You don't know Jack...well now you do!
Jack Mountain sits between the famous Mt. Wrightson to the east and Mt. Hopkins to the west. This little peak offers some of the best views in the Santa Ritas and is a blast to climb as well. Several routes can be put together to make a nice loop. This one will consist of going up Old Baldy trail to Josephine Saddle, then heading west on Agua Caliente Trail to Jack, then coming back down on the Carrie Nation Trail. You could also use to Super Trail and/or Vault Mine trails as additional routes to and fro.
From the ubiquitous trailhead at the end of the Madera Canyon road take off heading south on the landmark Old Baldy trail. This is a well known trail, and well known to Hike Arizona, so I won't belabor the details. It is 2.2 miles of nice, steady climbing up Old Baldy to the intersection of trails at Josephine Saddle. This saddle can be seen from all over the Santa Ritas, and Tucson too for that matter. It's about a 1600 foot climb to Josephine Saddle from the Baldy trailhead. Much of this trail is gorgeous.
From Josephine Saddle head west on the Agua Caliente trail...perhaps one of the prettiest trails in the Santa Ritas. The Agua Caliente trail climbs a little, but mostly just cuts through astoundingly refreshing pine forest. Through the trees are phenomenal views of Wrightson and Madera Canyon. I long ago hailed this as one of my favorite trails, and today I was reminded why. First off, you will skirt the south flank of the nameless peak just east of Jack, which tops out just under 7300 feet. After about 0.4-o.5 miles from Josephine Saddle you will come to the unmarked spur trail to Jack Mountain, which breaks off to your left. The trail is at the point where a ridge runs out to your right, and there is a little campsite and stone fire ring here. The little sput takes only 5 minutes to climb, gaining about 100 feet or so to the summit of Jack Mountain, which sits at roughly 7470. Jack was cleared out a bit during the fight against the Florida Fire and as a result it has WIDE open views out over Madera Canyon, Mt. Hopkins and Pete Mountain to the west and Mt. Wrightson and Josephine Peak to the east. Flowers dot the summit. Head back down to the Agua Caliente Trail and continue left or west. The next point of interest will be the unsigned, but easy to follow Carrie Nation Trail. This will break off right and head down canyon just after a major canyon crossing in roughly 0.2-0.3 miles from the junction of the Jack spur and Agua Caliente. Though not marked it is an obvious trail. If you miss the Carrie Nation trail you can just head down the Vault Mine trail, so no worries.
Head down the steep Carrie Nation trail as it descends through wonderfully shaded pine forest to access the canyon. There are all sorts of juvenile and full grown pines along the upper section making it splendid. The trail eventually meets the canyon then skirts along either side of it for about 0.6 miles, at which point you will come to an "End of Trail" sign, marking the upper end of "maintaned" Carrie Nation trail. The thing is the route above this, which you just descended, is just as easy to follow as the maintaned trail. At the end of trail region there is an old mine site. Cross over the creek/canyon to the west side and pass by some old machinery. The trail picks up and heads down along a canyon to your right. The trail is very shaded here and you may be lucky to spy or hear an Elegant Trogan in this area, I have in the past. After about 0.8 miles of easy descending you will come to the signed break off for the Vault Mine trail, which heads up to your left. There is a sign marking the way down to the trailhead. Continue on down the last 0.7-0.8 miles to the trailhead and your car. Madera Creek will be on your left on the way down.
I'd like to thank fellow HAZ member Saguarohiker (Bill) for the beta on the spur trail to the Jack summit. He is the resident expert on all things Santa Ritas.
Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.
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.
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