AKA Tortolita Superloop
2013 Route Modification Access is now from the Ritz.
I've been waiting for years to go hiking in the Tortolita Mountains, just north of Tucson in Oro Valley. It's a range of low 4000 foot peaks, not totally unlike the Tucson Mountains. But it's different...much larger and deeper is this range and far less well known. There are some nice, new trails in here, mostly focused along the Wild Burro Canyon on the west end the range. They are worth checking out.
The Wild Burro Trail is the gateway into the mountains, you must take this for about 1.25 miles to the trailheads for most of the other trails that exist in here. So no matter your destination, your origin will begin the Wild Burro.
Take the Wild Burro Trail out of the gravel parking lot. It immediately drops down into the wide, sandy wash. This will take you into the mouth of the canyon. The trail itself snakes along the wash, crossing over and coming back. You can take the trail or just go straight up the wash, it doesn't really matter. The wash passes through a new high-end golf course and resort being built..we'll see how they preserve or reroute this passage in the near future. As you get closer to the mouth of the canyon, the vegetation perks up and the canyon walls slowly close in. After about 1.25-1.3 miles you reach a number of signed trailheads and the fun begins.
Hang a left at the signs for the Upper Javalina and Lower Javalina trails, with the Upper Javalina being the goal for now. Soon the Lower Javalina breaks off to the right, stay left on the Upper Javalina as it climbs up and swings out west. This trail crosses over a steep descending gulley, then switchbacks up the other sidewall to gain access up the north wall of Wild Burro Canyon. This trail is very pretty with a great assortment of cacti and flora, particulary when there has been ample rainfall.
After about 1 mile or so on the Upper Javalina, there is an intersection with the Wild Mustang Trail, which breaks off to the right. This is the major route out to Alamo Springs. This winding trail dances along ridgelines and the upper bank of the north wall of Wild Burro Canyon for a total of roughly 4 miles. The views along this trail are at times phenomenal out over Tucson and up at the northern peaks of the Tortolitas. There are also sweeping views out over the southern wall of Wild Burro Canyon. The Wild Mustang crosses over some sidewashes but is always easy to follow in such circumstances. The one point of note is near the beginning of the Wild Mustang leg, there is one unsigned trail intersection. Take the right leg which clearly climbs, not the left which clearly descends. Otherwise everything is clearly marked and easy to follow. Near the end of the Wild Mustang you pass through and old rickety gate and clearly start to descend to the wash bottom. The trail dead-ends at another gate just beyond which lies Alamo Spring. This is an old settlement with the remnants of and old corral and building foundation strewn about. The Spring lies at the head of a spot where the canyon briefly narrows down and is quite pretty. Lot of greenery around the spring too.
Across the floor of the wash lies the signs for the return routes. Take a left onto the Alamo Spring trail. This climbs back up the south face of the Canyon and takes you back. This also offers great views way out into the Tortolita interior. Very nice out there. The Alamo spring trail winds it's way back along the ridgeling with multiple areas of up and down. There is one intersection near the beginning where the Alamo Spring continues to climb up and left, and a trail marked only Spur breaks right and down. Otherwise there is no issue. There are very nice saguaro and rock formations along this route. After about 3.75 miles the Alamo Spring trail starts to rapidly descend back to the Wild Burro Wash/Canyon floor to place you back after about 4 miles total along it's way. There is a sign for a right onto the Lower Javalina trail near the bottom. Ignore this and continue onto the wash bottom. Follow the Wild Burro back to your car to complete this excellent, roughly 11.75 mile loop.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
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.