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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Cathedral Rock - Hutch's Pool Traverse, AZ

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Guide 17 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
4.7 of 5 by 3
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 24 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,730 feet
Elevation Gain 5,135 feet
Accumulated Gain 7,200 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 13 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 60
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek, Perennial Creek & Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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22  2016-09-08 Mountain_Rat
12  2014-05-10 Pivo
50  2014-05-10 GrottoGirl
8  2011-08-12 AZwalker
24  2010-12-24 GrottoGirl
5  2010-04-10 robxxx
7  2009-01-15 ffwomack
Author Jeffshadows
author avatar Guides 28
Routes 20
Photos 672
Trips 169 map ( 1,088 miles )
Age 41 Male Gender
Location Old Pueblo
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, May, Apr, Sep → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:19pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
All the famous Sabino attractions, sans crowds!
by Jeffshadows

Likely In-Season!
This is a really fun hike. If one is careful to start out early enough, one can see many of the famous destinations in the eastern portion of the Front Range of the Catalinas and Sabino Canyon, including: Bridal Veil Falls, Cathedral Rock, and Hutch's Pool. There are also spectacular views to be had and some solitude, even on Sabino Canyon's busiest days. There are almost limitless possibilities for photography and equally as many great places to break for lunch and/or a breather.

-= Leg 1 - Sabino Canyon to Esperero Creek =-
Starts: ~2600' ends: ~4700'; 4.8 miles

This section of the hike will likely be the busiest, especially on weekends. Additionally, a good portion of the first three miles is mostly exposed to the south. The trailhead lies about 1/2 miles into Sabino Canyon recreation area. Two approaches exist: walk up the "tram road" and follow the crowd, or follow the lesser-used "Phone line" trail (#27). Either way, continue until you reach a sign on the north side of the tram road that says: "Cactus Picnic Area." Turn here and head north toward the Catalinas. If you reach the median in the Tram road with the old RV dumping station, you've gone too far. As you approach the picnic area, stay to the right and in the sandy wash. There are numerous social trails, if you get lost just start heading towards the Catalinas, again. The Esperero trail climbs out of the wash to the northeast of the Cactus Picnic area and begins to ascend toward a ridge. Immediately after leveling out the trail drops back into a sandy wash and meets the Rattlesnake Peak trail. Continue on the Esperero trail. Not long after the trail approaches another junction, and a well-defined trail of unknown origin leads off to the left. I've been told that, before much of the construction too place in the foothills, this trail once connected to Ventana canyon. Ignore it and continue to the right on the Esperero trail. The trail starts climbing, now, and eventually drops back down into Bird canyon. Immediately afterward the trail begins to climb a ridge westward and then turns right, eventually coursing along above a canyon until it matches elevation and a series of switchbacks start. This section of trail is what is known as "Cardiac Gap." Fear not, it is nowhere near as steep as switchbacks get in the Catalinas and it is over rather quickly. You are not atop Mt. Miguel, and the deep canyon to the north is Esperero Canyon. The trail continues to climb to the right (east) up and through an oak woodlandchaparral area known as: "Geronimo Meadow." This area is quite scenic and the ambient temperature should be noticeably lower. The trail continues through the meadow until it arrives at an eroded gap on the canyon wall where it begins to descend into Esperero creek. There was significant water in the creek in July, and almost none another year in November.

-= Leg 2 - Esperero Creek to Bridal Veil Falls =-
Starts: ~4700' ends: ~5250'; 1.4 miles

This section of the hike is really pleasant. You will have a decent tree canopy for the first half and can enjoy some solitude while you follow the stream course. Route finding can be hindered by fallen leaves and undergrowth in this area, but continuing to follow the stream, staying to the west, will eventually present you with a fork at the confluence of two canyons. Follow the canyon to the left and the trail climbs slightly to Bridal Veil Falls, a rock outcropping with a gentle, lateral trickling of water that resembles a thin sheet (veil) during periods of heavy rainfall. Water was present here every season I've visited the falls, but it usually slows to a trickle or drip in dry months. There will be a fire ring near a popular camping area situated to the right of the trail.

-= Leg 3 - Bridal Veil Falls to Cathedral Rock =-
Starts: ~5250' ends: ~7950'; 2.9 miles

This section of the hike is one of those places that so many of us enjoy: It sees light traffic and gives the feeling of being out in the backcountry, though you are in the front-country. The trail goes back to the wash and follows the stream course again for a time before starting a steep ascent out of the canyon. Route finding here can again be tricky but keeping parallel to the canyon will put you back on trail. After climbing up canyon for a while the trail follows a ridge and climbs toward a wooded area, in which is situated a signed junction with the Cathedral Rock trail (#26). Follow the Cathedral Rock trail (right). Here the trail starts to climb steeply toward Cathedral rock. Tucson and Sabino begin to open up below the trail making for some exciting views. The trail continues its ascent until it reaches an obvious, level area where it descends sharply down the opposite side. This is Cathedral saddle. The route to Cathedral Rock is just that, a route. It is marked by cairns (usually) but requires some minor scrambling and imagination. Many social trails exist in this area, so continue toward Cathedral Rock until you link back up with the route if you get side-tracked. The route generally follows the ridgeline as it climbs away from the saddle. When the ridge levels out, you are now in a boreal forest of mixed pine and juniper. This is where it gets confusing. There is an obvious rock formation down and to the right, follow the faint trail toward this formation. Follow the trail through this formation and on into the forest until you reach a larger rock formation with a "notch." There will likely be a rope hanging here, anchored to a Pinyon above. I wouldn't suggest using this rope to aid yourself unless absolutely necessary. Scramble up this notch and immediately turn right following the contour of the rock face. You are now on the fourth-highest peak in the Catalinas; enjoy the views!! There are a number of climbing routes on the three pinnacles, here. Two involve obvious crack routes and protection is pretty good. No beta available in most of the guides I have. When you've had enough of the scenery, head back to the saddle the same way you came.

-= Leg 4 - Cathedral Rock to Hutch's Pool =-
Starts: ~6900' ends: ~3900'; 2.9 miles

After all of that, the nice thing about this part of the hike is that it starts to descend. That is, until it reaches the switchbacks. The Cathedral Rock trail follows through a grassy area heading east, eventually arriving at a set of switchbacks that bring you down toward Sabino creek. The down-climb is more something to endure than anything but the scenery is still a sight. After arriving at the canyon bottom the trail meets the signed intersection with the West Fork Trail (#24). If one were interested, one could follow the West Fork trail northwest and up-canyon to Romero Pass and Catalina State Park. Follow the West Fork trail down-canyon (right) toward Hutch's pool. This section of the hike is a gift after a morning of steep climbing. It passes a junction with the Palisades trail and essentially follows the stream course, meandering through the chaparral forest for about 45 minutes until it reaches a small saddle and crosses up the west wall of the canyon. The trail zigzags its way across another grassy meadow until it reaches the point where SycamorePine Canyons connect and begins to drop down a series of switchbacks descending toward Hutch's pool, which should be visible below. A route breaks away to the left from the trail and crosses a sandy area, follow this route for roughly 50 yards and arrive at Hutch's pool. The pool was quite deep in November, though years earlier had been temporarily filled with sand and silt after the series of devastating fires on Mt. Lemmon. After enjoying the pools, return to the trail the way you came.

-= Leg 5 Hutch's Pool to Trailhead =-
Starts: ~3900' ends: ~2600'; 2.9 miles

Following the West Fork trail down-canyon, now, you begin to descend through many would-be camping areas and probably a crowd. After climbing down through the oak and juniper for about 40 minutes the trail reaches the signed junction with the Sabino Canyon trail (#23). Follow the Sabino Canyon trail (turn right). The trail runs the length of the south wall of Sabino Canyon and offers wonderful views of the Canyon, the creek, and the Catalinas. It meanders its way through the scrub, not really gaining or losing elevation, until it reaches a small saddle to the north of a large rock formation in the canyon. This was the proposed site of a dam in the 1930's. The notion was being toyed with of building a large dam here, which would create a manmade lake capable of supporting boating and fishing. The original tram road would have connected the city to this site. Luckily this plan never materialized and it is now just an interesting footnote. Climbing down through the saddle offers more great views and the trail shortly arrives at the junction with the Phone Line trail (#27). If you want to reconnect to the tram road, then stay on the Sabino trail and it will take you back to its trailhead. Following the Phone Line trail offers slightly more solitude on busy days and a few more nice views before descending (slowly in some places) toward the Visitor's center and parking lot. After about an hour and a half, the trail passes by the Esperero trail junction that took you past the Cactus Picnic area, where it all began!

- Water will be nonexistent on the section visiting Cathedral Rock, and scarce until the hike reaches Sabino Creek. Plan accordingly during this section of the trip.
- Sabino Canyon can be extremely busy on weekends and it is not uncommon to find slow-moving parties, parties experiencing injuries that should have been preventable, and individuals imbibing alcohol and behaving in an uncivilized manner on even the more difficult trails. This is especially true in the more temperate months. Factor these types of encounters in to your time equation, as they can cause parts of the trail to be slow to impassable.
- Rattlesnakes are usually observed in the initial section of Esperero canyon, when in season. The nearby peak, Rattlesnake Peak, is aptly named. Be cautious when appropriate.
- The Cathedral Rock route and West Fork trail see little traffic even on the busiest days, as do the upper portions of Esperero. Plan to be out of communication and possibly away from help for a few hours.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike without prior experience hiking.

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

2008-02-28 Jeffshadows
  • sub-region related
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
Cathedral Rock - Hutch's Pool Traverse
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I started at exactly 7:30 with a cloudy sky that was supposed to last most of the day. Ahead of me was fog, which was supposed to burn off around 8:00 or 9:00. No matter, I entered the fog at around 8:15 and was in it until noon. By the 3 mile mark, I was completely soaked, and my feet stayed that way until I finished. I wish I could say I enjoyed my hike, but frankly, my feet were in agony 90% of the way. It was nice to get out, it was just too soon after yesterday's rain. Sabino is flowing more heavily than I've ever seen in the upper part of the West Fork. It was actually really tough to cross without getting all wet, and I eventually did give up on staying dry and just plowed through thigh deep :? .

Well that one is done and over, but somehow I feel the need for a do over. I haven't crossed it off the list yet.
Cathedral Rock - Hutch's Pool Traverse
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fourth time is a charm. snowed out twice previously, and almost blown off cardiac gap for a third failure, i finally found perfect weather for this fabulous loop. excellent flower show in stretches, running water everywhere and perfect!

with the backside of cathedral rock trail finally done, i've hiked all the formal trails on Pusch Ridge

came back on phoneline then down historic sabino 23A for the first time. that's a cool little connector between the road and phoneline
Cathedral Rock - Hutch's Pool Traverse
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Wow, what an amazing loop. :GB: I've hiked it before, but that was a totally different experience with the trails being in poor maintenance back then and the summer heat since I did it in June. Being my third time on Esperero, it was much easier to follow it this time and when the trail got thin or tough to follow from Geronimo Meadow to Mormon Spring, I was able to remember where the trail went from memory. Bridalviel Falls was flowing rather nicely with snow around the pool. That Cathedral trail is still a tad tough to follow, but its better than before. Above 6000ft on the southside, small patches of snow were on the trail but when I got to the saddle and looked down the north facing side it looked like it got a good foot or so of snow. :o It was noon by then, which is too late IMHO to make a sidetrip up Cathedral not to mention the patches of snow & ice everywhere. I didn't want to go back since I did that last year after a failed attempt on Cathedral... I met a woman who's been slowly maintaining the backside of Cathedral trail up from West Fork and she said that if I made it down a quarter mile or so, I'd run into her pink tape and the trail would be in good shape after that. The trail from the saddle to her pink tape is pretty tough to follow and now there's a foot of snow covering it, so I just found a drainage relatively clear of bushes & tress and 'postholed' my way down the slope. My feet had to have been sinking in a good 6-9 inches with sometimes going in all the way to my knee, causing me to fall and I'd throw my hands out to brace myself and 'find' some sticker bush buried in the snow. ](*,) But like the lady said, once I got a quarter mile from the saddle and headed to where I remembered the trail to be I was able to find her pink tape and slowly make my way down to West Fork. Once below 6000ft, the snow patches were only 3-6 inches deep but enough to slow me down and watch my step. Once at West Fork, I filtered some water and again like the lady said that West Fork trail is now a freeway with good creek crossing points and large 3ft tall rock piles. Nothing like the route finding challenge it was before. Last time, I had an issue with finding Hutch's Pool but this time it was pretty easy to find with the water flowing pretty good. Maybe back then it was just dry or filled with sediment from the forest fires three years ago. But the map I was using has Hutch's Pool up near the confluence of West Fork and Middle Fork of Sabino and there was a moderate trail headed upstream. So not wanting to make the same mistake twice, I followed this trail and even boulder hopped a bit past more moderate to small sized pools & falls all the way up to the confluence to find no other large pool, but I did see this sweet 30ft long water slide. Following the creek was a tad tiring, so I was glad to hop back on the freeway downstream to the Sabino Canyon trail. Sabino Canyon was pretty empty this late in the day and I hit the pavement just before sunset with it getting dark about two miles from the parking lot. I was in zombie mode most of those last four miles anyways. :sweat:

I didn't make it up to Cathedral Rock due to lack of time and icy/snowy conditions at the saddle so I took 2 miles and a thousand feet of AEG of the stats but that sidetrip above Hutch's Pool added another mile of boulder hopping which make it a 22 miler instead of just a straight 21 miler. I love how I can I post a triplog on HAZ and then look back 2.5 years and see that I did this loop in only 10 hours... :o :bdh: :o
Cathedral Rock - Hutch's Pool Traverse
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Hiked down this trail on a Sabino - Cathedral - Esperero loop hike. From the juction with Cathedral Rock back down to Sabino parking lot is about 7 miles. Today was a little hot, especially in the West Fork/Cathedral park of the loop, not too bad in the canyons though. I brought 4L of water for the Sabino - Bear loop, but changed plans and ended up running out of water about 5-6 miles from the parking lot. Put to good use those cough drops I bring along in case I run out of water. :twisted: This canyon just like Sabino is very scenic with occasional views of Tucson down below. The cliff walls have sweet designs and rock formations. It must be very impressive with some water flowing. When I finished this hike, I probably drank a gallon of water between the water faucets, the stash at my car, and at Subway down the road. :D Total loop ended up taking 10 hours and covered about 21 miles.

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 hike
From the intersection of Tanque Verde and Grant/Kolb Rd head northeast on Tanque Verde. Turn left at the second light on Sabino Canyon Rd. Go about 8 miles up Sabino Canyon Rd and you come to a four way stop with Sunrise. Go straight through the intersection and take the next right into the parking lot of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Signs marking the way start on North Kolb road.
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