aircraft restoration projects. Also across the grounds, and marked on the map, are restrooms, picnic tables, a restaurant (attached to Hanger 1) and most importantly, water fountains. This hike is terribly hot from May through early September, and if you are determined to view the aircraft during these blazing hot months these water fountains will be vitally important.
The only elevation gain on this hike is optional, a walk through one of the presidential aircraft on display in between hanger 1 and the restoration shop. This is the only aircraft open to the public, but it provides a unique view into the history of Air Force 1.
Once you have seen all the aircraft, or at least all the aircraft you wish to see, return to your vehicle by exiting through the gift shop attached to the Freedom Hanger.
Dogs: While dogs on leashes are welcome in hangers and through out the museum grounds, they are not allowed on the AMARG tour. If you bring your dog along, don't plan on taking this tour.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.