Many people who visit Tucson head for the hills, choosing to stay at posh resorts and inns tucked into the Catalinas.
Others, though, opt for a more rustic venue: The Cat Mountain Lodge, on the edge of Tucson Mountain Park.
At the lodge, 2720 S. Kinney Road, a golden Southwestern building fronted by iron gates opens into a tranquil courtyard surrounded by three rooms, two suites and the innkeeper's office.
Steppingstones throughout the courtyard separate native plants, herbs and a stone water fountain. Wooden love seats and rocking chairs adorned with Native American blankets beckon guests.
The bed and breakfast opened in 2010. It includes Cat Mountain Station, a complex where visitors can shop for art and other goods, eat at the Coyote Pause Café or stargaze at Spencer's Observatory.
The lodge is near the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Saguaro National Park-West and Old Tucson Studios.
"We have a huge variety of people who come to stay here," innkeeper and manager, Kat Armstrong, 60, said.
February through June tends to be the lodge's busiest time. Lots of people visit from British Columbia, Ontario, Canada; and Washington state. Last year guests from various places in Europe stayed there.
"Most people come down here to get away from the cold weather," Armstrong said.
The lodge gets business from those here for the Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase, and Tucsonans use the venue as a getaway.
"Hopefully (it's) a very Southwestern experience for people who come from other places," said owner Kerstin Block, 70.
The shops and lodge are on 13 acres that are home to birds, coyotes, the occasional deer, foxes, owls, lizards, jackrabbits and an adopted desert tortoise donated by the Desert Museum.
The lodge features five themed sleeping rooms - the Fiesta Room, the Ranch Room and the Old Mexico Room, which all include one king bed, a loveseat, desk and bathroom. For those seeking more space, Spencer's Suite and the Sierra Madre Suite include two queen beds, a living room and a bathroom.
Block handpicked each vibrant comforter, wool rug and other decor, all designed to give visitors a feel of Arizona.
Spencer's Suite was named after Block's late husband, who came up with the idea for the bed and breakfast. The room showcases a photo of Spencer in an old frame as well as a couple books he wrote and a hat stand full of his favorite hats.
"It's fun for me and it's easy for me to do," Block said of decorating the lodge. She also owns the Tucson-based Buffalo Exchange vintage and used clothing store.
One of the lodge's missions is to be eco-friendly. It's "Certified Green Lodging" by the Arizona Hotel & Lodging Association in partnership with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and Arizona Office of Tourism.
Rooms are stocked with organic shampoo, conditioner and body wash in refillable bottles. The bed and breakfast has rooftop solar panels, insulated rooms and a graywater system.
Different rooms are pet-friendly, handicapped-accessible or able to be outfitted for guests with allergies.
The combination of green living, individually decorated rooms, desert scenery and friendly customer service create a homey atmosphere that guests appreciate.
"It's just been wonderful," said Raes Williams, a first-time guest along with her husband Rob, who hail from the tiny town of Crestone, Colo. "It has a very friendly feel - as if we've been here before."
If you go
• What: Cat Mountain Lodge
• Where: 2720 S. Kinney Road
• Phone: 578-6085
• Website: www.catmountainlodge.com
• Rates: Off-season rates (May 16 through Sept. 30) for standard rooms start at $99 per night and suites start at $139. Peak season (Oct. 1 through May 15) rates for standard rooms start at $129 and suites start at $169.
Ashley Powell is a University of Arizona student who is an apprentice at the Star. Contact her at 573-4117 or email@example.com