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The Pillars, AZ

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Guide 3 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
4.5 of 5 by 2
Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 0.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,076 feet
Elevation Gain 1,700 feet
Avg Time One Way 2-4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.17
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
59  2015-12-20 mike85741
5  2010-11-26 Don Graydon
4  2008-11-14 keepmoving
Author imike
author avatar Guides 253
Routes 0
Photos 6,930
Trips 2,467 map ( 21,513 miles )
Age 69 Male Gender
Location Cloudcroft, NM
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Feb, Nov, Dec → Early
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:10am - 6:21pm
0 Alternative
Up, Up...and Away!
by imike

This is a great, fast getaway hike that gets the heart pumping and offers limitless possibility for boulder playing. Out of Tucson, You drive up Catalina Highway towards Mt. Lemmon. Pull over and park in the large, paved side road pulloff prior to the first hairpin curve in the first mile of the hiway up the mountain.

Cross the road and enter the drainage, heading upstream. This is a popular climbing area and the first few hundred yards may have a number of people playing, but you come to a drainage split after a few hundred yards... head left (straight) up the wash and begin enjoying the various rock challenges that will slowly move you further up and up... eventually reaching the crack in the cliff faces far above (The Pillars). There is some route finding to do as you get closer to the cliffs, mostly minor choices regarding loose rock and shrubbery.

As you enter the split in the cliffs you will be at a great spot for the day's picnic. You can proceed on and up through the cliffs to the top of the mesa, but the route choices may become more demanding. The real potential lies in playing around with the various bouldering challenges to be found below the Pillars... a really great place to get a full body workout while practicing skills. Some hikers consider this hike dangerous... and at each potential challenge care should be taken to pick the route best suited to your skill levels, but there are always options, and usually an easy alternative to take. The bouldering aspects include numerous 7' to 15' obstacles, with a bit more potential exposure right below the Pillars opening into the cliffs. This one is exciting right from the car door exit to the final plop down for the well deserved meal up in the cliffs. Once completed, forever after you'll note your route as you drive down Mt. Lemmon Hiway... and go "! I was up there!"

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2008-11-07 imike
  • sub-region related
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 Triplog Review
The Pillars
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
I hiked ALL THE WAY UP this canyon in Dec 2015, for the 3rd time I believe. This is probably my favorite "wow" area that's within an hour drive of where I live on the West side of Tucson. The boulder hopping is a lot of fun for the first hour or so. After that, the canyon gets A LOT steeper and I needed to take several 30 second breaks every 5-10 minutes or so. The grade seemed dangerous getting close to the "pillars", so use caution. Immediately past the pillar area is a 7 foot vertical wall that requires some good upper body strength and climbing ability. There are no good footholds or handholds at this area. Getting over this area was a real challenge for me without ropes, etc. but I struggled and barely made it. By the way, I would highly recommend not going down this wall because of the steepness, falling danger, and lack of grip. After getting over that wall, keep heading up higher and eventually you'll reach a high point. We found a small bottle at the top under some rocks which had very few signatures. After reaching the peak, we ended up heading East and possibly a bit North and slowed sloped down to Soldier Canyon way down below. The distance from the peak to the canyon was probably about 1/2 mile. Be careful on the descent as there are some cliffs in some areas that should be avoided! Once down in Soldier canyon, which by the way has some incredible rock formations and water, depending on the time of the year, it can be taken all the way down to the canyon that you climbed up. From that point, it's another 1,000 feet to the road. Thanks to Brian, Tyler and Tyler Jr. for coming along with me! What a GREAT DAY!

In my office I have a 3 foot poster size print of the view of the pillars looking down toward the city. I've had a lot of admirer's of this poster printout over the years. Next time I do this hike, I will need to post a GPS route, which would be useful for going down into Soldier canyon! That was the only tricky navigation in the entire hike. Every time I drive up Mt Lemmon highway, I look up and think, wow, it's amazing that I was UP THERE, especially 3 TIMES!!!

Permit $$

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

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To canyon trip
Drive from Tucson out Catalina Highway towards Mt. Lemmon. Before milepost 1 on Mt. Lemmon Highway, pull off and park on the right in the large paved pulloff before the sharp hairpin turn.
page created by imike on Nov 06 2008 9:21 am
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