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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, which is 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 everfamous 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 a nice 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 just 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 major peaks of the Santa Rita crest. In so doing it offers up some huge 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 useful 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 fairly 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 just makes it even sweeter. 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 at roughly 9086 feet and you can see Wrightson....it and sees you. The rest of theway 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.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
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