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Table Mountain - Catalinas, AZ

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Guide 26 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson NW
4.3 of 5 by 17
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,900 feet
Elevation Gain 3,400 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 25
Interest Peak
Backpack TBD
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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5  2018-12-24 ohiobike
19  2017-11-27
Table Mountain Catalina Mts
9  2015-10-16 Canyon Wren
19  2014-12-19 BobP
31  2014-11-23 Jim_H
6  2014-05-10 BiFrost
13  2013-12-30 PrestonSands
15  2013-12-18 rvcarter
Page 1,  2
Author brianb
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 0
Photos 164
Trips 3 map ( 0 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Sep, - -, - - → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:09am - 6:27pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
by brianb

Likely In-Season!
Caution - No trail exists along much of this route - rough bushwhacking required!

Table mountain is the third peak from the West when looking at the Catalina range from the South (i.e. from most of Tucson). It's rather distinct from the other peaks in the range in that it has a prominent, 'flat', rocky sloping surface at the top - which is unusually grassy and speckled with trees and shrubs. From the South, the top of the mountain looks flat and rocky, and slopes upward to its summit. The other three sides of the peak are sheer cliffs dropping hundreds of feet straight down. I'd always been curious about this peak because it's so prominent and unusual (it sticks out from the range like a sore thumb) - and because there is no trail leading up there.

I should first of all warn you that although the peak is accessible, the trip up is quite 'hairy', maybe even unpleasant, and potentially dangerous. This trip is not suitable for children. If you are curious about visiting this unusual peak, and don't mind quite a bit of some of the nastiest bushwhacking around, you might want to try it out. Although the journey is difficult, nasty and rather unorthodox, the view from the top is awesome and quite unique. And it's satisfying, in a kind of twisted way, to reach the summit of the most unusual and inaccessible peak in the Catalinas.

So, bear in mind that I'm not recommending this trip as a pleasant hike - I'm rather providing information about how to do it for those who might be curious and willing to do what it takes to get there. (Table Mountain might also be accessible from the North, but I'm not sure. Post a comment on this page if you know that it is).

Note - wear jeans and sturdy (preferably leather) footwear on this trip. You will be quite sorry if you don't.

Head out on the Pima Canyon Trail for approximately three miles. When you begin to catch glimpses of the cliffs on the East side of the mountain, you are getting close. When you pass the old Indian grinding holes on the trail, you are very close - within 1/4 mile. Watch carefully for these. You want to look for a steep canyon, coming down from the West side of the valley you've been traveling through, with a grassy slope at the very top - this grassy slope is contiguous with the grassy top of Table Mountain that you can see from Tucson below.

Here's where the 'fun' begins. You've got to climb up through that canyon to the top where you can see the grassy slope, and then you can continue the ascent to the top of Table mountain itself. Jump off the trail and bushwhack to the creek that comes out of the canyon at the point where it's closest to the trail. You want to enter the creek bed as soon as possible because you'll have to follow it up eventually, and you don't want to have to descend into it from above when it starts getting steep. The creek bed is pregnant with prickly pear cactus and boulders, but there's no other way to the top. If this part looks too unappetizing for you, you may want to bail out here. Although this is the most unpleasant part of the trip, it's not necessarily the most difficult.

Once up and out of the canyon and onto the grassy slope, continue straight ahead and uphill. It's pretty neat to leave the riparian canyon and enter this strange, out-of-place grassland in the Catalinas. But watch your step here - the grass is punctuated with lots of 'shindagger' plants - step into one and find out why they're so-called... At this point, you are at the base of the 'flat', sloping top of Table Mountain. If you continue straight ahead (West), you will emerge at a point at the top of the cliffs situated right between Table Mountain and the peak just to the South. The peak to the South is readily accessible from here. You can scramble up to the top of that peak if you have the time and the energy, or if you don't feel like going all the way to the top of Table Mountain. It's a pretty neat destination in itself.

The easiest way to the top of Table Mountain, however, is to travel along the East side of the mountain all the way to the top. The further West you go, the more you have to backtrack to avoid openings in the cliffs, and it's generally less open than the East side. If you went all the way West to the cliffs between the two peaks, you will want to backtrack to the East side to begin the ascent upward.

Ascend the slopes of Table Mountain as close to the East side as possible. You don't want to be all the way over to the East all the way up, but rather keep the Eastern edge in view and you should be able to negotiate a decent path to the top. At times, you will have to climb up some boulders and squeeze through some tight spots between trees and stands of manzanita. There's nothing approaching a trail up there, so you'll have to use your mountaineering skills. This part of the hike is longer and more difficult than it looks from below. And being constantly surrounded by trees, shrubs and large boulders, you'll rarely be able to see very far ahead. You might see some cairns when you get close to the top. Go ahead and follow them if you can, but don't worry if you lose them. There's really no 'good' way up there.

Eventually, the journey will begin to level out a bit when you get near the top. There are a couple of faint, short trails leading to the very top of the summit. And you'll see a large, cairned campfire under a big juniper tree at the summit itself. At the summit you're rewarded with absolutely breathtaking views of, IMO, the most spectacular part of the Catalinas - the Northwest side - from the only point which offers this incredible view. You might also enjoy looking hundreds of feet straight down the sheer cliffs that you're standing on top of. You can also follow along the top of the cliffs in either direction (East or West) for more great views. Look around the summit for trees blanketed with thousands of ladybugs - they were all over when I was there in June.

When you're ready to turn back, head back down the East side of the mountain. Don't get hung up on finding the exact same way down - that's nearly impossible. Just keep your eye on the top of the canyon that brought you up. If you see an old fuel tank on the way down, scratch your initials on it. When you've descended through the canyon back towards the bottom of the valley, just head straight towards the other side of the valley and you'll find the Pima Canyon Trail. Don't worry about finding your exact jumping-off point on the trail, either. If you keep heading East, you'll run right over it. Head back on the Pima Canyon Trail.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. Arrive fit and prepared or this could get ugly.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2001-07-10 brianb
  • Portion of Coronado Nat
    guide related
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 of 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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This was my third visit and surprised to find the proliferation of waist high grass. It was there on prior hikes but not to this extent. It does make for a handy hand hold but otherwise, does a great job of hiding all that it surrounds. Not too troublesome on the ascent but for the descent, our group of 3 fell 6-7 times when our foot caught the grass on a sloped boulder. Kind of dangerous and was grateful for the brief respite given traversing the boulder field about half way down the canyon. Note the canyon climb to the ridge is .80 miles having an average grade of 30% so steep. Fire pit and camp site in good shape at the rim and the views, magnificent. If you rely on cairns, I found very few. Never more than 2 in a row.
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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I did see bighorns, at least 1 individual who spooked when I was about 25 feet from them, and it then ran down hill, and a small group of 3, well 3 I could see. I saw the 3 and should have trusted my brain, because my initial reaction was, "that rock looks like a sheep, but it can't be". Well, rocks don't move. I have better vision than I think, I guess. The small group was on the opposite side of the descent gully and I got a few pics of them on maximum zoom. I had to leave, so I didn't get closer to them. Love or hate the project, the handy collars make them easy to determine as bighorn sheep!

Overall, this is a very hard hike due to the lack of a trail. The gully is the worst, but the grassy slopes are also a challenge. Glad I did it once, and I could be persuaded to do it again, but I don't know when. I suppose, with the sheep up there, after Jan 1 is not a time to do it.
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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Dragged my buddy Trevor up here. This was my 2nd bushwack in the area, first being the cleaver. The wash was tough to get up, as was the nice slant up to the summit. Scenery from the top was absolutely gorgeous. I can't say enough about this hike. Absolutely beautiful! It will challenge you though, and it is NOT a walk in the park. Both Trevor and I were filled with prickly pear stickers by the end of the day, him much worse than mine. I might return one day, but the trip up is not one I look forward too again!
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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Dave summed it up well in his triplog. It was a day well spent in the Pusch Ridge wilds, battling rough terrain and thorny things to reach a spectacular mountain summit that has intrigued me since I first laid eyes on it some years back. Bighorn Mountain was an added bonus, and an easy side hike while in the area. The Cleaver...looks like a severe beating. But it's gonna happen one of these days. I think an overnight trip to Table Mountain is going on my "to do" list as well. Getting caught in the catclaw thicket in Pima Canyon's creek bottom was almost comical...I think I lost a nipple. Great day and great company. Good call on doing this one. Thanks Dave! :)
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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Great way to end the year.

Preston and I wanted to get in a Pusch Wilderness off-trail hike before they locked 'er down for the first 4 months of the year to protect the bighorns. :oplz: Decided to take on Table and throw in Bighorn with it, since we had the day.

Started out of Pima TH around 8:15, a little nippy when we started at about 40 degrees but we warmed up quickly. Got to the trail turnoff a little before 9:30 and started off trail up the canyon to the Table-Bighorn saddle after a 15-minute breakfast and time for me to put on the gaiters. Made it to Table Mountain just before noon and spent about 45 minutes up there soaking up the views in the snow from the top. My, what a view that one is, hanging off the western face there and looking down at Oro Valley! Signed the register (by the fireplace) and took off.

Took just over an hour to make our way from Table to Bighorn ... if you have an extra hour and a half to Bighorn, do it. Really nice views there too, of Cleaver and Pusch. Arrived there at 1:45 and took another 45 minutes there enjoying it. Saw several mule deer running down on the mesa below Bighorn between Bighorn and Cleaver. We were actually able to see someone on the top of Pusch from there, just barely. Preston took out his camera with zoom lens to verify, too cool. Signed the register there, which is in a jar underneath some of the boulders at the peak (which is the tallest pile of rocks out of 2 or 3 piles that is Bighorn).

Left there and took us just an hour and 45 minutes to make our way to the trail (it should have taken just an hour and a half). After reading all the trip logs and seeing all the warnings about the shindiggers, I braced for FAR WORSE than it REALLY was. It wasn't bad at all. Wear a tough pair of boots (like leather boots) and some gaiters, follow the route up and down through the canyon that is the one people typically take (which is full of a lot more boulders and rocks than the others slopes), watch your step and it's a piece of cake, really. We came away pretty much unscathed. It was FAR worse when we got near the bottom of the off-trail section and we decided to not follow the track and just take what we "thought" was a more direct route down to the trail a little north of the dam. BAD IDEA. That's where we actually got our only injuries, as we both got stuck in some cat claw...10x worse than the shindiggers, trust me. Back to the TH around 5:15.

Thanks Preston for great company and joining me for a great day out!
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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Had a day to kill, so I decided to hunt for the fuel tank. I visited the table as a teenager, but don't recall seeing any such object. Didn't see it this time either, though I spent over an hour looking for it. I did this one cammando; hand drawn map and a few scribbled notes. Went quite well, but the tank has beaten me for now.
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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Pusch Ridge is a series of four peaks extending westward in the Catalinas: Pusch Peak, closest to town, The Cleaver, Bighorn Mountain, and the tallest, Table Mountain. From town, Table Mountain is a dark-green-dotted diamond shape, but from Oro Valley you can see that three sides of the Table are massive sheer cliff walls.

I have had a longtime fascination with Table Mountain ever since I came across pictures of the summit views. The thing that most piqued my interest, though, was a photo of the campsite on the summit. Underneath a stately Juniper tree was a beautiful stone fireplace made out of Catalina granite. That was it- there was no way that I was going to hike Table without staying at the campsite on top.

There is only a short weather window for this peak because it is off-limits from January 1- April 30th for bighorn sheep off-trail restrictions. Most of the time that it is open, the weather is too hot. Two years ago, I had attempted to backpack to the top for a lunar eclipse, but had a shoe failure and had to turn around. Last year, the weather didn't cooperate with my schedule. This year everything fell into place and the experience was even more amazing than I had anticipated.

All the trip reports I had read said to take the Pima Canyon Trail three miles to a steep, loose, brushy gully. The reports made it sound borderline dangerous and I was not looking forward to it. I remembered that Cowgill and Glendening's book mentioned that there was a ridge option that would probably have more shindaggers. Then I came across a report on NW that had pictures of the route. It looked way better to me, especially with a full pack.

The morning of December 17th, Wendy and I met at the Pima Canyon Trailhead, excited about the adventure ahead. Our packs were heavy with 7 liters of water and warm gear for our night at the 6265' summit. We hiked about two miles on the Pima Canyon Trail and saw the slabs of our ridge route to our left, across the brushy creek.

We followed the trail until it crossed the drainage. There was a distinct sharp smell of cat urine and a large sprayed area under an overhang. We decided that hit would be better to backtrack and try to cross the creek closer to the slabs. There was a spur trail and a small opening in the brush that allowed us to get into the creek. We took a break before beginning the ascent and I spotted a pair of antlers in the creek. When I went to investigate, I saw an entire deer that had been picked clean, probably by our feline friend.

The beginning of the route was on large slanted granite slabs and was quite fun to walk on. There wasn't a lot of vegetation and the views were great! The ascent was an off-trail choose your own adventure with the occasional cairn. Sadly, the slabs ran out and we picked our way through patches of prickly pear and ocotillo.

As we gained elevation, we lost most of the cacti and hiked into the sea of shindaggers. Wendy and I wove a path between them when possible, but sometimes there was no choice. The only way to deal with shindaggers is to step directly on the center. We reached a saddle and took a break for lunch with a fantastic view of our objective.

After lunch, we climbed steeply up and toward the Table, aiming above a rocky outcropping with scattered oak trees. The vegetation changed again with our first juniper and pinyon pines appearing near the base of the Table.

By this time, Wendy and I were getting pretty tired. We wished that we had a flat table ahead of us, instead there was another 1000 feet of elevation to go. We pressed on, but went a little far to the west and got into some boulders that made travel more difficult. The bonus was that we got to see the great views down the west gully right before the final ascent. Somewhere along the way we were in a brushy area and I looked down and found a black case with a camera in it.

Finally, we could see blue sky and the end of our climb. We went through some pinyon and junipers to a clearing with breathtaking views of the Catalinas and the sheer cliffs of Table Mountain dropping off below. We dropped our packs at the fireplace and toured the summit, dotted with patches of snow. Now came the payoff for lugging all our stuff up here- watching the sunset and sunrise from this incredible promontory and an enjoyable night by the fabled fireplace.

Summit view video:

There was a small glass jar summit register near the fireplace and I read through it before dinner. The first name I saw was the woman from NW who's triplog I'd read. The second entry I read was an entry from February that said "Lost camera in a black camera case" and gave a phone number! I was so excited that we were going to be able to reunite the camera with its owners. I lost a camera this summer and would give anything to have it back.

Wendy got our fire going and we had a decadent meal of cheese fondue with all sorts of items for dipping and chocolates for dessert. The fireplace was great- it had a chimney and everything which diverted the smoke upward. The fire warmed the rocks and it radiated heat all night long as we slept in front of it. We hit a perfect weather window and the temperature was quite reasonable for 6000' in December.

The night was a long one, and it stayed cold for a while after it finally got light out. I spent the amazing sunrise hanging my head over the cliff face and watching the light change. We ate breakfast in our sleeping bags and didn't want to leave.

Eventually, we tore ourselves away and started hiking downhill, packs much lighter after a day's water and food were consumed. We followed what looked like the standard route down the face which was much easier than our ascent route. But if we'd taken this ascent route we wouldn't have found the camera.

It was a beautiful, cool day and we shindagger-stomped our way down the ridge, taking short breaks and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. It felt like we were flying compared to yesterday's ponderous ascent. The golden cottonwoods in the canyon got closer and closer and then we were back to our slabs down to the creekbed.

Our deer departed friend had been moved in the night and looked more macabre than ever. We found our way out of the creek and intersected the Pima Canyon Trail. Clouds started rolling in and the wind picked up. The last two miles back to the car on the trail felt like they would never end. It felt great to look up at Table Mountain knowing we'd finally spent the night at the fireplace.

We had been talking for the last two days about what flavors of gelato we were going to get at Frost after our hike. The weather changed so quickly that by the time we got our gelato, we had to eat it in Wendy's car with the heat on!

That night, I called the owners of the camera and they were so excited that we had found it! They had gone back up the next week to try and locate it to no avail. It had become a running joke between their friends that someone was going to finally find the camera that was lost on Table Mountain. I dropped it off the next day on their porch and they sent a lovely card thanking us for returning their long-lost camera along with some pictures from the day they lost it.

What an amazing, life-affirming couple of days on the mountain. One of my all-time favorite campsites and Wendy is always a blast to hike with. So glad I finally got to spend a night on Table Mountain and it certainly won't be my last.
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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Hiked to and just past the dam - nice hike as usual, very dry around the dam. A bit after the dam headed up the 'Table Mountain Gully'. At the top of the gully we hiked to the top of Point 5462 (pretty easy hike - just more grass/shindaggers for the most part) - a nice little high point between Table Mountain and Bighorn Mountain and then headed over to Bighorn Mountain. This was my first time going to Bighorn and I enjoyed it - great views! We had originally hoped to go to the top of the Cleaver, but ran out of light as we neared the bottom of it so we headed back to the Pima Canyon Trail. I had hiked down from the Cleaver once before, but in the dark/by headlamp it was pretty hard to feel like were choosing the best way and we were definitely laughing about the often ridiculous overgrown areas! Fun day, really glad we went to Bighorn! Pictures: ... 911117241/ Hike:
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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Hot day! There was only a very small amount of water behind the Pima dam. Took the gully both up and down and found the Hernbrode tank for the first time! Pictures: - and some fun pictures from last December when it snowed
Table Mountain - Catalinas
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I hit the trail early and was shivering as I worked my way up canyon. I was a little concerned I would have difficulty locating the right drainage and did not want to take the wrong one and cliff out. Fortunately the hike description describes the location perfectly and I was soon working my way up the drainage as the sun began to bathe the canyon walls in early morning light.

As I made my way up the drainage I couldn't help but wonder how the drainage was not supposed to be the most difficult part of the hike. It was steep, rocky, and filled with some very aggressive plants. I even had a very close encounter with a skunk that forced me to take an escape route through a large patch of prickly pear!

I had assumed after leaving the drainage that the trek to the summit would be easy: this is not the case! Working along the grassy slope and through the boulder strewn juniper fields was more difficult than I imagined. However the views from the top are AMAZING! Standing on the edge of Table Mountain and taking in the views of the many cliffs and rock filled canyons below after such a strenuous hike is a fantastic feeling.

After a well deserved rest I left the summit and began to make my way back downhill. Tired as I was, I knew Bighorn Mountain was close enough that I would regret not hiking it. So instead of heading back down the drainage, I worked my way west along the ridgeline.

The hike to Bighorn Mountain is not difficult, especially when compared to Table Mountain. The shindaggers are nowhere near as dense and the slope is relatively gentle. It is also much easier to see your final destination without having to work your way through juniper and does not take long to reach the summit. The summit has a small register and provides some decent views of The Cleaver, Table Mountain, and Oro Valley.

I decided not to backtrack to the drainage and instead worked my way south from Bighorn Mountain along the ridgeline and dropped into the canyon below. In retrospect this was a bad decision and the hike down was much tougher than I expected! I had to down climb several dry falls, squeeze between/under/around boulders, and once I reached the bottom I was forced to fight through the same brush that tried to stop me from summiting The Cleaver on Monday.

Exhausted, bruised, and bloody I eventually intersected the Pima Canyon Trail again and hiked out to the parking lot. It's a challenging hike, but the views are amazing!

Permit $$

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 Iris O. Dewhirst Trailhead
Drive north from Tucson on the Oracle Road (US 89). Turn east on Magee Road and drive to the parking area and trailhead at road's end.


From Tucson, drive north on Campbell Avenue until you reach Skyline Drive. Turn left on Skyline, which will eventually become Ina Road. Continue on Ina Road until you reach Christie Drive. Follow Christie Drive north until it dead-ends at Magee Road. Turn right on Magee and follow it until you arrive at the Iris O. Dewhirst Trailhead on your right.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 110 mi - about 1 hour 44 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 9.6 mi - about 19 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 253 mi - about 3 hours 50 mins
128 GB Flash Drive... $14
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