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The Window via Ventana, AZ

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Guide 70 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
4.4 of 5 by 29
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Distance Round Trip 12.8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,000 feet
Elevation Gain 4,000 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,310 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 - 10 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 34.35
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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21  2019-01-02 GrottoGirl
14  2018-12-08
Window Rock and Window Peak
4  2018-10-20 Merianne
5  2017-02-05 writelots
2  2015-12-26 fearnestiv
3  2015-12-10 GrottoGirl
9  2015-05-06 Jim_H
11  2015-04-12 AZ_Step
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
Author brianb
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 0
Photos 164
Trips 3 map ( 0 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Oct, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
No pain, no gain...
by brianb

The Window is an unusual round opening through a massive rock structure high atop the Santa Catalina Mountains. This Tucson area landmark is an alluring destination for hikers willing to endure the long, steep trek. The hike up to the Window takes you from a parking lot on the edge of Tucson - through Saguaro-lined canyon country - up through oak and cypress territory - and up into forested Alpine regions. It's a terrific way to experience several ecological zones in one, long day. The reward for your hard work is a well deserved rest in the notch of the Window, with the wind racing through it cooling you off. A relatively short scamper up to the rock towers just above the Window reward you further with a panoramic view obstructed only by Cathedral Peak and Mt. Lemon.

From the far end of the parking lot at Lowe's Ventana Canyon Resort, head out on the Ventana Canyon Trail at the trail sign. The first part of the trail takes you through classic canyon country amongst Saguaros and other local varieties of cactus. You'll trace the contours of the valley for 2.4 miles to the "Maiden Pools"- a collection of pools that populate the stream running through the valley following snow melts and monsoons. Don't let the first few miles of the trip fool you, however - it gets much steeper from here. Take your time and pace yourself throughout this trip - 4000 feet of elevation is a lot of ground to cover, and this was the easy part.

From the Maiden Pools area, the trip becomes a relentlessly steep 2.8 mile trek through the more open oak and cypress country to the intersection with the Esperero Trail, 5.2 miles from the trailhead. You will travel high into the valley with sheer rock formations on either side. The Window, only occasionally visible from the trail, looms above you to the northeast.

After the 5.2 miles from the beginning of the trail, the journey intersects with the Esperero Trail at a signed junction. Already well into the pine forest, take a right on the Esperero Trail. The Esperero Trail continues its relentless climb up the mountain for a short while until you finally reach a saddle overlooking the north, south and west. Enjoy the relatively level trek along the saddle, in view of the rocks containing the Window, until it marches steeply up once again to the Window.

You will not be able to see the Window itself from here, but it is amongst the rock formations just up ahead of you and below the higher rock formations behind it. The trail actually takes you around and directly behind the rocks containing the Window. Climbing up the back (east) side of the rocks, the sunlight shining through the Window will mark your arrival. Climb up into the Window, take a look around and a well deserved rest.

At the very least, you should continue up the trail along the back side of the rocks for a few hundred feet to the top of this cluster of rocks that house the Window. From there, you can make the easy climb up to the top of these rocks that will give you a much more impressive and expansive view than from the Window itself.

If you've got the time and the energy left, you can actually arrive at the top of the towering rock spires you'll see just east of the Window (it's not far - about 1/3 mile). To do so, just follow the trail that took you to the Window up (south) and around the rocks. This part of the Esperero trail, which actually links up with the Cathedral Rock Trail, is poorly maintained and can be very hard to follow. But if you take care to stay on it (i.e. if you lose it for more than 50 feet, backtrack and you'll find it again) it will take you south, then east, then back north around the rocks to the top of another saddle above the Window. Follow the trail until you're at the very top of the saddle. The trail will continue east from the saddle to another peak (Window Peak?) and eventually to Cathedral Peak. Jump off the trail at the very top of the saddle, however, and follow the very top of the ridge straight west towards the rocks.

There's no trail per se leading up there, but if you go straight west along the very crest of the ridge, you can intuitively follow the path to the top of the rocks. There's something like a trail you can follow, and I marked the final ascent with cairns. You should arrive at the upper-most rocks - at the point which is as far north as you can go without falling off the mountain - at a point between two rocks with a tree between them. Climb up the rocks with the help of the tree and you're there. You'll be able to survey the rock formations you're now on top of, the Window below you and a sweeping view of the Catalinas all around. Enjoy the view and rest-up for the long trip back.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

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

2001-05-08 brianb
  • Portion of Coronado Nat
    guide related
  • sub-region related

Coronado FS Details
Ventana is Spanish for window. The window in this case is a 15' by 25' opening in solid rock that tops one of the peaks in the Santa Catalina Front Range. The route up Ventana Canyon leads to The Window, presenting memorable views of sheer canyon walls and a steadily broadening panorama along the way. The views back of the city are spectacular. The stream that the trail follows for much of this route is dry most of the year, but you can usually find water in some of its pools during the spring and early summer. The riparian habitat it nourishes provides good birdwatching.

The trail becomes steadily more difficult to follow as it climbs farther from the trailhead and higher up the canyon. As you climb, occasional pools and widening vistas provide reasons to stop, take a breather, and look around. The Window comes into view well before you get to it, as does the 100-foot drop at its base.

Desert canyon
Waterfalls (in season)
Access to The Window
Magnificent views
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 of 26 deeper Triplog Reviews
The Window via Ventana
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Mt. Kimball and the Window via Ventana
Nice day for trail running with Ryan, Kent, and Kevin. We originally planned to make this a loop by starting at Sabino Canyon parking lot, road running to Ventana TH, up to Mt. Kimball and the Window, and then back down to Sabino via Esperero. However, Ryan told me the wrong start time, so I was about 30 minutes behind the guys and had to cut off the road running section.

I met up with them at the Ventana TH at 6:30, just as the sun started to slowly light up the sky. The sunrise looking back out of Ventana Canyon was pretty amazing. Ventana trail is runnable for the first couple miles, and then starts to steadily climb to the trail junction for the Window to the right and Mt. Kimball to the left. We wanted to bag Kimball first, so we headed left on a somewhat overgrown, but generally well-maintained, trail. Kent took us off trail at least five times before everyone agreed that I needed to lead. The climb up Kimball was quite steep with only a couple short runnable sections. The views from the top of Kimball were outstanding. You can see everything up there: the Biosphere, top of Lemmon, Tucson, Oracle, etc. We only ran into one other person all morning and had the peak to ourselves.

We headed back down to the junction of Pima Canyon/The Window via Ventana. While on the top of Kimball, Ryan and I told the guys that we were just going to run straight back to the parking lot, but the allure of seeing The Window (which I had never been to) was a little too great for me to pass up. We all decided to go for it, and I'm so happy we did. It was only a mile or so up to The Window, but very steep. The Window was way cooler than I expected! Gorgeous views on both sides. We took a nice break and tons of photos before heading down. Kent stuck with the original plan of completing the loop via Esperero, while the rest of us headed right back down Ventana. Like always, the last few miles seemed to drag on, especially with the temps rising and more people on the trail.
The Window via Ventana
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Hiked up to the window with some peeps from the Arizona Backpacking Club. There was still plenty of snow up at the top, but hardly enough to keep me away from the window. The day was warm, but as usual the window was freezing - that was the only moment all day when I needed a fleece.

I was surprised how many people were on the trail for Superbowl Sunday. I guess not everyone is a Patriots fan...
The Window via Ventana
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A slow hike, overall, due to a general feeling of fatigue for both my husband and me, as well as some knee and foot pain during the descent. Water levels were much lower than expected - Maiden Pools levels were the lowest we've ever seen, and none of the streams that intersect with the trail were active. My husband has hiked Ventana Canyon more than I have, and he remarked that he'd never seen the trail so dry (note that we haven't lived in Tucson since 2005, so we're not as up-to-date on the trail conditions as we once were). We had no trouble filtering at Maiden Pools on the way up and down, though, and there was one other spot, probably 60-90 minutes from the summit (depending on your fitness level), where flowing water could be found, although it didn't look too easy to access.

The trail was in fairly good condition, although I found myself feeling very thankful for some of the cairns that have been set up. Due to the recent storm, there was a good amount of snow on the ground at the summit - I'd estimate we hiked through snow for about 20 minutes before reaching The Window. (We did not attempt the actual summit - we stopped for lunch at The Window, which was our turnaround point.) It was a little icy at spots, but not too bad.

As for wildlife, we saw a few eagles in flight, as well as smaller birds chirping here and there. A few ground squirrels or chipmunks (they were too fast to identify), and a rabbit near the trailhead on the way back. We saw a few sets of mountain lion tracks in the snow near the summit, but thankfully missed seeing the animals themselves.
The Window via Ventana
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Decided to hike up Ventana Canyon to the Window. Weather not ideal (cold and windy) but it was my "window" of opportunity for the next week. At 8 am, the ground was cold but not frozen at the trailhead. Abundant sunshine mid morning and uneventful hike to the saddle on Esperero Trail on the way to the Window. Wind was freezing cold and 20-25 mph from the north once I got on the ridge line. I put on every layer, jacket, gloves, wool hat and pressed on to the Window. Frozen puddles but no snow. It was so cold I ate my sandwich with gloves on, snapped a couple of photographs with my camera and headed down. (BTW, I bought some fancy heavy waterproof gloves for a hiking trip next month in South America which I tried today. They were a complete failure. Hopefully REI will swap them out (although they were on clearance, so I don't know). Once I got below the ridge line I as protected from the wind and hike down was much more comfortable. I guess I'm not won over by the beauty of Ventana Canyon compared with Bear, Sabino, Finger Rock, etc. The Window however is unique and there is more exploring to do up top on a warmer day!
The Window via Ventana
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Have you ever been out on a hike and a song was so stuck in your head that any time you hear the song, you think about that hike? I have a feeling that's gonna be true here. New song played in the car ride, and on the hike.

Very enjoyable day, back on Esperero and Ventana. Thanks to fricknaley :app: :app: :app: , who picked me up at Ventana TH and shuttled me over to Sabino. He had an early morning appointment with Blackett's Ridge and was extremely gracious in letting me bum a ride ... walking from Sabino to Ventana afterward in 100-degree heat would not have been a great way to end this one. :yuck: Found myself shooting up Esperero around 5:30am, beautiful temps helped me kick up the pace and get a jump on this one.

The morning trip up Esperero was wonderful. Almost complete shade the whole way up. After I passed an elderly Asian couple at the start of Esperero (just off the road), I never saw another soul the entire day...had both canyons and the peak all to myself. Esperero had one big area of some really thick, high grass in one area, probably 4 feet tall and crazy thick, and dead. Not a good recipe. Farther up, Esperero had the usual brush growth across the trail once past the Cathedral Rock junction. For me, it was the first time on this final section of Esperero, no Cathedral turnoff today.

Made my way toward Window Peak — especially loved slipping over the ridge and seeing the view of Oro Valley, Catalina, and northwest Tucson. Once I made it up to Window Peak I never could find the register, once I made it up to the top I looked around but just wasn't in the exact right spot. Lots of really large boulders there with steep dropoffs between them. Spent over a half hour soaking up the view, then headed down. The heat was on, but I still had a lot of shade thanks to the oaks and juniper until dropping to 4500 feet.

Before leaving the oaks, funny, I startled a snake relaxing and staying cool in one of the branches. He quickly tried to get down and put his weight on a branch that was dead. It snapped and he fell down onto the ground (ouch!).

Oh, and the song? Like friendofThundergod, I'm a total alternative music guy... check out "Stressed Out" by twenty one pilots. Crazy dudes. Careful tho, this song can get in your head and not leave... ... 6vMY ](*,)
The Window via Ventana
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A typical start at the crack of noon was really quite nice for today, given that I would have thought Tucson would be closer to 100 than 80 for highs. It was pleasant the entire time, except when eating in the Window. Then it was chilly from the gusty winds and a persistent cloud. It is moist in the soil from the recent rain, which is also a new way to see the mountains around Tucson. Every time I hiked here over the last 4 years when visiting, Spring was bone dry.

On a personal note, I decided that other than Finger Rock, I shouldn't hike the canyons on the west side of the Catalinas after leaf out. There is so much poison ivy, I don't think it is worth the risk for me. In the past, I was usually done hiking these trails by now. They all have it, some worse than other, and this one is the worst. Still, I wanted to hike it this year, and with the cool weather it was great to get it in so late in the Spring.
The Window via Ventana
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Lead 2 other intrepid hikers up to the Window for an ABC event. Weather was PERFECT...cloudy for the ascent, not windy at the window. Saw no snow or signs of snow, which is a little depressing given the date. Some signs of wildflowers in the canyon below and tons of buffelgrass on Cardiac Hill. Love this hike - always gives me a good swift kick where I need it!

Just a few starting in the lower part of the canyon... Wiry lotus was looking good
The Window via Ventana
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jj mentioned a hike, tacos & Dairy Queen trifecta. With a few years of horse racing knowledge this sounded like a sure bet.

Window Rock is something I've only heard about since the 90's until today. Now I get it. Better yet I'm understanding the layout of Pusch Ridge top to bottom. Felt a little warmer than average today sweating out the ascent.

I'd say this is more forgiving vs Kimball via Finger Rock Canyon. The miles rolled off with a steady 600-700 foot gain per mile as rattled off by HAZ Tracks. Very nice Tucson overviews around two miles then wham bam views up top. The window is huge and dazzling. The peak is a must. Half dozen friendly groups along the way. Tucsonians are living the dream with all the desert to heaven options bordering the city.
The Window via Ventana
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JJ texted me saturday night about Window Peak and the timing worked out great so out we went sunday morning. nice amount of flowers in the canyon and the temperatures were just wonderful all day. the window was great as always but i was particularly pleased to escort another friend up my favorite local summit. window peak is hard to beat. GREAT day 8)
The Window via Ventana
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Picked this one to get two trails off the list. Since junior high-school I've visited Ventana, but was never really intrigued by it, so I've been dragging my feet on doing the entire trail. The on that's been bothering me for some time now is a 2ish mile section of the Esperero, stuck in the middle of some previous excursions.

Ventana, as many know, is an incredibly rocky canyon with steep walls that force a lot of zig-zagging cross canyon in order to gain any distance. It's very exposed, requiring precise timing in order to avoid the sun. More so now than 35 years ago, the humidity in the lower canyon is aggravated by the irrigation of the resort at its foot. With that said...

I opened the car door at 5:00 sharp. I immediately lost my breath to the wet air, with a taste of treated, reclaim water. I half ran the first mile hoping for fresh air, but found little until I was well beyond the "pools". I was sweating like a pig, breathing like Darth Vader, and had chugged a quart of water by mile 3. This was not a good start. The next 2 miles were up, up, up, but a least offered an occasional breeze. I was like a kid on Christmas when I finally reached the Esperero junction.

I blew through the next mile, to the Window with renewed energy. From there, it was new territory for the next 2 miles. As I had hoped, the Esperero did not disappoint. In fact, this is my new favorite section of the Esperero. Even the downhill was tough, but the scenery cannot be beat. At various stops along the way, you might see Mt Graham, turn 180ish to see Kitt Peak. I hit one side peak, east of Window Peak that actually offered a true 330 deg panorama.

The return down Ventana was more painful than the accent, but Ventana is now off my list and I've found yet a new favorite in that trapped piece of the Esperero. ;)

Permit $$

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 Ventana Trailhead
1) From I-10 head east on W Ina Rd for 6.9 mi
2) Continue onto E Skyline Dr for 1.9 mi
3) Continue onto E Sunrise Dr for 3.2 mi
4) Turn left onto N Craycroft Rd and follow 2.5 mi
5) Turn left onto N Resort Dr and follow 0.1 mi
6) Ventana Trailhead Parking is on your left. It is a large slender lot. Trail takes off from the end.

If you continue to far on N Resort Dr you will quickly enter the resort on Flying V Rd, turn around.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 117 mi, 1 hour 57 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 15.4 mi, 29 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 260 mi, 4 hours 6 mins
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