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Romero Canyon Trail #8, AZ

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Guide 208 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson NW
3.7 of 5 by 32
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 6.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,730 feet
Elevation Gain 3,280 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,700 feet
Avg Time One Way 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.93
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2019-04-20 te_wa
24  2018-04-27 bretinthewild
7  2016-09-09 HandsomeRob
3  2016-04-08 HandsomeRob
7  2016-02-28
Sutherland - Romero Loop
1  2016-01-08 HandsomeRob
28  2015-12-30
Sutherland Ridge - Peak 5430
19  2015-10-08
Marshall Gulch to Romero Canyon
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5 ... 7
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,746 map ( 18,187 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar, Sep, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:21pm
Official Route
16 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Pass on the Pools...Go to the Pass
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
Romero Canyon offers one of Tucson's most popular hikes...Romero Pools. But there is so much more to this canyon. It takes you all the way to Romero Pass where you can overlook much of Pusch Ridge. It's also a fun and tough climb.

The hike to Romero Pools is well documented and well known to almost every hiker in Tucson. There is a full write-up elsewhere on this site, so a brief overview of this part is all that's necessary. The trail immediately crosses the wide, usually sandy Sutherland Wash. On the other side hang a left at the junction for the birding trail and climb up the short steep bank. The trail is wide and a little sandy for the first 0.6 miles, offering wonderful views of Pusch Ridge to your right (including the vertical north fave of Table Mountain, Bighorn and Pusch Peak). The elevation gain through the desert here is quite mild. At 0.6 miles you'll see a signed trail breaking left for the Canyon Loop trail. Go right to the pools. For the next 0.5 miles the gain remains nearly the same as you come to the signed break off to the right for the Montrose Pools overlook. You're now entering Montrose Canyon. The trail begins to climb much more ernestly along the north wall of Montrose Canyon on it's way to the divide between Romero and Montrose Canyons and the rocky wonderland it houses. Be sure to look down to your left here to spot a sometimes huge waterfall down in the depths of Romero Canyon far below. After crossing the divide at about 2.6 miles, the trail descends down towards Romero Pools. This is one of Tucson's most famous waterparks. There is almost always water here and you can explore up and down the canyon to find a pool that suits you, and maybe escape the crowds. Roughly 2.8 miles of hiking from the trailhead puts you at the pools.

The trail continues beyond by simply crossing the streamcourse right where you hit the pools. There is usually a cairn marking the spot where the trail climbs steeply out of the stream. It briefly passes through a flat open segment with heavy regrowth from the recent fires. The stream trickles along your right. Beware of the many side trails here breaking off to the stream or just sort of going nowhere. In about 1/4 mile from the pools the trail really does cross over the streamcourse to the south side of the canyon. Cairns may help you here. Be sure to look a couple yards up the canyon here for a nice little enclaved fall before crossing over. Once on the right/south side of the canyon you'll hike only a few minutes before crossing over again to the north side of the canyon. Once you cross here again, the trail will now start to switchback and climb away and up the north wall of the canyon, which narrows down and falls away quickly to your left. You can start to see more up into the highcountry now, occasionally you may even spy Romero Pass, your destination. You can also see Cathedral Rock way above you. As you head deeper into the canyon you'll cross over a small draw and then soon thereafter descend briefly back to the canyon bottom in a shaded area. This is an excellent, shaded area known as Old Trail camp. The streamcourse is right behind the campsite. If there's water going in the canyon it may be available here. Not guaranteed though. This sweet spot is about 4.9 miles from the trailhead and sits about 4710 feet.

After leaving the Old Trail camp, the trail will become much less traveled and at times pretty faint. As it climbs up the depths of Romero Canyon you will be shaded most of the way. There are multiple canyon crossings as you go, currently facilitated by a large cairn network that can be quite handy. This is the route you'll follow for a little over a mile. Just a little over 6 miles from the trailhead the route will break south out of the main canyon and start to climb a side drainage. The route crosses over this drainage a couple of times, and occasionally it even just climbs straight up the narrow drainage to redeposit you on the trail. The trees clear out enough to see Romero Pass looming above you, always getting closer. Near the top the trail breaks out of the drainage altogether and steeply switchbacks up to Romero Pass. The footing can be a little sketchy on this last push, which is made tougher by being quite steep too. At Romero Pass you'll likely catch a nice breeze. The trail makes a hard left and climbs a few yards up to the signed junction with Mt. Lemmon trail to the summit on your left and West Fork Trail down into Sabino Basin. The Pass is exposed after the fires. The views down Romero Canyon and Sabino Basin rock. There are varying theories as to the length of the Romero Canyon trail. Coronado National Forest lists it at 6.6 miles, the State Park says 7.2. My GPS said about 6.75. Either way the pass sits just over 6000 feet and offers commanding views worth the effort.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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

2008-05-12 fricknaley

Coronado FS Details
A desert canyon stream and great views of Pusch Ridge and the Santa Catalinas await you along this popular trail. The hike starts in Catalina State Park and uses scenic Romero Canyon as an access route into the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. Even along its early stretches, this trail offers good views of the Santa Catalina Mountains and of Cathedral Rock towering over the pinnacles of Pusch Ridge.

The climb toward Romero Pass includes several sections of steep switchbacks, some of which are rocky and rutted. Along initial stretches of the trail, heavy use has made the route hard to pick out from a maze of opportunistic pathways that branch off to random destinations. As you make your way toward the pass, however, broad vistas continue to increase in drama and occasional sightings of desert bighorn sheep add an extra element of excitement to an already rewarding hike. At Romero Pass you have a number of trails to choose from. Connecting trails provide routes to the summit of Mt. Lemmon, to the Wilderness of Rock area, and to the scenic Sabino Basin and Sabino Canyon area to the south and east. Cathedral Rock Trail #26, a rugged and difficult route, provides access from Romero Pass to all the Front Range trails.

Attractions: Great views, waterfalls and wildflowers (after snow melt or good winter rains), access to Sabino Canyon, watchable wildlife and trails to Mt. Lemmon & Pusch Ridge!

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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 35 deeper Triplog Reviews
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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Headed down south with a few of friends for a nice day hike from Catalina State Park. We left fairly early and were on trail around 8am. Our group of four headed in and made quick work of the lower section. Our pace slowed after we entered the wilderness and the grade steepens. We continued on and took a break by the Romero Pools. There was a fair amount of water flowing after the winter storm a few days before. This is a great area for relaxation and swim possibilities in warmer weather.

After our break, we continued in. Our plan was to enjoy the canyon and find a waterfall farther up trail. Along the way we passed a solid eight foot tiered waterfall. It was really nice especially with the snow capped peaks in the background. We kept at it a couple more miles and encountered snow at higher elevation. It wasn't much of an issue. We eventually reached the area with the waterfall & split up. One of the guys found the waterfall while another person tweaked an ankle. We ultimately slowly hiked out and were back to the car around 4pm. The waterfall was just okay per the guy who found it.

Romero Canyon is really nice hike especially after a winter storm. All of the peaks had snow and this made for dramatic pics. It was really nice hiking and we avoided the crowds with the early start. Nice day on the trails.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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Set out to do some testing, training and assessment.

* Altra, Lone Peak 3.0 w/sof-soles. Nice on the feet, great grip, extremely stable, but wearing fast in the tread (I give them less than 100 miles). Great for long hauls, but not every day trails.
* Fenix 3. 12 hours of Nav while Tracking took me down to 10% battery. Stats were unbelievably on the dot.
* Packing. Camel ultra-10 weighing 10lbs, front-belt pack at 5lbs. Used 60 oz before Quartzite Spring, drank ~20 while there and loaded up with 80. Drank another 60 the rest of the trip. Could have easily gone with half the weight, but wanted to keep it a bit heavy today.

As for training, this was time well spent. A 295 FPM average, sustained for 12 hours is a productive day.

On to the assessment. According to the spreadsheet, this came in at 74% of my ability. As of 20 hours later, I feel more like it was 100% of my ability. I'm not impressed with the results. Gotta beef it up.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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I reluctantly took another newbie out today, and was actually impressed with her ability to keep up. It seems that when I do these charity type hikes, I average around 1 mph if I'm lucky. This one came in at 2.5 mph (Alone, I would probably come in around 2.8 or 2.9). Unfortunately, I was so focused on the pace that Letica wore down more quickly. The ultimate goal would have been Romero Pass, but we turned it around at Old Trail Camp. It was a great time anyway.

Thanks Letica!!! Hope you get your account set up ok. Let me know when you do...

Just a note; Beyond the lower pools area, Romero is in pretty rough shape, mostly due to lack of use and overgrowth. I know the trail well, yet had to look for it several times today. A first timer would have great difficulty finding the way up the second half of the canyon right now. Use a GPS if you can.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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Nice, cool, overcast day for this one. I was pleasantly surprised by the first 8 miles or so of the Sutherland Trail. It was easy to follow, pretty clear of brush, and steep but not obscenely steep. Great views of Pusch ridge. After we passed a nice campsite 8 or 9 miles up, the trail got a lot harder to follow as it climbed along Sutherland Ridge. With 3 people it was no big deal, but it was more route-finding than I'd feel like doing alone. I had my GPS with a track from HAZ, but we didn't really need it.

It was chilly at the top of the trail, but the sun came out for most of the way down. The hike down to Romero Pass made me really want to do Cathedral Rock (whenever I get a new set of legs). The Lemmon trail must be pretty brutal to ascend. Lots of overgrowth and fallen trees in upper Romero canyon, but a great place to spend an afternoon/evening.

Water is available at the upper campsites and pools in Romero Canyon; the Sutherland Trail was dry.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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I'm going to be honest: this was one of the roughest trails I've ever done. We picked up Romero #8 from Mt. Lemmon #5 en route down the mountain and for the first 150 feet I was like, "Wow! What great maintenance!" Reader: I ate those words. What started as a nicely-maintained, pebbly trail turned into a nightmare of fallen frees, shin-daggers, and steep rocky trail. We got to the first campsite down from Romero Pass - and this is a primo campsite, by the by - and I realized we had a good 5+ miles left and was pretty done by then.

Continued on the South side of the canyon with little issue to Romero Pools, which were lovely in the setting light and full of bighorn sheep bleating and then the cairns which had served us so well just... disappeared. We had no idea that the #8 trail climbed back up and then down again, the sun had set, and so one sprained ankle (not me) and a panic attack (me) later, we were on the highest part of Romero #8 leaving the pools waiting for Search and Rescue to come escort us out because we had no idea we were actually still on the trail. It's pretty heartening to hear, "Man, this *is* a rough trail, isn't it?" though from the S&R people.

Goes to show - you can be well prepared and still run into crap.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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All day grinder to the summit and back. Up RC#8 and ML#5 then a counter-clockwise loop around WOR#44, LR#12, summit and Meadow#5A, then back down ML#5 and RC#8. Especially enjoyed all the gorgeous granite formations in WOR.

Other than some downed trees, trails are in good condition. Moderate water flow in Romero Canyon, good pools and light creek flow at several places along WOR#44.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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Unsure if I'd tackled Sutherland. Hoping for something with more meat on the bone as I've been packing on the pounds. Nevertheless it sounded fun. Up Romero-Lemmon is a great ascent with a little burn depending when you hit the gas. Memory had me thinking of the ascent right after Romero Pass and the final switchbacks at the top. Neither seemed a big deal today. Rather the entire upper half felt sloggy do to a river of sweat.

MSimmons posted last week "patchy snow, knee-deep at moments". As most know I have no heart so when my feet or hands get cold it's nearly impossible to warm up. Good news! We encountered just one three and a half foot post hole. A few short stretches of foot deep snow was no biggie with foot steps in place.

What caught me off guard was the sweat factor. After a short winter of carrying way too much water each week I just downsized from 4 to 3 quarts.

Heading down Sutherland we came to the powerlines. At which point I mentioned to jj, yep I've done this trail. After that trail quality dwindled. I remember reading how this trail got maintenance a couple years ago. I'd imagine most would have considered it a nightmare prior. Glad we hit this CCW as I prefer descending through brush so my body weight is an advantage.

We had the advantage of using Matt's posted route. This made it a breeze to adjust to the route when we got off course. By the time we got down to where the old road comes into play I mentioned to jj "I've definitely never done this trail". There is NO way you could forget The views are outstanding with towering ridges and a very Arizona feel. The trail is crap ( rocky and rutted ) from the road down to the gate. Very difficult to relax and surf the internet!

I ran out of water with five miles to go. No biggie as the heat of the day crested, we didn't have any ascending and a couple creek crossings allowed for some nice cooling.

Finishing up I was glad we didn't have another ten hours to go. I was pretty darn tired, even another hour sounded painful.

Passed a steady stream of hikers up to Romero Pools. Two gals and boy scout group on route up to the pass. Two younger guys near WOR junction. Not a soul until down Sutherland past the gate.

The bottom 3 miles of Sutherland has a weak display. Owl Clover, lupine, poppies and a couple other cute pedals.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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I wanted to do the Sabino/Esperero loop, but with this We went up Romero Canyon instead and ended up turning around at the big campsite (distance is from the description and AEG is an educated guess). I was hoping to have made the pass, but it was getting late and the weather was awfully gloomy, so better to save it for another day. It was snowing from ~3,800 up.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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I got a surprise day to hike, but needed some time to do personal biz too, so I ran off half cocked, weighing options as I went. I knew I would be doing something out of Catalina State Park, and that I had 7 hours tops. I thought Baby Jesus! Long story, but that fell apart due to lack of research. Next, Romero Pass, and I set off in that direction. When I was about two-thirds of the way to the pools, I glanced southwest to see a heavenly light showing on Buster Mountain. By the time I made the pools, the divorce with Romero was finalized. I took 10 minutes to breathe then took off like a rocket. It took an hour and three minutes to get to the pools. It took forty-four minutes to get back. The pools are flowing strong.
Romero Canyon Trail #8
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An evening hike up to our usual skunk-spot overlook. We passed a woman who had glochid spines in her tongue after eating a prickly pear fruit (oh, the humanity!), saw Cactus Longhorn Beetles mating, dark clouds a-whirlin', and Sutherland Wash a-flowin'. A javelina in the bushes had me fooled into thinking it was a Catalina Kitty. I prefer Wilbur The Wildcat to that.

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)

Catalina State Park State Park

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Catalina State Park Trailhead
From Phoenix take 1-10 south to the 241 exit (Tangerine). Follow east to AZ 77 (Oracle Road). Turn right (South) on AZ77 and signs for Catalina State Park lead the way.

From anywhere in Tucson, connect to Oracle Rd (Highway 77) and head north past Pusch Ridge. After you have gone about 15-20 miles you will see the sign for Catalina State Park on the right. There is an entrance fee to get into the park. To get to the trails, just drive in and follow the signs to a large parking area marked "trailhead".

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 107 mi - about 1 hour 44 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 14.0 mi - about 23 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 251 mi - about 3 hours 50 mins
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