Catalina, a residential community created in the 1950s, is about 12 miles north of Tucson in the foothills of the mile-high Catalina Mountains. Two retirement communities, Sun City Tucson and Saddle Brooke, are within four miles of Catalina. Catalina’s 3,000- to 3,200-feet elevation provides a climate that is five to 10 degrees cooler and rainfall that is 50 percent more plentiful than is found in neighboring Tucson. Native trees, grasses and wildflowers are abundant. The clean air, clear skies and lack of city lights offer spectacular starlit nights. The Coronado National Forest and Catalina State Park border the community and provide various recreational uses. Many acres of State Trust land provide open areas and promote rural lifestyles. Artifacts and petroglyphs of the ancient Hohokam Indians are seen throughout the area.
A variety of small retail businesses including a ranch supply store, car dealership, boat marina, golf cart outlet, hardware and flower stores, car wash, travel shop, restaurants, convenience stores, and video rental shops, among others, are in Catalina. An insurance agency, interior decorator, barber and beauty shops, real estate offices, post office substation, and bank are also available. Catalina residents travel daily to jobs in nearby Tucson and San Manuel.
Catalina is at the foot of the north face of the Catalina Mountains, in the valley formed by the Canada del Oro Wash. The wash, whose name roughly translates into “Canyon of Gold,” is aptly named–early Jesuit missionaries mined gold along its banks; in the the1870s, Tucsonans who washed the sand looking for gold made $12to $30 for their day's work. Numerous hiking and riding trails originate in nearby Catalina State Park and the Coronado National Forest. Ambitious hikers and equestrians can traverse seven climate zones, ranging from the lower Sonoran desert to an alpine forest, in a day's time. The public lands around Catalina provide easy access to several streams and springs that run most of the year. These include the Sutherland Wash, Romero Creek, and the Canada del Oro Wash. Within a short drive of Catalina are a variety of scenic opportunities: Biosphere II; Picacho Peak State Park, the site of Arizona's only Civil War battle; Tohono Chul Park; Saguaro National Monument; Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Old Tucson Studio, where many movies have been made; and the Kitt Peak National Observatory. The San Xavier Mission, built in the early 1800s, offers a glimpse into the rich heritage of the Southwest.