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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.

Shovel Springs Loop, AZ

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Guide 12 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.9 of 5 by 7
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 7.84 miles
Trailhead Elevation 9,093 feet
Elevation Gain 1,957 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,412 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 19.9
Backpack Yes
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
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6  2018-08-17 jtaylor
5  2018-07-26 fricknaley
2  2018-06-05 pmstirling
24  2016-09-09
Catalina Mts Samaniego Ridge
34  2013-05-04 Jim_H
21  2011-10-15 Sarae
7  2011-07-16 cindyl
15  2011-05-22
Samaniego Peak
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   Jun, Jul, Aug, Sep → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:12am - 6:19pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
You no longer need a shovel to dig the trail out
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
A very nice lasso loop in the Catalina high country starting from the Mt. Lemmon trailhead and heading out into some less visited areas in the Samaniego Ridge area, on some newly reworked trails. Unique and spectacular views are there...ripe for the taking. There is a lot of excellent forest up here as well.

This hike starts on the Mt. Lemmon Trail #5. You can opt to start the first leg on the beautiful little Meadow Trail leg of the Mt. Lemmon Trail, called Meadow Trail 5A. This short little 0.8 mile leg wanders through some big trees and little meadows (some burned) near the summit of Mt. Lemmon before descending back down a slope to rejoin Mt. Lemmon Trail proper. Continue on the Mt. Lemmon trail for another 0.7 miles to the signed junction with the Sutherland Trail #6.

Turn right on Sutherland #6 and descend down the west slope of Mt. Lemmon for about a total of 0.8 miles. Along the way incredible views open up of Pusch Ridge and its craggy summits as well as the western slopes of Mt. Lemmon. In the fall there will be golden blazes along the slopes. The trail can be a little brushy but is very easy to follow. After about 0.8 miles you will reach the signed junction for Samaniego trail #7, with Sutherland breaking off and descending to your left. Stay straight or right on Samaniego Ridge Trail and absorb more amazing views of Pusch Ridge. If you know where to look you can see light streaming through the Window. You will start to enter more and more patches of outstanding pine forest. The descent continues quite steadily for about 0.5 miles into denser pine forest, which in many places seems totally untouched by any hint of fire and is really outstanding.

After about 0.5 miles of descending you come to the signed intersection with the Canada Del Oro (CDO) Shortcut trail. For this little loop you can go either way. For this description I choose to continue left on the Samaniego Ridge Trail. Hike this for about another mile as it continues to descend out towards a saddle south of Samaniego Peak, which you periodically have awesome views of along the way through the trees. At times the views towards to slopes of Lemmon and over Canada Del Oro are just fabulous. Out towards the far intersection with the CDO Shortcut trail (about 1 mile from the last sign) the trail is a little brushy but still easy enough to follow.

At the CDO Shortcut signed intersection take a right onto the CDO shortcut trail. You will follow this route for about 0.3 miles to the signed intersection with the CDO Trail #4. This is the only short section of this hike where the trail is faint. It does appear to have been recently tagged and blazed, however, and if you keep this in mind and follow the faint trail you should be able to make the 0.3 section to the next intersection without too much trouble. At the last signed intersection for this little loop you are presented with the CDO Trail #4 proper descending into it's namesake canyon or continuing your climb back up to the intersection with the Samaniego Ridge trail at the CDO Shortcut intersection. This last little leg is about 0.7 miles and has obviously been recently cleared. There should be no significant route finding issues as you make this last little climb through some more awesome forest. Shovel Spring is along this stretch as well.

Once back at the signed intersection with Samaniego Ridge Trail #7 you can take it back up to the Sutherland intersection then the Mt. Lemmon intersection to get back to your car. The way back is all uphill.

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2010-11-01 fricknaley
  • 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
Shovel Springs Loop
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
9 of us did this route on Tuesday Jun 5, 2018. It was over 100 in Tucson but got up to "only" around 80 on the trail. But, at 9,000' up the sun beats down even more than in Tucson, so be prepared! The other initial note is that I clocked just over 9 miles on my GPS, with about 2750 AEG, this is more than the description says. That said, this is a beautiful, not much used, loop from the very top of Mt Lemmon. We took the following route, from the Picnic area at the top end of Ski Run Rd:
- Lemmon Trail, with a small side strip to the lookout cabin (which was closed as this is fire season)
- Sutherland Trail
- Samaniego Ridge trail
- Canada del Oro trail
- CDO shortcut trail (cuts over to Samaniego Ridge trail)
- Samaniego Ridge trail
- Sutherland, Lemmon trails
- Meadow trail

All trails but CDO Shortcut are well maintained and easy to follow. CDO shortcut looked little used but wasn't overgrown and fairly easy to follow as long as you're paying attention! All of the trail junctions are signposted, so it's hard to take a wrong turn. However, the sign at the junction of CDO and CDO Shortcut has been defaced. The title is fine ("CDO Shortcut Tr. #4A") is fine, but the top line, directing you to turn left for Samaniego Ridge trail, has been completely scratched out. Given the unused looking state of the trail, at first I thought this was intentional and that the FS had discontinued that trail - not realising what it was. If you continue on, the CDO trail heads down hill and was obviously not what we wanted. You need to take a left at the defaced sign and follow the faint trail for about 0.3 miles over to Samaniego Ridge trail. The sign at that end is fine. Turn left again (uphill) and follow the trail back to the CDO junction. This section of the trail is also not well maintained, so pay attention not to get sucked off onto an animal track.
The other signpost that's a bit confusing is the junction of Sutherland and Samaniego Ridge trails. The Sutherland trail here looks unused and faint. The sign, which is a few feet on from the junction, is titled "Samaniego Ridge Tr. #7", and the only indication for the Sutherland trail is a line saying "Catalina State Park Bndry. 7.3".
To quote the Grand Canyon warnings, "Down is optional, Up is mandatory" - this loop drops about 2000' from its high point at the parking area (just over 9100') to a low point of about 7180' near Shovel Spring, which is near the junction of CDO and CDO Shortcut trails). There are a couple of up-and-down sections, so the AEG is greater. There are a few steep, rocky sections with no shade, overall this is a pretty tough hike, deceptively so as it starts out downhill.
There are a couple of stands of New Mexico Locust trees on the route, in flower for us - as the book says, the showiest flowers on the mountain! I also found a Yellow Salsify gone to seed - a puffball like a giant dandelion, very cool.
On the way back we took Meadow Trail, which I think is much nicer than Lemmon trail, winding through a nice stand of pines. The well known huge one fell over a few years back, and the trail now switchbacks around the fallen trunk.
Overall this is a lovely 9 mile double loop, with a good cardio workout getting back - I can't believe I waited five years to do it for the second time! We started hiking around 7:30am and finished about 1:45, and even though the temperature wasn't that high, it felt really warm on the exposed sections - bring more water than you think you need! Shade and a cool breeze really helps, but at that elevation the sun beats down ferociously.
Shovel Springs Loop
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
Nice day, with it heating up down in Tucson it was a dream to step out of the car and be cold! Did this with my friend Traci - we ran many of the downs/flats and walked a lot of the uphills. A Western Tanager, great views and great company. Nice view of the post fire landscape and regrowth -
Shovel Springs Loop
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
I was planning on the CSP2ML hike, but it didn't work out. Actually, I was fine with that, and liked this easier loop. Hardly a huge challenge, but one of the most scenic hikes in the Catalina Mountains. Still very hazy, and it was only near dusk that the Santa Ritas started to become visible. Even the Pusch Ridge was hazy. I took lots of pics, but they don't totally do this hike justice. How can they?

Stopped for a little while under some oaks and enjoyed the birds in the trees. Totally different feel to this hike.
Shovel Springs Loop
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
A great dayhike to take the pup on. The sun was intense on the exposed slopes. The areas untouched by fire are lovely, and I can easily see taking a quick overnight trip along this ridgeline. There are lots of places to hang a hammock! Met a couple who were confused about how the trails got back up to the summit and I convinced them that they didn't want to hike all the way over to the control road to get back up to Mt. Lemmon :scared: They followed me back up to the top. The route was decently clear to follow with only a couple of spots on the CDO that are truly overgrown. Lindy and I made quick work of the hike, enjoying the fall color along the way.

Shovel spring was dripping, but the water was clear enough in the tank. There's some dog slobber in there now though :D The campsite below the spring looks like a nice overnight spot, too, with places for tents and hammocks.
Shovel Springs Loop
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
Did this one as a quick overnight backpack. We stayed at the spring - very nice campsite there. In the morning, before I had my coffee and before my hiking partner got up, I hiked the rest of the way down to the trail junction, just to see what was out there. Some nice views! We got rained on just a little on the hike out. I wanted to stop by and see the lookout, but there was a message on the gate not to disturb him because of the fire. But what fire? I don't know. The rain really started to come down once we got back to the car. Yay for rain! :y:
Shovel Springs Loop
rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
After years of thinking about this hike i finally went out and hiked it...what a novel idea! This area of the range is fantastic, rarely visited and wild. The trails are mostly in great shape and likely recently reworked. the views are absolutely splendid and totally unlike anything i've seen thus far in my catalina wanderings. an excellent hike indeed :y:

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
Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Go all way up, turing right towards Ski Valley and continuing past it to the end of the line at the power substation on Radio Ridge. This is the trail head for Mt. Lemmon Trail.
page created by fricknaley on Nov 01 2010 3:05 pm
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