A very nice lasso loop in the Catalina high country starting from the Mt. Lemmon trailhead and heading out into some less visited areas in the Samaniego Ridge area, on some newly reworked trails. Unique and spectacular views are there...ripe for the taking. There is a lot of excellent forest up here as well.
This hike starts on the Mt. Lemmon Trail #5. You can opt to start the first leg on the beautiful little Meadow Trail leg of the Mt. Lemmon Trail, called Meadow Trail 5A. This short little 0.8 mile leg wanders through some big trees and little meadows (some burned) near the summit of Mt. Lemmon before descending back down a slope to rejoin Mt. Lemmon Trail proper. Continue on the Mt. Lemmon trail for another 0.7 miles to the signed junction with the Sutherland Trail #6.
Turn right on Sutherland #6 and descend down the west slope of Mt. Lemmon for about a total of 0.8 miles. Along the way incredible views open up of Pusch Ridge and its craggy summits as well as the western slopes of Mt. Lemmon. In the fall there will be golden blazes along the slopes. The trail can be a little brushy but is very easy to follow. After about 0.8 miles you will reach the signed junction for Samaniego trail #7, with Sutherland breaking off and descending to your left. Stay straight or right on Samaniego Ridge Trail and absorb more amazing views of Pusch Ridge. If you know where to look you can see light streaming through the Window. You will start to enter more and more patches of outstanding pine forest. The descent continues quite steadily for about 0.5 miles into denser pine forest, which in many places seems totally untouched by any hint of fire and is really outstanding.
After about 0.5 miles of descending you come to the signed intersection with the Canada Del Oro (CDO) Shortcut trail. For this little loop you can go either way. For this description I choose to continue left on the Samaniego Ridge Trail. Hike this for about another mile as it continues to descend out towards a saddle south of Samaniego Peak, which you periodically have awesome views of along the way through the trees. At times the views towards to slopes of Lemmon and over Canada Del Oro are just fabulous. Out towards the far intersection with the CDO Shortcut trail (about 1 mile from the last sign) the trail is a little brushy but still easy enough to follow.
At the CDO Shortcut signed intersection take a right onto the CDO shortcut trail. You will follow this route for about 0.3 miles to the signed intersection with the CDO Trail #4. This is the only short section of this hike where the trail is faint. It does appear to have been recently tagged and blazed, however, and if you keep this in mind and follow the faint trail you should be able to make the 0.3 section to the next intersection without too much trouble. At the last signed intersection for this little loop you are presented with the CDO Trail #4 proper descending into it's namesake canyon or continuing your climb back up to the intersection with the Samaniego Ridge trail at the CDO Shortcut intersection. This last little leg is about 0.7 miles and has obviously been recently cleared. There should be no significant route finding issues as you make this last little climb through some more awesome forest. Shovel Spring is along this stretch as well.
Once back at the signed intersection with Samaniego Ridge Trail #7 you can take it back up to the Sutherland intersection then the Mt. Lemmon intersection to get back to your car. The way back is all uphill. - Nov 01 2010 fricknaley