Charouleau Gap, AZ | HikeArizona
  This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Preferred" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Charouleau Gap, AZ

Guide 7 Triplogs Mine 0 1 Topic
4.3 of 5 
no permit
46 7 1
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 18.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,682 feet
Elevation Gain 1,957 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,210 feet
Avg Time One Way 9 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 29.2
 Interest Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
 Backpack Possible - Not Popular
unreported if dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
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12  2020-12-29 Stoic
16  2017-05-08
Charouleau Gap Samaniego Ridge
17  2011-12-29 azdesertfather
1  2000-11-23 Grasshopper
author avatar Guides 15
Routes 80
Photos 1,253
Trips 932 map ( 7,194 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Associated Areas
list map done
Tucson Region
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar Map
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Preferred Oct, Apr, May, Mar
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:47am - 6:23pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2020 Bighorn Fire119.5k
🔥 2003 Aspen Fire87.7 mi*
🔥 2002 Oracle Hill16.3 mi*
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles
Nearby Area Water
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Culture  Nearby
challenging 4WD trip, or a decent hike!
by azdesertfather

  Likely In-Season!
The Charouleau Gap is one of the best 4WD trips in the Catalinas, but it doesn't make too bad of a horseback ride, mountain bike ride, or shuttle hike either.
This scenic route is for 4-wheel drive vehicles only. The road up and over Samaniego Ridge is rough, rocky, and requires good ground clearance as well as excellent traction.

On the western half of the trip, there are broad and expansive views as you climb up and back down Charouleau Gap, and the roads aren't quite as bad since they have been graded in the past.

For the northern half of the trip, much of your time is spent down around the Canada del Oro wash and is especially rough in places. The toughest single spot by vehicle is known as The Step (N32.53085 W110.78176); because of the incline it is preferable to drive down it from Oracle; however, many manage to climb up it from the Catalina side.

The other tough spot is a quarter-mile stretch known as (yep) the Quarter Mile, which if driving from Oracle starts about a mile south of The Step (around N32.51812 W110.78185) and goes down to the bottom of the elbow in the route. One other place of note is a spot known as the Elevator Shaft (N32.56493 W110.78086), a climb that is long and steep but has a solid surface for vehicles because of past grading.

The route also has interesting rock formations, the remains of an old adobe home at a place marked on topo maps as Coronado Camp, and from what I understand some pretty good deer hunting (or observing, if that's your preference).

Several primitive roads branch off the Charouleau Gap Road and offer excellent ATV and trail bike riding; according to the Forest Service, vehicles must stay on roads.

The Road provides access to two Coronado National Forest trails for hikers and horseback riders, the Samaniego Ridge Trail #7 and the Canada Del Oro Trail #4. As a one-way 4WD trip, the ride is going to take 5-6 hours (as long as you don't bottom out somewhere!). As a hike, it's going to be more like 9 hours.

Connecting trails:
Along the way, there are two places where trails connect in to continue a journey on foot:

- At the bottom of the elbow (and the southern start to the Quarter Mile) is the northern end of the Canada del Oro Trail #4, which runs south and southwest up and around the west side of Mt. Lemmon for about 7.5 miles. You can also reach from here:
  • Red Ridge Trail #2, 1.5 miles away
  • Samaniego Ridge Trail #7, 6.1 miles away
  • Summerhaven, 6.5 miles away

- At the top of Charouleau Gap is the start of the Samaniego Ridge Trail #7, a 10.5-mile trail which climbs Samaniego Ridge to the peak and ends near the peak of Mt. Lemmon. From the Samaniego you can connect to the:
  • Samaniego Ridge Spur Trail #7A, 6.7 miles away
  • Canada del Oro Trail #4, 7.8 miles away
  • Sutherland Trail #6, 8.4 miles away

History & geology: The Catalina Mountains were formed by a major fault line called Pirate, splitting the range in two and causing the fissure between the Oracle and Samaniego ridges. This split and subsequent erosion created the pronounced alluvial fans seen on the western slopes and the deep chasm that is now home to the flows of the Canada del Oro. Canada del Oro makes its way north around the Samaniego ridge, and then back south to the confluence of the Santa Cruz River.

The ancient history of the western slopes of the Catalina mountains starts with the arrival of the Hohokam people from northern Mexico around AD 300, reaching their peak between AD 700 and 1000. The peak years of occupation in the Canada Del Oro were from AD 500-700 before major population units moved to Rillito and eventually the Rincons. Recorded history detailing western civilizations imprint on the Catalinas starts in the 1540s with the expeditions of Don Francisco de Coronado, the famed Spanish explorer, and commander who traveled through much of the southwest in search of gold. Father Kino, who established many of the missions throughout Arizona and California named the mountains Catalina, after St. Catherine in 1697.

Famille Charouleau, French pioneers traveled west to this area in the late 19th century, giving the pronounced "gap" along the Samaniego Ridge its name. The Charouleau Gap is more like a saddle, but the name has stuck nonetheless.

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.

2011-12-29 azdesertfather

    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.

     Permit $$

    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    Oracle (north) entrance: The trail can be accessed by driving east on AZ 77 to W American Avenue. Head south on American, which will turn east. After 2.0 miles take a right on N College Drive, then a left on E Maplewood, then a right on N Estill Drive. After a short distance, bear right onto N Viento Drive. The next right is Callas Drive, which will turn to dirt at a gate. The gate is the start of the trail.

    Catalina (west) entrance: The small parking area and trailhead can be reached by exiting AZ77 at E Golder Ranch Road and heading east. Proceed to N Lago del Oro Parkway and turn north. The parking area is at (N32 31.231 W110 53.110). The trail heads east into the Catalinas via a narrow private land easement. Do not leave the trail, or drive in the washes. Keep speeds low to reduce dust and noise. Respect the private land to ensure future use; there have been threats of closures in the past.
    page created by azdesertfather on Dec 29 2011 9:02 pm

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