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Agua Caliente Trail #140, AZ

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Guide 27 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson S
4 of 5 by 7
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,928 feet
Elevation Gain 2,491 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,710 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.55
Interest Seasonal Creek
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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7  2019-07-25
Old Baldy - Super Trail Loop
11  2018-04-24
Carrie Nation-Super Trail Loop
20  2018-03-10
Mount Wrightson Hopkins Loop
20  2017-01-11
Agua Caliente Trail Bear Paw Rock
12  2015-11-03
Jack Mountain Loop
18  2015-06-10
Old Baldy-Carrie Nation Loop
23  2014-10-10
Jack Mountain Loop
19  2014-08-01
Vault Mine to Josephine Saddle Loop
Page 1,  2
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,745 map ( 18,154 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, Mar, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:11am - 6:22pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
hot! hot! hot!
by fricknaley

An alternate approach to the forested inner bowl of Madera Canyon via a less-often visited western canyon, passing through a dense scrub forest then into the Madera pine country in route to Agua Caliente Saddle. From here an easy jaunt along the flanks of Mt. Hopkins and Jack Mountain to Josephine Saddle. This hike offers plenty of shade, and in the summer there are tons of flowers.

From the signed trailhead this trail heads off east into scrub country and basically follows the north flank of Agua Caliente Canyon most of the way. Right away you can see the differences of this side of the range - the peaks are more rocky and severe. Periodic breaks through the trees afford wonderful views northeast towards Mt. Hopkins and the huge MMT telescope. There are really no route finding issues on this trail, it can be a little overgrown but that's about it. The trail up to Agua Caliente Saddle is bascially a nonstop climb of varying severity. It's about 2.3 miles to the saddle. The first half generally stays north of the canyon bottom. There are a couple of canyon crossings thereafter, mostly over northern drainages feeding into Agua Caliente. These are easy to navigate and generally forested, so that it really just seems like you are crossing back and forth over the main canyon. The climbing is much more severe once this starts. A little over half way you may notice a couple of mine shafts beneath you to the right. There are three and they are uncovered so please be careful. One of them is labeled Treasure Vault Mine on the maps. Soon thereafter you make a nondescript grassy canyon crossing (truly over Agua Caliente this time) then the last 1/3-1/2 mils is up the south flank of the canyon. At this point you also transition into the pine forest. And then you are at Agua Caliente Saddle - marked by an old rusty sign. There are some great huge juniper here, perfect for resting under.

The rest of the hike is simple, the hard over being achieved on the climb up. From here, follow the sign and head right or southeast on the Agua Caliente trail to Josephine Saddle. There are magnificent views over Madera Canyon and to Wrightson and the Santa Rita ridgeline for much of the way, sometimes forested and sometimes wide open. The trail is a narrow little path along the northern flanks of Mt. Hopkins and then Jack Mountain. It's fairly level, with constant little ups and downs but no major climbs. Within 1/3 mile from the saddle, the Vault Mine trail will come up from your left. Just stay on Agua Caliente the whole way. It is almost 2.5 miles to Josephine Saddle, the last stretch being through a magnificent pine forest.

Return the way you came.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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2009-11-23 fricknaley
    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 Triplog Reviews
    Agua Caliente Trail #140
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    It is a hike that has you covered by trees much of the time. IT IS VERY STEEP and it really kicked my butt. It doesn't help that I'm 60 years old and overweight but this is much tougher than many of the trails. I went from the trail head to the saddle and back. I didn't follow the trail completely, sometimes I had to scramble.

    I saw only one individual the whole day and that was on the saddle. I saw a couple of deer and LOTS of BEAR SCAT. I think that the bears are the only thing that are keeping the trail from being totally overgrown. I lost the trail twice on the way up and once on the way down. It was difficult to see in several locations. I never did find the trail for one section. I know because the mines were uphill from me and the trail description says it should be downhill.

    After my trip a few weeks ago to the Quantrell Mine, I brought along a machete. I was tired of having my legs scratched up. I cleared some of the Mesquite and Agaves off the lower part of the trail but you should still expect to get a few scratches unless you wear long pants. I also picked up a whole lot of foxtails and burrs in my socks. Since it has rained significantly in the last few weeks, there was lots of water flowing in the canyon. There might not be when you go, but there was for me.

    The sign at the trailhead says 1.7 miles to the saddle. The guide on this site says 2.3 miles. I'm not certain which is correct.
    Agua Caliente Trail #140
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Followed Agua Caliente from trailhead from FS183 up to Agua Caliente Saddle, continued on to Josephine Saddle, and then took Old Baldy trail to Mt. Wrightson Summit. Temps were in the 30s most of the day, sunny. Was comfortable in shorts, windshirt, and gloves, but was moving fast the whole time.

    Forest Service 183 is well graded, and even low passenger cars shouldn't have any trouble as of the time of this writing. Was expecting trail to be much more overgrown with the Lehman's Lovegrass that has taken over the high country of the Catalinas and the Chiricahuas this year, but was pleasantly surprised to find the trail remarkably clear of stickers, grass, or deadfall. A bit of scrub for the first half mile, but the trail is beat down. I had a .gpx from, and while the trail was clear and easy to follow, it did not track along the gps route for much of the way to Agua Caliente saddle. USGS topo shows two springs on the way to AC saddle, but I saw no water. Lots of bear scat and game trails, one fresh. All trail intersections well marked and signed (except cairned turn off for Carrie Nation trail, which is not signed).

    First two miles are steep, covering about 2k elevation gain in short order, then a few miles cruising flat, and then another steep 2k feet in a few short miles to the summit.

    The long cruise across the N side of Mt. Hopkins (from Agua Caliente saddle to Josephine saddle) was the highlight of the trip, with fantastic views of the valley and Mt. Wrightson summit formation.

    Small amount of water at Bellows Spring, right on the trail before the switchbacks up to Baldy saddle. Plenty of snow dusting Old Baldy trail, and final push to the summit had significant snow and ice accumulated - enough to keep things interesting, but not to slow travel too much. Returned the same way, 4h28min including a few breaks.

    Excellent route to reach Baldy, it was nice to have the trail to myself, then a little socializing on the "busy" section from Josephine Saddle to summit, and then blast back into the solitude for the trip down...
    Agua Caliente Trail #140
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Work took me to Green Valley today, so that put the Santa Ritas right at the top of the docket! I hiked up Mt. Wrightston a few months ago and really enjoyed it, so this was an easy choice. I got started hiking a bit after 3 so I knew I would not have time for the big guy, as good as that may have sounded. I did this loop clockwise, up the Old Baldy trail to the Josephine saddle. I got off on the wrong trail here, I started getting suspicious after I lost a few hundred feet of elevation, I am pretty sure I was on the Josephine Canyon trail. Nice trail, but a bit overgrown and some downed logs. I got myself turned back around and onto the Agua Caliente trail. There were some nice views off the ridge, but the wind was howling pretty fiercely any time I was not protected by a slope face. There were a few overgrown spots, and the Jack Mountain spur took a little negotiating, but certainly nothing too crazy. I made the switch from short sleeve and ballcap to long sleeve and beanie up top to keep my warm enough. I found the Carrie Nation trail pretty easily and headed down. Very steep on the way down, but footing was good except for a few spots heavy with pine duff.I got back to the van about 5:30 for the long, windy drive home. Saw a few does on the drive out, but otherwise there was not much wildlife to be seen, I expected aas much due to the high winds all afternoon. I didn't see any bears this trip, must mean that the bear spray I bought works, right? :lol: This hike is a great alternative to Wrightston if you do not have as much time, good push for sure with some nice views to boot. Good water flowing all along the Carrie Nation trail too.

    Just a few Sycamores and Ash trees starting to turn. I would imagine the next two weeks will be good.
    Agua Caliente Trail #140
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Mt. Wrightson (Super-er Trail Loop)
    Wanted to spice up Wrightson by taking a few extra trails. We started up Vault Mine, made a side trip to Agua Caliente Saddle, and then traversed back over to Josephine Saddle. I had only ever done the lower portion of the Super Trail before, so we took the upper portion of it to Baldy Saddle. After the familiar homestretch to the summit, we returned via the Old Baldy Trail.

    Unsurprisingly, Vault Mine and Agua Caliente were great trails with a nice view of Wrightson and the canyon. Still plenty of other trails to check out there...
    Agua Caliente Trail #140
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Mount Wrightson with Hopkins
    we lucked into a perfect day to hit both wrightson and Hopkins. humid but otherwise great.

    nice to check out Hopkins again. it's been a long time and last I was up here, it snowed on me.

    saw a couple of interesting rattlesnakes and a bunch of horned lizards :)

    and with this i'm bowing out of the elevation game. good luck boys, go for a million :y:
    Agua Caliente Trail #140
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Trail is really grown over; catclaw and especially the foxtail and brittlebush don't let up until you get to the pine trees near the Agua Caliente Saddle. Some of the worst foxtail I've ever seen. Hiking with a friend which slowed me down though, the foxtail and catclaw was an annoyance but if you have good nav skills you won't have trouble keeping the trail.

    Thought it was funny that whoever made the metal signs out there spelled it in two places at the saddle "Auga Caliente" :sl:

    Hiked from the Quantrell Mine/Elephant Head TH. With a high clearance vehicle you can make the one tricky spot on the road from this trailhead to the Agua Caliente TH, the only trouble spot is around the first corner past the Elephant Head TH. I didn't realize that at the time so just walked it.

    Permit $$

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

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    From Tucson, Leave Interstate 19 at the Canoa Road Exit. Take the east frontage road, 3 miles south to Elephant Head Road and turn east 1.6 miles to the Mt. Hopkins Road. Drive 4.5 miles to Forest Road 183, turn north on this dirt road about 2.4 miles to the trailhead at the canyon. There is a small pull out to the left just before the signed trailhead. Park here and walk a few hundred feet up the road to the trailhead on the right.
    page created by fricknaley on Nov 23 2009 11:22 am
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