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Douglas Spring Trail, AZ

306 48 2
Guide 48 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson
3.3 of 5 by 9
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 10.65 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,739 feet
Elevation Gain 3,373 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,700 feet
Avg Time One Way 6 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 22.98
Interest Historic, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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2  2019-05-11
Bridal Wreath Falls Loop
6  2018-10-20 MandaBearPig
22  2017-01-31
Rincon MtsDouglas Spring Trail to Grass Shack
2  2016-12-08 air
6  2016-08-07 gummo
79  2015-09-01
Rincon Mountains - AZT #9
9  2015-03-24 Uncharted
7  2014-08-20 Mountain_Rat
Page 1,  2,  3
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, Nov, Mar, Apr → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:11am - 6:18pm
Official Route
12 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Culture Nearby
Douglas was likely last to see the spring flow...
by Jeffshadows

2014: Stats for this hike have been adjusted to this route. It looks clean and justified.

Preamble: The Douglas Spring trail was recently rerouted to deal with erosion in its old course and incorporate a popular social trail that lead to a waterfall overlook. I recently (2011-2012) hiked its entire course several times so I made a few notes for this description. It begins at 2748' at the east end of Speedway and gains 3,752' over its course of roughly 8.7 miles. Take note that this distance calculation is based on my own GPS captures and that it contradicts what you will see on the signs in the Park, which probably have not been updated (The sign at the trailhead will tell you the trail is 8.3 miles long.)

Hike: The trail takes an initially flat course through a lovely stand of saguaros. After passing the Garwood Trail intersection at 0.2 miles, it begins to take on a more winding character with steeper banks. The track of the trail remains sandy and little elevation is achieved until it passes a major wash at about 0.7 miles. It is here that the foothills of the Rincons are encountered and the trail turns south and begins to climb. Built-up steps are initially encountered and then the course alternates between rocky and sandy until the new section of trail is reached. This portion is relatively flat and winds north to view a waterfall in the drainage below that is active in wetter seasons. The trail resumes its climb and quickly achieves a minor plateau that houses the junction with the Carrillo trail at 1.1 miles. Emilio Carrillo was the original owner of the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch and he grazed cattle in this area in the early 1900's.

The trail leaves the plateau and resumes its climb into the foothills of the Rincons. It passes through a minor saddle and then drops into the basic that forms the confluence of two drainages from the south. If you look immediately south, you will see the remains of the Aguila Corral. The trail is marked in places with cairns where it passes over bare bedrock, but is never difficult to reacquire. It next encounters a series of stone steps that gain about 300' of elevation with little opportunity for shade along the climb. Once the stairs are surmounted, the trail begins to follow a minor ridge line and then passes into another small plateau dominated by mixed scrub and tall grass. The track of the trail becomes sandy once again and it passes by a major stream course that houses several large cottonwood trees and is a good place to find water in wetter months. If you look closely, you will notice several small stone dams in the stream course left, presumably, by the Carrillo ranching operation. The trail next intersects with the Three Tank Trail at 2.3 miles.

After roughly two-tenths of a mile of wining through grass, the trail encounters a four-way junction with the Bridal Wreath Falls trail breaking south and the Ernie's Falls trail that breaks due north. The Ernie's Falls trail essentially ends 0.6 miles later at the wilderness boundary where it joins at dirt track. The Bridal Wreath falls trail winds into a nearby canyon, home to Bridal Wreath Falls, roughly three-tenths of a mile from the junction. Water can usually be found here even in very dry months, but it might require digging in late May or June. The trail resumes a more northerly course as it starts a gradual climb that it retains most of the rest of the way into the Campground. The grass gives way to more mesquite and other scrubby trees before achieving a minor ridge. The trail follows this ridge line as it trades winding north and east. Several sporadic steps are encountered as the trail continues its gradual climb. The track of the trail becomes rockier as there is a noticeable gain in grade just before the trail mounts a rocky ridge that houses a large grassy plateau. It has now come about 3.2 miles from the four-way junction and has gradually gained about 900' in elevation.

This is the first time that the structures at Douglas Spring Campground, which is 0.4 miles ahead, become visible. The most obvious is a wooden outhouse that seems to be sitting in the middle of nowhere. The trail gains little elevation and its track becomes sandy as it winds through the grass and scrub into the first of three improved campsites at the Campground; each site is equipped with a fire ring and bear box. This area is notorious for being infested with insects, even in very hot or cold months. The outhouse was loaded with spiders the last time I looked inside. NPS routinely comes through and cleans and resupplies it, but it's definitely a "Use at your own risk" situation. The original Spring is about a tenth of a mile upstream at the point where the trail crosses the stream course before leaving the general vicinity of the Campground. The Spring itself is dry even in very wet times, but water can almost always be found by continuing upstream a little ways. As with the falls, it might be necessary to dig in very dry months.

After passing the stream course, the trail turns hard south and begins to follow along the wall of one of the canyons that came to confluence in the Campground area. This is Canyon del Pino. It is here that the foliage really begins to change. Occasional juniper become more and more present and pinyon are encountered. The trail's track follows at roughly the same distance from the stream course below as both climb into the canyon before it drops off and its track joins the stream course just before the head of the canyon. The track becomes quite sandy it this area is difficult to maneuver in wet or snowy months as it turns into a mudslide. This area marks the halfway point between the Campground and Cow Head Saddle.

The trail suddenly loses its previous, relatively straight character and begins to climb more appreciably. It winds around pine and scrub as the track of the trail begins to gain walls and becomes increasingly sandy. I encountered running water along this section of the trail from snow melt in the spring. Judging by the character of the track, it appears to be water-carved, this is probably likely in any wet period. The trail follows a ridge line for a time before dropping back into a walled drainage. It is here that the view of Tanque Verde peak begins to disappear as the walls close in. The climbing becomes even steeper for a time before the trail finally gains a minor saddle and opens onto a very small plateau dominated by scrub pine and an occasional cactus. The view to the north from here is incredible, with a full sweep of the Catalinas. Just to the right on the side of the hill below Tanque Verde Ridge is the sign marking Cow Head Saddle. The trail has come 2.6 miles from the Campground and 8.7 miles from the trailhead. The Cow Head Saddle trail begins to climb immediately away to the east, ending near Helen's Dome in another 3.5-ish miles. The Tanque Verde Ridge trail climbs away to the West up the sandy path behind the sign and next encounters Tanque Verde Peak in 2.5-ish miles.

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.

2012-06-22 Jeffshadows
  • Rincon HAZ Map
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    Rincon HAZ Map
  • Rincon Mountain Distric East
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    Rincon Mountain Distric East
  • Tucson Mountain District West
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    Tucson Mountain District West
  • SNP Cactus Forest Map
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    SNP Cactus Forest Map
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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 of 13 deeper Triplog Reviews
Douglas Spring Trail
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first time up to cowhead saddle. douglas springs trail gets pretty steep after the campground, but it's nice up there

jogged what i could. legs felt really bad on the way down though. like really really bad :o

beautiful day for sure. saw a snake climb a tree in about 1 second. that was very bizarre!
Douglas Spring Trail
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Tanque Verde Peak
I got to bag the last of the 3 major peaks in the Rincons, and got to do it in It was pretty nasty on New Years Day, but the forecast said the rain would go away by 5ish, so we thought that worst-case we'd have to start the hike that afternoon in ponchos. To our surprise, things had cleared up by the time we reached the trailhead at around 1pm.

We were dry for the entire hike to Juniper Basin, but we were hiking in clouds for the last mile and a half or so. As we were setting up camp it started raining, and that went on until just about the time of night when it would've turned to snow. This made for some fun shaking the frozen raindrops off of our tents the next day.

Altogether, the camping experience was very wet and cold. Despite a valiant effort, it was impossible to get a real fire going. The toilet was impossible to find in the dark, though in the morning we discovered it about 30 yds from the creek off the path between sites 1 and 2. I don't think the temps got far below freezing, but my 22 degree sleeping bag was about at its limit.

The hiking on this trip was worth the trouble though. TVR trail, which I had been on a few times before, is always great, and the area from Juniper Basin to the summit (which we experienced for the first time on this clear morning with a fresh dusting of snow) is amazing. There was water everywhere, and that made the hike down from Cowhead Saddle to the Manning Camp Trail particularly enjoyable. By the time we reached the Quilter Trail it was a slog, but this was a great 27 hours in the mountains.
Douglas Spring Trail
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Douglas Spring/Mica Mtn/Grass Shack
Day 1: Finished work at 4, dropped of a car at Loma Alta, and got shuttled to Douglas Spring TH just before 6. We had to use headlamps almost the entire way, but it was a pretty smooth hike. Thanks to the camper at Site 1 who directed us to Site 2 and let us use his bear locker (even though there was a bear locker at Site 3 just about 40 feet away from us which we were too stupid to see in the dark). Since we got there so late, there was a lot of getting disoriented trying to find our way around, and hopefully our confused ranting didn't keep the other camper awake. I'm afraid we were quite close to being those campers...

Day 2: Went up to Cowhead Saddle, Spud Rock, and Mica Mountain, then down the Mica Mountain Trail to Manning Camp and down the Manning Camp Trail to Grass Shack for the night. A pretty big day, and the weather couldn't have been any better. Back in May I only lasted about 5 mins on Spud Rock before getting cold, but now in December it was warm with just the slightest breeze. The descent from Mica that afternoon as the sun was setting was about as good as it gets.

Day 3: Booked it down to Loma Alta in 4 hrs so that we could make it to work that afternoon. Remind me to never ascend this route in the summer. Gorgeous this time of year though.

Plenty of water at Grass Shack and Manning Camp, and pretty good flow at Douglas Spring. No beer at Grass Shack. :-({|=
Douglas Spring Trail
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First of two efforts today with my buddy Rob. Rob is 74 years old, in decent shape, but we've never hiked together before. This was kind of a check hike, to see what he was capable of. The ascent did him in at the 1.3 mile mark - not because he was out of breath, but his legs got a little wobbly. I had promised his wife to bring him back alive, so I hiked up a little further so I could get at least 3 miles total in, then we turned back.

Once we got back to the trailhead and rested, he was up for a little more, so we decided to check out nearby Scots Knob [ triplog ] .
Douglas Spring Trail
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What a trip! I have been looking at this hike (or some variation) for some time now. I started from the Loma Alta TH about 3:30 after finishing up work, and about an hour later than I had wanted to start, but sometimes duty calls...Overloaded with more stuff than I need (as per usual) the grind up was pretty taxing, especially with the high humidity level. I was sweating buckets the whole way up! I had to navigate the last hour + by headlamp which made for really slow going, especially trying to find an overgrown trail and make my way across numerous wet creek crossings. There is flowing water everywhere in the Rincons right now, I have never seen so much water and green growth out here! All the washes are flowing, and there are waterfalls around every corner it seemed. The Quilter trail and the first 4 miles of the Mannig Camp trail are really overgrown, lots of annuals and grasses going to town with all of the moisture. Soaked my boots making the crossing to the Grass Shack campground, my destination for the night. I had enough energy to set up camp and filter some water, but I was too wiped to even worry about dinner. Slept really well in the tent, temps were in the mid to low 60's so very comfortable. Got up a bit before the sun on Wednesday for some breakfast, and then loaded up for the trip up the mountain. Made good time up to Manning Camp where I stopped for a break to look around, have a snack, and filter some water. Clouds were looming in and the thunder started up as I was approaching Mica Mountain, but I had come too far to not make my goal. Made it to the top and signed the register, saw a few familiar names in the book. From here I continued on the Fire Loop over to Spud Rock and made the scramble up. Fantastic views up above, simply breathtaking! Enjoyed a summit brew and had to skedaddle, there was a big dark cloud hanging over Mica and I knew better than to chance it. I went down the Fire loop to the Cow Head Saddle trail when the sprinkling started. This kept up for about 45 minutes, and then the real rain started. I had to take a break to stow my electronics in a dry bag and I got out my rain jacket, all the while trying to get further down the mountain and away from the potential lightning...Made the Cow Head Saddle and took the Douglas Spring trail on back to camp. It rained hard enough that my boots got soaked through in pretty quick fashion, this ended up rubbing a pretty nasty hole under my right ankle once I was back to camp to assess damages. I finally ate my lunch about 3:30, and dozed in the tent waiting for the bugs to go away with the dark. Woke up for a quick snack and to send off a SPOT signal to my wife so she didn't fret too much. Thursday I woke up about 5:30 to get in an early breakfast and get packed up for the trip out. I had my first human contact in two days when I ran into Andrew from the NPS trail crew about a mile or so onto the Quilter trail. I stopped to chat for a few and share some experiences, nice guy! From here I powered down to Rincon Creek (I am pretty sure) for a snack and to filter some more water. Finally made it back to the trusty Quest van about 11:30 to take off my boots and see that I had a big blister on my left foot and a few more rub marks form all of the wet boot hiking. I don't think my boots were ever dry on this trip, I might have retired this pair in style. Headed back into Tucson for some much needed lunch at one of my favorites, La Parilla Suiza. Promptly inhaled a chile relleno, enchilada, rice, beans, two bowls of chips, two cups of water, and two cups of iced tea. Refueled, I headed back to Phoenix for a nice shower at home and then some family time. Simply amazing trip, any time you can go through 6 different bio-zones on a hike you know you have done well. P.S., if anyone makes it up to the Grass Shack in the near future, there are a few extra Sunspot Gold ales in the bear box at site two, if the rangers do not get to it first...

Huge amounts of color from about 3500' to 5000', spotty above there.
Douglas Spring Trail
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I had several several objectives as I set off; Primarily, I just needed a day on the trail. Secondly I've been itchin' to try out my new Merrell boots. Third, to record the official Douglas Spring Trail, and finally, to try out the HAZ Track app on the trail.

I hit the trail at exactly 6:00. The sky was clear at this point and it was extremely humid. There were some heavy rains on this end of town the night before, with the runoff still flowing in the Reddington area. I was in no big hurry as I had the whole day and I've learned that this trail can be an evil one if you don't play the afternoon exposure just right. I set a steady, medium speed pace and just enjoyed the surroundings. I took my first of several breaks at the campground, then pushed up to Cow Head Saddle. Just before the saddle, it rained on me a bit, so I decided to stop off and break out the poncho. I set my pack, sunglasses and hat down on an old gnarly tree trunk while I dug out poncho. As I gathered my stuff back up, I found an unhappy (but thankfully lethargic) rattle snake under my hat. he hissed a little, but seemed reluctant to go defensive in the rain. With my new burst of energy, I dropped off the south side of the saddle on the final leg. After a bit of a break and change of socks, I started back. I stopped off for a quick visit with my grumpy little friend at the pass and I must say he was really unhappy to see me this time. As it was still pretty early, I tried to make a slow decent, but ended up at the campground way too early. Ideally, I would have passed through at 16:00 in order to reach the truck at dark. Fortunately, occasional cloud cover and an afternoon breeze made those last 6-1/2 miles tolerable.

In the end, all missions were accomplished; I spent a day in the mountains, I LOVE my new boots, I have the full Douglas Spring track and I recorded it using HAZ Tracks!!! I'd call that a pretty good day.
Douglas Spring Trail
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This was my first hike in a year, and hopefully the first of many during the rest of the year.

A very pleasant Monday morning. The air quality was great in Tucson after a couple of weeks of generally windy days. I only met two other hikers this morning on the trail; when I got back to the trailhead at 8 AM, there were a dozen hikers getting ready to head up the hill.

The saguaros were in full bloom - I don't think I've seen them bloom so abundantly in the past few year. Nothing else, however was in bloom. I saw very little wildlife either, not even a rabbit.

Just saguaro blooms.
Douglas Spring Trail
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This was a long trail. Not too rough, just lllonnng. The grade averages only 10%, but it's really long. The weather was quit nice, 60 deg while I was at Manning resting. The air was pretty dusty, making for few decent pics. Coming down was not much easier than going up. Either way it was Really Long !!! :stretch:
Douglas Spring Trail
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I had to spend the night in Tucson for work, so what better idea than to get in a good little hike? I did not have as much time as I hoped (i didn't get to the trailhead until 4:30) so this seemed like a good choice. All of the short trails right around the Douglas Springs trailhead are a bit confusing and overlapping, but certainly nothing too crazy. After I got about a mile in, I had the whole hike to myself and didn't see anyone else. Since we had some good rain (and even a little snow) the day before, i was hopeful to find some moisture at the falls, and I was not disappointed. There is a nice secluded grotto amongst some One-seed Junipers and Emory Oaks where there was a steady shower coming down from the falls. Great views of the Gaileyuro Mountains once I got a bit higher along the ridge. Well worth the trip!
Douglas Spring Trail
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This was our first hike of 2013! Decided to take a short drive to the Douglas Spring Trailhead and try out our new DSLR camera lense. The hike was an easy one as we wanted to ease our way back into it after not hiking for almost a year. Not much to see if you're used to looking at cacti, at least in the winter.

Permit $$

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Saguaro National Park
2019 $20 vehicle, $15 motorcycle or $10 for any individual on foot or bicycle - the receipt is valid for 7 days Fees

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From I-10 in Tucson, take the Speedway exit and follow until its extreme eastern terminus. The trail begins at the trail head parking lot here.
page created by joebartels on Jun 22 2012 1:23 pm
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