No pain, no gain...
is an unusual round opening through a massive
rock structure high atop the Santa Catalina Mountains. This Tucson area landmark
is an alluring destination for hikers willing to endure the long, steep trek.
The hike up to the Window takes you from a parking lot on the edge of Tucson
- through Saguaro-lined canyon country - up through oak and cypress territory - and
up into forested Alpine regions. It's a terrific way to experience several
ecological zones in one, long day. The reward for your hard work is a well
deserved rest in the notch of the Window, with the wind racing through it
cooling you off. A relatively short scamper up to the rock towers just above the
Window reward you further with a panoramic view obstructed only by
and Mt. Lemon.
From the far end of the parking lot at Lowe's Ventana
Canyon Resort, head out on the Ventana Canyon Trail at the trail sign. The first
part of the trail takes you through classic canyon country amongst Saguaros and other local
varieties of cactus
. You'll trace the contours of the valley for
2.4 miles to the "Maiden Pools
"- a collection of pools that populate
the stream running through the valley following snow melts and monsoons. Don't
let the first few miles of the trip fool you, however - it gets much steeper
from here. Take your time and pace yourself throughout this trip - 4000 feet of
elevation is a lot of ground to cover, and this was the easy part.
From the Maiden Pools area, the trip becomes a
relentlessly steep 2.8 mile trek through the more open oak and cypress country
to the intersection with the Esperero Trail, 5.2 miles from the trailhead. You
will travel high into the valley with sheer rock formations on either side.
, only occasionally visible from the trail, looms above you to the
After the 5.2 miles from the beginning of the trail, the
journey intersects with the Esperero Trail at a signed junction. Already well
into the pine forest, take a right on the Esperero Trail. The Esperero Trail
continues its relentless climb up the mountain for a short while until you
finally reach a saddle overlooking the north, south and west. Enjoy the
relatively level trek along the saddle, in view of the
rocks containing the
, until it marches steeply up once again to the Window.
You will not be able to see the Window itself from here,
but it is amongst the rock formations just up ahead of you and below the higher
rock formations behind it. The trail actually takes you around and directly behind the
rocks containing the Window. Climbing up the back (east) side of the rocks, the sunlight shining through the Window will mark your arrival. Climb
up into the Window, take a look around and a well deserved rest.
At the very least, you should continue up the trail
along the back side of the rocks for a few hundred feet to
the top of this cluster of rocks that house the Window. From there, you can make
the easy climb up to the top of these rocks that will give you a much more
impressive and expansive view than from the Window itself.
If you've got the time and the energy left, you can
actually arrive at the top of the
towering rock spires
you'll see just east of
the Window (it's not far - about 1/3 mile). To do so, just follow the trail that
took you to the Window up (south) and around the rocks. This part of the
Esperero trail, which actually links up with the Cathedral Rock Trail, is poorly
maintained and can be very hard to follow. But if you take care to stay on it
(i.e. if you lose it for more than 50 feet, backtrack and you'll find it again)
it will take you south, then east, then back north around the rocks to the top
of another saddle above the Window. Follow the trail until you're at the very
top of the saddle. The trail will continue east from the saddle to another peak
(Window Peak?) and eventually to Cathedral Peak. Jump off the trail at the very
top of the saddle, however, and follow the very top of the ridge straight west
towards the rocks.
There's no trail per se leading up there, but if you go
straight west along the very crest of the ridge, you can intuitively follow the
path to the top of the rocks. There's something like a trail you can follow, and
I marked the final ascent with cairns. You should arrive at the upper-most rocks
- at the point which is as far north as you can go without falling off the
mountain - at a point between two rocks with a tree between them. Climb up the
rocks with the help of the tree and you're there. You'll be able to survey the
you're now on top of, the Window below you and a sweeping view
of the Catalinas
around. Enjoy the view and rest-up for the long trip back. - May 08 2001 brianbCoronado FS Reports
Ventana is Spanish for window. The window in this case is a 15' by 25' opening in solid rock that tops one of the peaks in the Santa Catalina Front Range. The route up Ventana Canyon leads to The Window, presenting memorable views of sheer canyon walls and a steadily broadening panorama along the way. The views back of the city are spectacular. The stream that the trail follows for much of this route is dry most of the year, but you can usually find water in some of its pools during the spring and early summer. The riparian habitat it nourishes provides good birdwatching.
The trail becomes steadily more difficult to follow as it climbs farther from the trailhead and higher up the canyon. As you climb, occasional pools and widening vistas provide reasons to stop, take a breather, and look around. The Window comes into view well before you get to it, as does the 100-foot drop at its base.
Waterfalls (in season)
Access to The Window