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Buster Canyon Loop - Tucson, AZ

Guide 21 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 5.19 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,711 feet
Elevation Gain 1,869 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,047 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.43
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Historic & Peak
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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15  2021-04-25 Jim_H
6  2016-11-24 fricknaley
14  2013-11-20 sirena
19  2013-06-20 Mountain_Rat
15  2013-06-14
Buster Mountain
10  2013-05-27
Buster Mountain
Author Mountain_Rat
author avatar Guides 11
Routes 106
Photos 676
Trips 219 map ( 2,167 miles )
Age 58 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Feb, Nov, Jan → 5 AM
Seasons   ALL
Sun  5:34am - 7:26pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 2020 Bighorn Fire119.5k

Bust a loop
by Mountain_Rat

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This journey expounds on the already excellent Buster Mountain description, as they share the same primary goal in bagging Buster Mountain with all of its views. This version differs, though, as it’s not only a scenic tour but a historical one as well.

Though details are slim, the history of this immediate area seems to revolve around the late Buster Bailey. Buster moved here from Texas in 1927. His father built their home somewhere in the area that is now Catalina State Park. Buster’s family soon moved back to Texas, but Buster returned to his one true love, The Catalina Mountains. He worked for area ranchers, he worked for the Zimmerman family, who developed what is now Summer Haven on Mt. Lemmon, but Buster’s real claim to fame was as a bootlegger, operating his still near the waters of the now dry Buster Spring. Remnants of his still are said to be in place, though in disrepair, somewhere near the current spring. This was Buster’s stomping ground, and you can’t help but feel connected to him while you’re here. It’s said that he packed his product down alternating routes so as not to leave any obvious trails. It would be safe to say that if you’re on any passable route in or around Buster Canyon, Buster himself had been there.

From the trailhead at Catalina State Park, cross the Sutherland Wash. As you come out of the wash, turn right (south) to the Birding Trail. At about 1/4 mile in, you'll come to a fork where you can either go straight (south) or turn off to your right (west). Go straight and continue a short way, crossing the Montrose stream bed where you'll come to another fork. A 'No Horses' sign marks this fork. You'll be returning this way on the right trail, but for the approach, veer left, about 15 paces, until you see a faint trail, crossing a tiny wash. You should now be facing east. This is the trail that takes you up the ridge. Break out the camera and cruise. You won't believe the views that develop as you go.

For the next 1.7 miles, this trail is clear and well cairned. Once you top the ridge at Hill 4223, however, the trail vanishes into the grasses. Not to worry, as the remainder of your journey is all within view and holds no surprises. This is truly one of the most simple bushwhacks ever. From here, your path to the peak is clear. Pass south, down through the saddle in front of you. As you start up the other side, there will be a rocky knoll. Look for a vague side trail leading east to Buster Spring, should you care to visit it. From this point, look southwest to the saddle below Buster, climb gradually as you contour the hill in front of you, counter-clockwise to meet the saddle on the other side. It will just make sense once you're there looking at it. Now make the short climb west to bag the peak, which includes views that can only be captured here. This is the one spot that sums up the magnitude of Pusch Ridge above.

Buster Mountain is a not-so-well-known peak, just inside the northwest boundary of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. Its anonymity is largely due to the fact that it seems a dwarf compared to the walls of Pusch Ridge, towering above. However, anyone who has visited Buster would have to agree that it’s no dwarf but something of a beast. Of its many attractive aspects, Buster is best known as the prime vantage point from which to view Pusch Ridge and Alamo Canyon.

For your return, take a short stroll across the small saddle southwest of the peak, keeping your eyes peeled for a hint of trail or a cairn that will mark the beginning of your descent. The trail is very spotty but decently cairned as it guides you northwest, down the ridge. At about 1/3 of a mile, you’ll encounter a small downclimb. This would be nothing to the average rock climber, but it's exciting to a trail guy like me. The further along you go, the more defined the trail becomes until suddenly it mellows into smooth sailing about 1.1 miles from the peak. The remaining 1.2 miles will be rather uneventful unless you turn around now and then to admire what you’ve accomplished.

Just a note; I’ve written this guide as a clockwise loop, as it is much more dramatic scenery-wise than the reverse.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2013-06-20 Mountain_Rat
    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 $$
    Visit this link for full details.
    2021 - FAQ
    $8 per vehicle per day
    $10 per vehicle per week
    $40 per vehicle per year (valid for one year from date of purchase)

    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.

    2021 Catalina State Park
    Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
    Individual/bicycle: $3.00

    2021 Sabino Canyon Tram is $12 extra. [ website ]

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

    Catalina State Park State Park

    Map Drive

    To Catalina State Park Trailhead
    From Phoenix take 1-10 south to the 241 exit (Tangerine). Follow east to AZ 77 (Oracle Road). Turn right (South) on AZ77 and signs for Catalina State Park lead the way.

    From anywhere in Tucson, connect to Oracle Rd (Highway 77) and head north past Pusch Ridge. After you have gone about 15-20 miles you will see the sign for Catalina State Park on the right. There is an entrance fee to get into the park. To get to the trails, just drive in and follow the signs to a large parking area marked "trailhead".

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 107 mi - about 1 hour 44 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 14.0 mi - about 23 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 251 mi - about 3 hours 50 mins
    page created by Mountain_Rat on Jun 20 2013 1:35 pm
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