Blasts of arctic cold air and snow depths of five feet have been torturing some parts of the nation — but in Tucson balmy days with highs near 80 degrees invite strolls along sandy washes and riverbanks.

Some walkers and cyclists savor the desert sunshine on trails tracing the Rillito and Santa Cruz rivers.

Others find a quieter experience along less-visited waterways such as a stretch of the Alamo Wash between East Fort Lowell Road and East Glenn Street.

Walking trails on both side of that segment of the wash offer an opportunity for a bit of exercise in a tranquil, tree-lined setting.

A couple of spots along the trails offer access down to the wash — a dry ribbon of sand and rocks except after periods of heavy rain, when it flows briskly.

Vegetation along the wash includes mesquite trees and a cottonwood tree that was still showing leftover autumn color in recent days.

Another watercourse where cottonwood trees continue to flash golden autumn hues — even though it’s officially winter — is Tanque Verde Creek in a segment east of North Craycroft Road and south of East River Road.

A walk up the main road in Sabino Canyon northeast of Tucson takes visitors to a colorful stretch of Sabino Creek.

On the west side of Tucson, the Santa Cruz River Park Trail traces the watercourse north and south of the downtown area.

Catalina State Park north of the city has several trails that lead to creekside terrain and the broad, sandy Sutherland Wash.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz