Crest Trail #144 - Santa Rita Mtns, AZ | HikeArizona
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Crest Trail #144 - Santa Rita Mtns, AZ

Guide 100 Triplogs  2 Topics
  4.1 of 5 
706 100 2
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,810 feet
Elevation Gain 1,634 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,129 feet
Avg Time One Way 2+ hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.09
 Backpack Yes
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author avatar Guides 93
Routes 396
Photos 4,188
Trips 3,501 map ( 22,769 miles )
Age 47 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
co-author avatarGuides 28
Routes 20
Photos 672
Trips 169 map (1,088 Miles)
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Old Pueblo
Associated Areas
list map done
Tucson Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:50am - 6:22pm
Official Route
28 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 2005 Florida Fire23.2k

Nothing witty just ROCKS!
by fricknaley & Jeffshadows

The Santa Rita Crest Trail runs north and south along the famous Santa Rita Ridgeline. From Florida Saddle on the north end to Baldy Saddle on the south end, it offers 2.4 of the sweetest miles you will find in southern Arizona. The northern end sits at Florida Saddle at 7810 feet, guarded to the north by Florida Peak and the mighty McCleary Peak (8357), the northernmost peak of the ridgeline. The southern terminus lies at the ever-famous Baldy Saddle, weighing in at 8780 feet and guarded fiercely by old Wrightson itself (9453). You can reach Florida Saddle from Cave Canyon, Sawmill Canyon, or Florida Canyon. Cave is an excellent choice. Of course, Baldy Saddle can be reached from the Old Baldy trail or the Super Trail. Bear in mind just reaching the Santa Rita Crest trail requires a serious effort, which makes it that much sweeter.

This will be described from the northern Florida Saddle end. There is a typical old Santa Rita rusted metal sign marking your arrival at Florida Saddle. The sign says the Crest Trail runs south, and initially, it climbs up some switchbacks. It's surprising how overgrown this trail is in places, and the beginning is one of those places. There are plants up to your waist as it climbs up away from the saddle. There are areas of burn, and the plants are making a fierce comeback. The trail will climb about 235 feet in the first 0.25 miles or so, at which point you will come to a marked sign for the Armour Spring trail, which breaks off to your right. Stay straight on the Crest Trail.

Over the next 0.65 miles or so, the trail will climb about 500 feet as it skirts east of the first significant peaks of the Santa Rita crest. In so doing, it offers up some vast views east over the eastern foothills of the Ritas, including out over Cave Canyon. You can see out to the Rincons, Whetstones, and Huachucas as well. In the summer, especially late summer, the flower show will mesmerize. After a total of about 0.9 miles from Florida Saddle, you will stumble onto a nameless saddle opened up by a fire, nestled between Peak 8853 to the north and a nameless 9000-foot peak south. This magical meadow sits a little over 8500 feet and is worth whatever sweat you worked up coming up whatever canyon it was that brought you here. Green grass sprinkled purple with wildflowers looking out forever east and west...

Take a good long look at Elephant Head down the western side of the saddle and search for a helpful cairn to help guide you away from the saddle with no name. The Crest Trail continues left of the main ridgeline, staying on the east side. The next 0.6 miles is relatively smooth as the trail continues on the east bank of the Crest, offering great views and sweet flowers. Nice rock formations dot the landscape. The trail is usually a little overgrown, which makes it even more precious. At about 1.5 miles from the Florida Saddle, the trail will bank hard right. To your left is a little ridge leading out to a nice little, nameless peak just slightly above you. You'll climb a quick 300 hundred plus feet to get just below the ridgeline again, then climb a little more to top out over 9000 feet briefly before beginning the unfortunate descent to Baldy Saddle. When you top out at the divide before descending, you will be at roughly 9086 feet, and you can see Wrightson... and it sees you. The rest of the way, Old Baldy, keeps a watchful eye on your progress down to the end of the Crest Trail at Baldy Saddle. Be sure to skirt up the little peak just north of Baldy Saddle before you stop. It offers SENSATIONAL views of Wrightson, Madera Canyon, the Old Baldy trail, and Mt. Hopkins. A very excellent place for lunch.

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2008-08-05 fricknaley & Jeffshadows

    Coronado FS Details
    The Crest Trail stretches between Florida Saddle at the head of Florida Canyon and the 9,453-foot summit of Mt. Wrightson, the highest peak in the Santa Ritas and one of the highest in southeastern Arizona. Views are immense from this skywalking trail along the high, rocky backbone of the Santa Rita Range. From the high-flying perspective offered by numerous overlooks along this trail, the landmarks that stretch out at your feet include Baboquivari Peak, the sacred mountain of the Tohono O'Odham to the west, the Santa Catalina and Rincon ranges to the north, and the Huachucas, Mustangs and Whetstones to the east. To the south you can see well into Mexico. In spite of those majestic views, the Crest Trail is rather infrequently used for most of its length. The exception to this is the last mile or so in the vicinity of Baldy Saddle and the summit of Mt. Wrightson. South of the saddle, the Crest Trail connects the Old Baldy Trail #372 and the Super Trail #134 to the summit of Mt. Wrightson, referred to as Old Baldy by some. North of Baldy Saddle, the Crest Trail wanders along slightly below and to the east of the actual crest while a number of spur trails branch off to the west to take advantage of overlooks and scale the secondary peaks that make up the crest ridge. One spur trail that veers off near the top of Florida Saddle is the Armour Spring Trail. This short, lightly traveled path leads through a stand of large Douglas-fir to a seep at the base of a cliff. This spot marks a jumping-off point for a bushwhack route to the top of McCleary Peak, the 8,367-foot summit that marks the northern limit of the Santa Rita Crest.

    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.

     Permit $$
    Visit overview & permits.
    2022 - FAQ
    $8 per vehicle per day
    $10 per vehicle per week
    $40 per vehicle per year (valid for one year from date of purchase)

    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.

    2022 Catalina State Park
    Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
    Individual/bicycle: $3.00

    2022 Sabino Canyon Tram is $15 extra. [ website ]

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

    Connector trail - Not Applicable

    To hike
    This is a connector trail running the length of the Santa Rita Ridgeline. Therefore the two trailheads are located at Florida Saddle to the north and Baldy Saddle to the South. There are various trails leading to each trailhead. Read above to find out more.
    page created by fricknaley on Aug 04 2008 10:01 pm

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