By Kim Lasota
The following list includes hikes from each of the four mountain ranges surrounding Tucson as well as a suggestion of "Tucson city hikes."
The Tucson Mountains, west of Tucson, offers the Saguaro National Monument (West) and one of the easier trails, great for beginners. The Wasson Peak hike (or King Canyon Trail) begins directly across from the Arizona- Sonora Desert Museum. This hike is an approximately 8 mile round-trip that climbs from 2,600 to 4,687 feet in elevation. A panoramic view of Tucson and desert scenery make this a popular hike. Visit Gates Pass.
The Rincon Mountains, east of Tucson also offers the Saguaro National Monument (East). The Douglas Spring Trail covers a diverse vegetation ending up in an oak woodland and pine forest community at Cowhead Saddle. The trail begins at the parking lot at the east end of Speedway and is a 15 mile round-trip. The climb from 2,700 to 6,200 feet is steepest near the end of the trail. No water is available despite the name. There are seasonal springs, though it is best not to depend on their availability. This is more of a fall or winter hike, although early morning in the summer is pleasant. The wildlife can be abundant and is awesome to see so close to the paved road.
The Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson, are well-known for the birds that frequent the area. The Super Trail-Old Baldy Trail hike begins at Madera Canyon (exit I-19 at Continental Road/Madera Canyon) parking lot. This 16-mile round-trip climbs in elevation from 5,240 to 9,453 feet and becomes especially difficult near the top of the trail. In essence, you are climbing Mount Wrightson. Though areas of the hike are moderate, it can be quite strenuous. Bring binoculars and see all types of birds, as well as a fantastic view of Whipple Observatory atop Mt. Hopkins. Early spring can bring diversity in weather to this trail.
The Santa Catalina Mountains on the north side of Tucson offer a "lifetime supply" of hiking trails. The following four hikes are part of these mountains.
Esperero Canyon trail and Seven Falls trail both begin in Sabino Canyon from paved road (The road is closed to private cars, although a tram runs every half hour).
Esperero is about an 8-mile round-trip to Esperero Canyon. One ridge is so steep that it is unofficially called "Cardiac Ridge."
This trail leads to Bridal Veil Falls, Window Rock and Cathedral Rock as well. Seven Falls is a moderate hike that can be started at the parking lot (8.2 miles round-trip) or the Lower Bear Picnic Area by taking the tram up (4.4 miles round-trip.)
The falls offer water nearly year-round and is a quick and beautiful getaway from the city. Many people use this trail. User fees are being considered for the Sabino Canyon area, although at this time, none are in effect. Find out more about hiking around Sabino Canyon.
In the Catalina Mountains, the Marshall Gulch hike (or Aspen Loop trail) is a cool, easy hike for anyone who wants to get away from the desert. This hike begins at the end of the road (Marshall Gulch Picnic Area) in Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon.
A 5.1 mile round-trip with less than 1000 feet elevation climb makes this a moderate hike indeed.
In October, the color changes of the leaves is extraordinary. User fees of $5 per car must be paid at a fee station before one drives up Mount Lemmon Highway.
Finger Rock Trail
Picacho Peak State Park
"City hiking" is an alternative for those who prefer the urban way of life. Most of the shopping malls offer a Mall Walkers Club that meets during the week before the stores open and "walk the mall."
More information can be obtained by calling Tucson Mall at 293-7330. Walking downtown and on Fourth Avenue is another option. The area is historical and somewhat geared to walkers. It is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the area. Something about seeing it on foot makes it more interesting. See more about Tucson shopping malls.
Many, many more hikes are availablethroughout and around the city. This information is obtainable through the SAHC and the outdoors shops here.
The idea is to hike- "a long walk for pleasure or exercise" or "to rise up" (especially at Finger Rock Trail.)