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Mint Spring Trail #20, AZ

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Guide 39 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.5 of 5 by 11
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,130 feet
Elevation Gain 239 feet
Accumulated Gain 493 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.17
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
11  2019-07-15
Aspen-Marshall with a hint of Mint
22  2019-06-29
WOR - Lemmon - Mint Loop
14  2019-06-29
WOR - Lemmon - Mint Loop
4  2019-06-29
Catalina Camp Trail
9  2016-06-11
Catalina Figure 8
7  2015-08-09 AZ_Step
11  2015-07-11 AZ_Step
17  2015-06-19
Shady Lemmon Loop
Page 1,  2,  3
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,745 map ( 18,154 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Aug, Sep, Jul, Jun → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:09am - 6:25pm
Official Route
11 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Can I offer you a mint?
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
Page statistics reflect #20 one-way segment. The description below is for a 3mi / 960 aeg / 1.5hr shuttle.

The Mint Spring trail offers yet another little meandering trail up on Mt. Lemmon, perfect for adding on to other routes. The Aspen/Marshall Loop, in particular, goes well with a hint of Mint. This trail can be accessed both from Carter Canyon Road in Summerhaven or it's terminus at Marshall Saddle. I will describe it from Marshall Saddle because it just seems to fit in so well on a Marshall/Aspen loop hike.

From Marshall Saddle a sign points the way north (Mint Spring #20). The trail is narrow and pretty easy to follow. It cuts through heavily burned areas most of the way. There is a lot of ground cover/regrowth, with tons of ferns. There is very gentle up-and-down along the way.

The trail cuts over a couple of ridges first, dropping down then over the intervening washes. Currently these were dry washes, but after true monsoons I'm sure they flow. There are a lot of penstemon and geraniums along the way. Also the farther you go, the thicker the ferns become to the point of just coating the hillsides. It is pretty sweet. Lot of birds flickering about too. You will cross over 3 such washes along the way as you head into thicker and thicker fern cover. This area is really kind of interesting.

After about a mile, you start to gently climb up to a type of saddle and everything changes in a flash as you cross over, then swing left. Now you are along a steep embankment/wall with the trail falling away severely to your right and climbing up to your left. The burned trees here are surrounded by tall grass. At the bottom of the slope to your right is a level plateau. Through the burned trees you will be able to see the full extent of Summerhaven and all the rebuilding cabins. What a strange and unique view. I was somewhat bewildered for a while. After about 0.6 miles along this section, the trail starts to switchback down Carter Canyon and ultimately ends at the gravel road, which serves as the other signed trailhead from which to start this hike. Take notice, on the last stretch of this trail near the Carter Canyon end, there are a lot of leg level thorns. If you hike in shorts be prepared for some scratches.

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2007-07-15 fricknaley
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WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Mint Spring Trail #20
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I few months ago I came up with idea of doing a "circumnavigation of Mount Lemmon". I needed some miles, so decided to make an attempt on a late June weekend. Maybe it was a bit brash to try such a route during the summer months.

The goal was to start at Butterfly TH, go down to Crystal Springs trail, up the Oracle Control Road, down Oracle Ridge to Dan Saddle and then down to Catalina Camp, then down to CDO, up to Samaniego Ridge and then Lemmon Trail, then head down to WoR, back across Marshall Saddle, and connect with Sunset to finish the loop. A solid loop if I do say so myself, probably pretty close to a marathon with 6000+ feet of ascent.

The plan held up until Catalina Camp, where it started to get warm, and I really started to question whether I had it in me. This was the last bail-out point, and I took it. Luckily there was a trickle in the creek, so I was able to fill up before heading up Red Ridge (the first time I've had the, let's call it a privilege, of seeing this trail in the uphill direction). Surprisingly, I saw three other people on Catalina Camp and Red Ridge trails. Thought I was the only one stupid enough to be down there in late June.

When I got to Red Ridge, clouds had rolled in, and I was feeling much more alive. So I added a few miles back on by heading up the road to the ski resort, and heading down Aspen Draw (where it even sprinkled a little bit!), before taking a Mint Springs to Marshall Saddle detour.

Ended up a pretty good outing still, even if the whole circumnavigation has to wait until another (possibly cooler) day.
Mint Spring Trail #20
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upper sabino riparian out and back, then up aspen draw, down aspen, back on marshall gulch, mint springs, up radio ridge via the powerline road and back down aspen draw

i was post call and figured this would be rough since i wouldn't be starting very early, plus the record heat forecast. i ran the first half, shuffled marshall gulch and mint spring and took a savage beating on the powerline road. too hot and exposed. it was over 90 degrees above 8000 feet still :o

it's a beautiful high country route on mt lemmon
Mint Spring Trail #20
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Shady Lemmon Loop
First, it's my generic hike, so I can name it whatever I want. It was shady for most of the hike, as I started late enough that mountain shadows cover much of the upper elevation burn areas. Trees did much of the rest, and I tolerated the sun crossing the Mint Springs burned area.

I headed up the mountain in cross town traffic (foothills) with out the A/C on becuase I don't really like it. That, the continued 90s for most of the Catalina HWY, and the altitude probably made me tired for a lot of the hike, but I opted to avoid the sun exposed slopes (done that, it's stupid) in the WOR, the Lemmon Rock Trail, and so on, and stuck with cooler, and shady trails. Actually, it wasn't that cool when I started at 2:30, but it was really nice after 6 PM on top and coming down. Up Marshall Gulch, over on the Mint, through the village, and to the Aspen Draw, which is very nice, with lots of big old doug-firs in the draw and on the slopes. Packs of the same thrill seeking MT Bikers were coming down, but they stopped when they could. I didn't care, since I could hear them and get off trail faster than they could, and I was going slow and stopping to look at the big trees. Sierra Nevada big.

Tagged Mount Lemmon for the first time since 2011 and hiked slowly down the Radio Ridge and Aspen trail back to Marshall Gulch. Heard a few, but not very many, whippoorwills in the gulch and arrived back at my car a little after 830. A woman was in the bed of a pickup with a dog asking about her male friend who went for a 15 mile run at 5 PM and had not returned when I pulled out at 845. Maybe we'll hear about that as another SARS operation? Good hike.
Mint Spring Trail #20
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Starting on the Mint Spring Trail always seems to start the day off right - once again pulled up to a nearly empty trailhead (at least 10 and probably way more cars at Marshall Gulch!!) and got started. Mostly the trail looks like winter but the Aspens are just starting to get some leaves and in places the green is starting to come out. There was water at Mint Spring in the box and a trickle below. Made a nice loop with Marshall Gulch (plenty of water) and the Aspen Trail (had forgotten about the great view from Aspen where you look across at both Brinkley and Thimble - love it!).

Mint Spring Trail #20
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nice to get up here today - the temps were great. more flowers than i thought i'd see. short stretches of the aspen trail remain some of my favorite in the catalinas and the fern jungle at the end is going strong :y:
Mint Spring Trail #20
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Mollie, Jackie, and I parked and started at the Marshall Gulch area. We hiked Aspen Trail (2.5 miles) to the Mint Spring Trail (1.6 miles) and then took paved Carter Canyon Drive (1/2 mile) to paved Sabino Canyon Parkway, which we then hiked back down to our car (1 mile). This made a 5.6 mile loop. We liked all of our trip except for Mint Spring Trail. It is the worst trail we have hiked. The path was overgrown (still easy to find). There were many sections where the trail was overgrown with thorn bushes, which were painful. We had to duck under some of them and go around others. Most of the trail is in the sun (so be prepared for that) since this area is one of the areas afected by the fires. There is a part early on that has a scenic view of the new trees growing and they are very green and then there is a nice view when you are towards the end of the trail where you can see the many cabins of Mt. Lemmon. If you have bee sting allergies, this trail is not for you as there were many areas with bees.

This triplog stats include Mint Spring, Carter Canyon Drive, and Sabino Canyon Parkway
Mint Spring Trail #20
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This was the toughest hike I've ever done in a day. I have done more miles than this in a day, but never with this much elevation to boot. I had a friend Norm from town go with me who had no problems keeping up; he's a marathon runner and had just run the Boston Marathon again the week before. When I saw him putting his pack on to start, it was this little runners thing. I asked, "How many liters are you carrying?" and he said, "Oh, I only need 2, how many do you have?" "7." We both looked at each other like the other was a little crazy, but started off anyway.

We started out about 5:10, heading up Romero Canyon. Whizzed by Romero Pools (still water there!) and got to Romero Pass in 3 hours, and then took the Mt. Lemmon Trail to connect us over to Wilderness of Rocks. Ran into a few senior citizens doing the Arizona Trail, talked to them a bit and cheered them on. They asked what we were doing and we said we were going from Catalina State Park to the top and back and one of them said, "Well, you'll actually want to stay on Mt. Lemmon Trail then, that's shorter" ;) Riiiight...

Took Wilderness of Rocks to Mint Spring, having a mini creation/evolution debate the whole time. 8-[ Mint Spring is still in pretty bad shape since the fire, so actually the Marshall Gulch trail into Summerhaven is nicer if you opt to do this (it only adds on about 1/3 mile).

Stopped in Summerhaven for an hour for a pizza (carbs!) for lunch, then at 1:10 headed up to Ski Valley. From there we took the Aspen Draw Trail up toward the Mt. Lemmon Trail. The Aspen Draw Trail is a challenging one to find, it's not marked off the highway at all, and even with my GPS track off HAZ I was having trouble locating it. I got a cell phone signal there though, so I brought the HAZ website up and looked for the directions to help me find it, so I was able to locate it. :lol: When we came off the Aspen Draw Trail, we took a dirt road to the right, which connected again with the road up to the observatory. We took a left on that paved road to the power substation where the Mt. Lemmon Trail starts, and after a quick break there got ready to finally start our downhill for the day at 2:35.

Took the Mt. Lemmon Trail down to the Sutherland, stopping off at the Mt. Lemmon Lookout for a bit on the way. The only real difficulty we had with trail-finding (other than figuring out where the Aspen Draw trail was!) was a one-mile section of the Sutherland Trail that is in really bad shape. It starts shortly below the junction of the Samaniego Ridge Trail and continues until you start the steep descent down, around 7400 feet. The trail is completely overgrown with baby pines, manzanita, and tons of deadfall, and the only way you can navigate it is to look for one small cairn or plastic ribbon after another, jumping boulders, bushes and small trees all the way. This little area slowed us down more than anything else all day, and is the only part I wouldn't recommend doing with headlamps. Once we got through all that, though, we were home free!

From there, Sutherland had a pretty sharp, steady descent all the way down to the base of the mountain. Along the way I was surprised to see water along the trail in two places, around the 5000 ft range. During this phase, my marathon running friend who had only had 3 liters all day took off running, while I just held my quick walking pace. Eventually, after a long day, he went back to walking, and my pace caught up with him. He was having to then try to keep up with my over 4 mph walking pace for the last few miles, but we made it back to Catalina State Park with just enough light at 7:45 to not need a headlamp, so we did the whole thing in daylight! :y:

Up until this hike, the most difficult ones I had done in a day were (1) the AZT #9-10 from Loma Alta TH to Reddington Road, and (2) the AZT #19 from Rogers Trough TH to Roosevelt Lake in the Supes. Those, according to the way I calculate distance and elevation to figure out difficulty, were even a little harder than the Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon. This one today outdid them all. :sweat: :zzz:

What's next?! :sk:
Mint Spring Trail #20
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I hiked from the Mint Springs trailhead down to Lemmon Pools and back. I think I broke my dog :( The pads are rubbed off his front paws and he can't walk... Anyone out there have any advice to help him heal??

Permit $$
Visit this link for full details.

There are four specific day use areas that require a Coronado Recreational Pass or a National Pass/America the Beautiful Pass.
1) Sabino Canyon - located on the Santa Catalina Ranger District (520)749-8700
2) Madera Canyon - located on the Nogales Ranger District (520)281-2296
3) Cave Creek - located on the Douglas Ranger District (520)364-3468
4) Mt. Lemmon at 11 day use sites.

Catalina State Park $6 per day. Sabino Canyon Tram is $10 extra.

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Tucson, at the intersection of Tanque Verde and Catalina Highway, go North on the Catalina Highway just over 30 miles. You will pass the small community of Summerhaven. The road ends at Marshall Gulch picnic area. You really can't miss it, it's all the way to the end. The parking is limited so come early!

Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue 26 miles through Summerhaven to the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area. All roads are paved, but chains or 4-wheel drive may be required in winter because of snow. The trailhead is at the end of the road. You'll have to walk the last couple of hundred yards in winter when the road into the picnic area is gated closed.
$17 3L Hydration Bladder
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