Great exercise hike in north Tucson
Live in northwest Tucson and need a short exercise hike? This is a good one, easy access with great views!
Honeybee Canyon Park is situated right in the Rancho Vistoso area of Oro Valley. The topography of the land prevented building in this area, giving wildlife a place to be in this area.
I first discovered this nice little spot when looking for a geocache with my son and love it! Great place for a little exercise.
History: The area around Honeybee is filled with ancient history, going back at least to the period of the Hohokam, who are believed to be in the area as early as 450 AD. They inhabited a settlement near Honeybee Canyon (now called Honeybee Village), which includes a cluster of 19 large mounds surrounding a plaza, a ballcourt and a special-use walled enclosure. As many as 500 to 800 domestic houses are present at the site along with many other cultural features. In the future, Honeybee Village will be an archaeological preserve open to the public by the town of Oro Valley. Currently, the village is not accessed by the hike.
Hike: I would recommend doing this little hike counterclockwise, at least until you get used to this one, because there are a couple of spots going clockwise that are very easy to miss.
Start on the sidewalk which gradually descends; it has side rails. You can also go around the sidewalk, just go over the black iron gate and follow the path down on the other side of it. It turns into sidewalk and ends up at the bathroom where the other sidewalk comes out.
When you get to the bottom, you can make a pitstop to the left at the bathroom facility or just head straight ahead on the dirt to start. This path has a sign on the right that says "Caution native area. Native plants & animals present."
After 0.25 mile you come to a wood sign telling you to take the wider path, do that. The shorter path is just a side trail. Just beyond that, there is a big sign pointing to the dam and the petroglyphs.
If you are staying on the loop trail (or once you get back to the loop trail), Go left in the wash a few yards and look on the right for a trail sign that is droopy and bent to left, it says leave the wash and follow "Loop Trail 1.4 mi" (the other side says "parking lot 0.3 mi").
Detour to the petroglyphs: Instead of going left, head to the right and under Rancho Vistoso Blvd. It's a 0.9 mile hike each way to the petroglyphs from this spot. You will know you are there when you come to what looks like a rock gate on either edge of the wash. Go a little farther and look around. One big stone on your left with petroglyphs on it will be obvious; I bet there are others to be found on the many boulders around, above the wash on each side. You will soon come to a cement cattle trough and partial cement wall, then the wash opens up wider. You can keep going north, but basically you're just following the wash north to the eastern edge of the Tortolita Mountains. In the wash near the petroglyphs there is also a grinding stone with holes, probably used for mesquite pods.
About 0.5 miles from the sign for the petroglyphs, on the loop trail you will find another wood post to the right with "TRAIL" on it. If you go to the right, you will quickly come to an electric fence. But notice at this spot (near where this trail sign is) that you can see off to the southwest a clear view of Kitt Peak and the telescopes on top. Even though it is 50 miles away exactly from this spot as the crow flies, it is clearly visible most days.
The next wood "trail" post will be on the left, and if you go around it, it carries you downhill to the bottom of the wash, a bit farther down from where you crossed a few minutes prior. It has a small cairn at the wash, you can take a left and go back toward the trail junction that leads back to the parking lot (fyi).
At 0.7 mile from the petroglyphs sign, it looks like the trail T's into to another trail. Actually, the left quickly peters out, but go to the right like "TRAIL" post is poorly trying to direct you to do.
A little further, you will drop back into the wash. There is another large wood sign just before dropping into the wash. It says if you follow the wash to the right, you will hit Big Wash in 0.6 mile. Take the wash to the left (it says here you are 0.4 mile to the parking lot).
At 1.1 mile from the petroglyphs sign, you walk through a doorway in a stone wall that completely covers the wash. Go through it, and when you come out, rather than heading in the 10:00 direction up the wash, climb the bank at your 2:00 position to stay on trail. After you climb up the embankment, you will see another wood "TRAIL" sign going to the right.
Come up to an unmarked junction a few yards farther, and obviously take a left to head back toward the parking lot. You will walk past the Ramada with picnic tables, keep going. Take a right and go up to the parking lot, or just keep going straight past the next ramada on the left and you will hit the sidewalk with the nice side rails leading back up to the point you started.
Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.
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.