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Molino Basin Trail #11, AZ

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Guide 29 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.1 of 5 by 11
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 2.55 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,340 feet
Elevation Gain 600 feet
Accumulated Gain 715 feet
Avg Time One Way 1-1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.93
Interest Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Page 1,  2
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   Apr, Mar, Nov, Oct → 7 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
8 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
The heart of it all
by fricknaley

This is a nice, short connector of the Arizona Trail linking up the Arizona trail east of the Catalina Highway to the magnificent section taking off from Shreve Saddle as it takes you into the East and West Fork country. This little connector route is great for kids in packs, and the like.

The Molino Basin Trail #11 takes off from the Molino Campground and basically parallels the Catalina Highway all the way to the Prison Camp at the Gordon Hirabiyashi campground. It climbs most of the way, but never severely, with a total gain of about 700 feet. There are no route finding issues and the trail is well-signed.

As the trail leaves the campground, the Highway is initially on the left. It then banks right and starts climbing easily into Molino Basin. As you scramble along the basin, the Catalina Highway reappears on your right and basically hangs out with you the rest of the way. The trail mostly parallels the drainage of the basin, crossing over it a couple of times. Occasionally it switchbacks up a little. Soon you can see where the Hirabiyashi campground breaks off from the Catalina Highway. This is where you are heading. At about 2.3 miles or so from Molino Campground you come to a signed intersection. To the right the trail descends down to the campsites at Hirabiyashi campground. To the left, you can continue on for about 0.5 miles to the end of the gravel road in the campground at the takeoff for the Sycamore Reservoir trail.

The views along this trail are mostly out over Molino Basin and are very nice and wide open. This is a a nice, easy connector segment of the Arizona Trail worth a walk if you have the time (or have a little one with you). It passes through some of the more heavily burned mid-altitude hilly grasslands of the Catalinas. The recovery is obvious most of the way.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2008-03-15 fricknaley
  • sub-region related

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 Triplog Reviews
Molino Basin Trail #11
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We originally had a different plan but nite time temps and not wanting to spend 12 hours in a tent, inspired us to pick a Plan B. Tracy came up with this one and though the shuttle is brutal we got 'er done. It took us 4 hours to set up the shuttle on Redington Road and Molino Basin parking. Traveling that rough and tough Redington Road coming and going in the AM made us think we were all ready tired and beat up and we hadn't even set foot to the trail.

The hike up the hill out of Molino Basin is actually pretty nice as they throw in a couple switchbacks altho I thot it would send us to the right but we ended up veering left to that saddle. I was feeling the oats as they say so I headed on up and was able to look back and get pictures of the others. The views from the saddle looking both ways is pretty sweet with the two sky islands, Santa Catalina and The Rincons. Off in the distance to the east I thot I could see two silos. We would later see that they were two Italian Cypress trees at the Bellota Ranch.

Down from the saddle we headed south and east. It takes awhile to get down so we were happy that we had made the choice to hike it from this side first. We would have another hill on the other side but it was a lot more gradual and not quite as steep. We encountered two other couples and another single hiker as we made our way down to West Spring which you can't miss for the two brightly colored cottonwoods and the big tank. At the big tank I was surprised to see a little moat constructed around a portion of it. Very interesting.

We would continue on a bit of a road for awhile admiring the tall hills and mountains on either side and behind us. It was pleasant walking as the trail was in very good shape. There was also plenty of water around; I assume from last week's rains. We were surprised at how much water we would see. We had our lunch in Agua Caliente drainage on the beach. We didn't take too much time before we were on the trail again. About 1/2 hour later we would get our first view of the Galiuros to compliment the Rincons on our other side and the Catalinas behind.

I remarked we would be coming on The Lake pretty soon and Shawn said to not get my hopes up. As we passed by it was more like a big pond. We came upon a nice Arizona Trail sign where Shawn could trim some of the tree that was obstructing the view. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted what looked like water so Tracy and I went to check it out. THERE was the real The Lake. It was very photogenic and after admiring it for awhile we came back to re-join Ambika and Shawn at the trail.

About a mile later we ran into some hikers on the other side of the gate (about the 1/2 way point). One was a thru hiker who was in need of some shoe repair so we offered our electronic suggestions. He had also written a haiku about his experience with a coati the nite before. The other two hikers were section hiking the AZT coming from Redington Road. One of the gals took our picture. As we got a little higher above the drainage we spotted the ranch and that's where I saw the two silos, I mean Italian Cypresses, earlier from the saddle above Molino Basin. It seemed surprising how far we had come even though it was only about 5 miles from that saddle.

We had a couple more miles before we would start our little climb and continued to enjoy our views. We took a break at about the 7 1/2 mile mark and in a little over a mile we would begin the slight climb. You could see where the fire had eaten some of the wood stair blocks and along the way you could also see the burnt trees and cactus as we came out of a drainage. ( ... pass-road/) Earlier in the day we had seen a dozer cut over by West Spring. If it was all the same fire it was the 23,000 acre Burro Fire. The 600 foot climb had a very nice grade with a switchback here and there. The temps were nice so I was able to make good time and once again be able to shoot back at my fellow hikers coming my way.

Once we got to a saddle we contoured along the side of the mountain where we stopped for about 5 minutes before completing the rest of our journey. As we topped out we enjoyed views of all the mountains once again as we made our way on the trail between the golden grass. Soon we would see White Tank and then spot the truck. From here it was downhill to the gate and we could relish the last of our hike... even though I had no beer to cheer me on :( .

We piled into the truck and headed down the rough and rugged Redington Road with a big awh for the second time of the day when we hit pavement. We did go by a couple areas where there were quite a few vehicles so I assume there is some easy hiking in the vicinity. The shooting area was a mess of plastic bags. However, the sun was shining nicely on the leafed-out ocotillos so we did enjoy that. We picked up our other vehicle and headed down the Catalina Highway to Taco Giro where we enjoyed a most excellent meal except for the apparently non-tequila peach margarita. It was pretty but no tequila means no margarita.

Videos are in production. Having to work with my laptop as my brother is working on my over-loaded computer.
from Molino to almost West Spring: [ youtube video ]
from above West Spring to just past Agua Caliente drainage: [ youtube video ]
about 1/2 way, we found THE Lake [ youtube video ]
finishing the last big climb to Redington Road [ youtube video ]
Molino Basin Trail #11
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Soldier/AZT/La Milagrosa Loop
good big loop using catalina highway, soldier trail, the AZT and la milagrosa ridge. perfect day. felt decent for the most part. saw some people here and there.

ended up being a small fire in molino basin the next day. yikes. certainly wasn't from me burning rubber :lol:
Molino Basin Trail #11
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I had to head to our southern Arizona yard on Tuesday, so I ended up camping out Tuesday night in Tucson so I could get a good hike in. I was going to camp right by the trailhead, but there was a whole troop of rednecks there when I pulled in about 7:30 so I kept going. I ended up camping up on Incinerator Ridge, oddly enough I happened upon a nice campsite that I had been at with my wife some 16 years earlier. Pretty chilly up at 8000', there was a good wind going most of the night but I slept pretty well. Got started at the trailhead about 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Everything is really green out here, you can tell the monsoon season has been good to the mountain. The trail is pretty overgrown from the Sycamore Reservoir on, Bear Canyon wasn't too bad, but the 'trail' over to the Thimble is really overgrown. I would strongly recommend having a GPS route if you are going to do this one anytime soon. There was a decent use trail to follow, but the grasses were so grown it it could be hard to find at time. I ended up getting off track quite a few times, but for the most part it is hard to go too far off course. I made it over to the Thimble and scrambled up to the first big rock shelf. I skipped the climb to the very top, it looked doable, but I was a bit dubious being solo and having seen no one on the trails. Awesome views all around for sure. Made it back to the van before one so I could head back in to town for a quick lunch and the usual drive home. Fun hike, I really like the Reservoir area.

No big shows, but many things in bloom here and there. Grasses of course, Fern Acacaia, a few Penstemons, and Fleabane Daisy
Molino Basin Trail #11
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This hike almost didn’t happen

My plan was to hike the AZT 10 from where Redington RD intersects the AZT. My ETA to the TH was 8:45. There was an accident on I-10 and that brought traffic to a standstill. This delayed me 45 minutes. After getting past the accident I continued on to Redinton RD. About10 miles from the intersection there was a sheriff and a road closed sign!! I then came up with plan B. Start at the northern end of the AZT 10. I when doubled-back to the Catalina highway and drove up to the Molino Basin campground.

My 8:45 ETA turned into a 10:15 arrival.

The Hike:
I went north on Bellota trail to the Prison Camp and checked it out. Then I headed south to the Italian trap TH. There was water everywhere! The creeks and washes were flowing heavy and fast. A good portion of the trail had water flowing down it. The Agua Caliente Wash was about 2 feet deep and 5 feet wide. I just bite the bullet and walked through it. I got to the Italian trap TH at dusk. FR4424 was a running creek.

On the way back, the valley was so cold I could see my breath.
Molino Basin Trail #11
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A great day supporting our friend Richard! Richard ran up to Prison Camp via Bear Canyon - we met him there with some extra water and then I ran with him on the rest of his loop back down to the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center.

This requires a drop off or shuttle but is a pretty fun downhill route - nice wash out of Prison Camp to start the day (gate is open now btw so you can park at the end of the road again), views from Shreve Saddle, a hint of fall and lovely green at Sycamore Reservoir, nice rest at Bear Saddle, the amazing East Fork Trail (love the views and trail - this connector is underrated I think!), down to Sabino Canyon, past the big cliffs in the Miner's Pool area and out Phoneline!

Molino Basin Trail #11
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I was exactly 1 minute late to pick Joe up - I never heard the end of it. I-10 was closed on the way to pick Denny up. Now running a little later. Missed the turn to the Catalina Highway in Tuscon, and we were 20 minutes late in picking Dave up at the North TH Shuttle. None of it a big deal, since this was to be a short hike (13.4 miles) by our AZT standards. After making the 10 mile drive down the twisty, rutty, dusty, target shot riddled Redington road, we were ready to start our 36th AZT passage.

The weather was just about perfect on this day. Blue skies with hints of our friend Fraley gracing us. Looking back at the previous section, you could see Mica Mountain with a thin blanket of snow still on it.

This is another nice area. Some may not like the rolling hills and grass lands, I find it intriguing and almost calming.

We've hiked many AZT Passages in which we never saw an official Arizona Trail Sign at the Trail Head. This passage had 4 of them scattered the length of the trail. I

The gang was all in good spirits and anxious to knock off another AZT section.
683 miles (85% Distance Completed)
Molino Basin Trail #11
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This turned out to be another "much better than anticipated" segment.

Although one of the shorter segments we all seemed to suffer a tad from the lack of great expectations. Several segments didn't allow us to break for lunch until 15 or 16 miles yet here it seemed a task to accomplish less than half of the notably difficult segments.

As we get closer to that goal thing it's a trade off with sadness that it will eventually be over :( This annoying(entertaining ;) ) guy is going to miss the big guy, the skinny guy and the old guy.

Some sort of vervain or verbena was scattered about in areas. It wasn't very apparent being so small and low to the ground. Isolated doesn't seem to fit so I'm going with light.

Pop rocks!
Molino Basin Trail #11
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Short AZT hike today, we had already done the first 3 miles or so of it from Italian Trap to Reddington Road (why they start this segment 3 miles down a 4WD road instead of right off Reddington Road when there is even a parking area there, I have no clue...we still keep scratching our heads on that one). Met the guys at Gordon Hirabayashi TH to set up the shuttle, watched the sunrise while they took the "scenic route" before getting there ;)

Nice hike. Not a lot of long-distance views on this one...couldn't even see Lemmon really. Did have views of Mica Mountain for most of the first half. Climbed up to Molino Saddle for lunch, watched the view down below on the Catalina Highway and at Molino Basin Campground.

There was a bike race out there today, using a good chunk of this segment of the AZT, but thankfully we were ahead of them and only had a few of bikes go past us. The guys were being their crazy selves all day ... one of the highlights was when Joe and Bruce started arguing about which one of them had the bigger ego, and asked Denny and I to decide. The winner? Well, too close to call ... it depends upon the day. :lol:

Dropped down into Molino Basin and up around toward Gordon Hirabayashi, and ran into a Japanese couple who were hiking around the old POW prison camp, where one of their relatives had been during WWII.

Excited to fill in this little segment ... this puts us completing everything from the top of Mt. Lemmon to the Mexican border. Two segments to go north of Mt. Lemmon before we will have everything done from Mexico to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. :y: Getting close!

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)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Molino Basin Trailhead
1. From I-10 & Grant: Head east on W Grant Rd 8.4 mi 20 mins
2. Turn left at E Tanque Verde Rd 3.2 mi 6 mins
3. Turn left at E Catalina Hwy 6.0 mi 9 mins

In addition to the trailhead this is a large, popular campground and day use area. Parking for day use is immediately after turning into the Molino Basin. The trailhead is signed and takes off out of the day use area.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 131 mi - about 2 hours 25 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 21.7 mi - about 49 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 275 mi - about 4 hours 31 mins
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