Although I have been up in the Catalinas several times in my life, I've never had the opportunity to go hiking there. On a warm (okay, hot
) Sunday in June, I was given the Catalina grand tour by Nick and Joe.
We met up in Tucson early, and headed up the Catalina Highway, dodging hundreds of determined bicyclers along the way.
We began our hike at the ski area in the refreshingly cool air, and started up the Aspen Draw Trail. After a good climb through a beautiful forest of giant trees, we arrived near the summit of Mt. Lemmon, and soon turned off onto the Meadow Trail. A gentle descent through lush forest on the Meadow Trail brought us to the Lemmon Trail. Nick soon led me up to a most incredible overlook on the edge of a rocky tower, where he pointed out many landmarks, beyond which the mountains gave way to never ending views.
Next came the long and scenic descent to the Wilderness of Rocks Trail, where the weather turned warm, and the forest canopy gave way to a wonderland of balanced rocks and bizarre hoodoos. After traversing this high mountain valley for a couple miles, we came across Lemmon Creek. It's cool, clear pools were a welcome sight! I kneeled down, then did a face plant into the creek. Felt soooo good.
The next stretch was a beautiful creek side ascent towards Marshall Saddle, through ferns, ferns, and more ferns, and pleasant forested parks. Marshall Gulch rewarded us with a trickling stream and a variety of ferns, amid plentiful shade.
We soon arrived at the bottom of Sabino Canyon, where civilization in the form of cars and campers made a brief and unexpected appearence. Joe scouted the canyon bottom and soon found the unmarked route of the Sunset Trail, which we followed east towards the Catalina Highway. The Sunset Trail's views down Sabino Canyon, with its pale, rocky cliffs and forested slopes were especially cool. The Sunset Trail passed a few cabins, and soon came to an end, near the highway. After a ride back to my truck, we headed down the mountain.
It was a great hike with great friends, and a wonderful introduction to this unique area. Good times!