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La Milagrosa / Agua Caliente Canyon Loop, AZ

no permit
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Guide 49 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.7 of 5 by 10
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 6.35 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,793 feet
Elevation Gain 969 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,440 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 13.55
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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1  2019-06-04
Rigging practice
1  2019-01-20 fricknaley
30  2018-01-28 tibber
5  2018-01-28 writelots
11  2018-01-04
La Milagrosa Agua Caliente Ridge Loop
3  2017-02-04 fricknaley
11  2016-01-30 GrottoGirl
8  2016-01-16
La Milagrosa Ridge
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Red Rover
author avatar Guides 3
Routes 0
Photos 70
Trips 18 map ( 143 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:05am - 6:32pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Canyon Loop with Great Views
by Red Rover

Overview: We've been talking about trying to find the trail up one side and down the other of La Milagrosa Canyon and Agua Caliente Canyon east of Tucson for some time. We finally took off to do it on a beautiful January day, and the search was worth it.

Hike: Start east on Horsehead Road which is blocked by a gate that was open the day we arrived (see Directions below.) As you walk down this dirt road it turns to a paved road after about half a mile for about 200 yards. When Horsehead Road intersects Wentworth Road you'll see a 4WD dirt road blocked by a gate. The fence beside it was crushed so you could walk over it, but if you have to open the gate, be sure to close it after you. Continue along this road which crosses Molino Wash and contours around a low ridge. The La Milagrosa Ridge trail goes off to the left. You'll soon pass a side trail to the left that goes to a small, abandoned house. If you take this trail, look for the main trail below the house, or backtrack to where you turned off. To your right is the wash that comes out of Agua Caliente Canyon, but wait to explore it when you come back this way as you complete the loop.

The trail is easy to find as you climb up the ridge. It's covered in loose rock which prohibits safely looking around while walking, however. The view improves as you climb and look back toward Tucson. You'll come to a gate in a fence across the trail that you pass through. As you climb take time to go over to the edge of the canyon on your right and look down and back toward Tucson. Be sure to do this along here since it's hard to see anything from the other side.

The trail will seem to end with a drop-off straight ahead, but look for it to your left to climb the small hill. After continuing over the hill you'l drop down to your right and cross a drainage. Even on a day with water in other areas, this was mostly dry, but you could see that it would be a funnel for water in heavy rain. After you cross this drainage look for the trail to climb the hill in front of you and back toward La Milagrosa on your right. When you come to a "Y" in the trail, take the right fork. The left trail continues to Molina Basin on the Catalina Highway. The right fork soon starts a descent to the bottom of the canyon. You can look across the canyon at the trail you'll take up the other side. As you enter the canyon floor you may find pools of water and even a small beach, depending on the time of the year. It was lovely in January. Turn right (west) toward Tucson on the floor of the canyon for a few hundred yards. Look for cairns to locate the trail as you wander along while watching for the trail leaving the canyon bottom and climbing up the opposite side. Even though we did some "exploring" it wasn't hard to find the trail.

The climb up the opposite side of the canyon seems long as you travel up a mostly dry grass and dirt trail that even turns back east briefly. But keep going until you come to a "Y" in the trail. Take the right fork that allows you to cross a fairly flat area at the end of the ridge. As you look ahead, it's easy to spot the trail winding through the saguaros. There are few opportunities to look off the ridge into Agua Caliente Canyon on this side. The canyons are blocked from view unless you bushwhack through some rough terrain with plenty of shin daggers. Straight ahead is Tucson as you travel mostly west and gradually start down the ridge. You'll come to another gate and fence as you near the end of the ridge. The trail gets quite rocky and is a series of switchbacks until you reach the wash again. As you reach the lowest area, you'll come out at a pool in the wash below the abandoned house you saw when you started out. After crossing the wash, climb the hill to rejoin the trail you started on. Turn left (west) on the trail toward the gate near Wentworth, and travel back down the paved/dirt road to your car. It's a great hike with elevation change up and down four times and great views of canyons, pools and Tucson in the distance. There is little to no shade, so this is a very early summer hike if at all. Winter is great.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2009-01-29 Red Rover
  • 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 Reviews
La Milagrosa / Agua Caliente Canyon Loop
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Since I was down in Tucson for the Oracle Rumble, I decided to hang out with Wendy and this is the hike she chose for us. Saturday nite, however, we got to eat at Mosaic and despite a long wait, it was worth it. Very yummy! a little different spin on Mexican flavor. It definitely lived up to the hype.

Oh, the hike. About 1/2 hour from Wendy's we parked at an unofficial trailhead. I'm glad the community allows people to access this hike from here. You walk a paved road a bit before it turns to dirt and crosses a wash onto another road and down into the wash of La Milagrosa Canyon before you head up onto the Ridge. The great part of this hike is what Wendy calls "slabby goodness". Slabbiness is so great for hiking especially on this very windy day. At a makeshift gate we encountered a resident of the area and his two Mexican rescue dogs. He pointed out to us some very faint petroglphys on low-lying rocks just barely off the trail. I couldn't really get a good photo of them though as they are so faint. We thot it unusual to see the glphys on such low flat rocks.

From there we continued our gradual hike up the Ridgeline with occasional peeks over the edge down into La Milagrosa Canyon which continued to get deeper the further along the ridge we went. And then we went more to the other side of the ridge and would get a peak down into Agua Caliente Canyon. It's definitely dry and the plant life reflected that as I can imagine this being a much prettier hike; altho, I was duly impressed by what I saw. When Wendy and Sirena did it a couple years back, they were crossing thru water in several areas. Eventually it was time to veer to the other side of the ridge to the Agua Caliente side. The trek down here is a bit on the slippery side.

Once down into the canyon it opens up wide and you start heading slightly southwest. We took a break in the wash and would have stayed longer (we had boulders for our backs) but it was just too darn windy and a bit nippy. So we continued thru the wash/Canyon a little further before crossing up and out of the wash by this rather large slabby area. It's a bit of a climb but not bad. Once out there is an intersection that takes you up to the summit of Agua Caliente Hill but not today.

From here it is all downhill with views into the Valley of Tucson. You drop nearly 1000 feet in 1 3/4 mile as you stay on the other ridge. Gnat Tank is devoid of water of course. It's not a really big tank anyway. Once again you come to a fence and since we couldn't figure out how to open the big green gate from this side, Wendy went over the barbed wire fence and then saw the locking mechanism that needed to be lifted in order to slide the lever. You just couldn't see that from this side. After the gate the ridge gets a little narrower and once you get across to the other side, you now have to go almost straight down to reach the wash as the usual trail has been blocked off. I saw this trail before we started and didn't realize we would be taking it.

The trail down is a bit dicey in spots so you have to take extra care. Fortunately it's short-lived but I was still glad to be on level ground. You stay in the wash for awhile before you get back to where you started. We encountered a few folks here as we made our way back to the TH. Surprisingly, it was a little warm when we got down to the bottom. It's a great hike and I'm sure it would be even better with water based on previous pictures I am just now looking at.

Thx for suggesting it Wendy, it was a wonderful choice which allowed me to get back to Phx in daylight.

Part 1: TH to Milagrosa Ridge [ youtube video ]
Part 2: Milagrosa Ridge to Agua Caliente Canyon [ youtube video ]
Part 3: Agua Caliente Ridge and back down to same named wash: [ youtube video ]
La Milagrosa / Agua Caliente Canyon Loop
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My plans today were changed at the last minute, I had a free day, so decided to head to La Milagrosa. Started at 10:15 and was greeted by the TORCA Trail Medics. Three guys and a gal, riding dirt bikes and fully armed...weapons of choice? shears and a gas-powered weed wacker. The dead grass along the back half of Milagrosa Ridge was waist high and overgrowing the trail, they definitely had their work cut out from them but did a fabulous job.

Made it to the end of La Milagrosa at noon, put my foot on the AZT there and watched a bunch of bikers whizzing by. Then headed back, thanked all the workers, and veered off Milagrosa at the Agua Caliente Canyon Loop turnoff. Descended down the ridge into the canyon (lots of water flowing in the canyons on both sides of MIlagrosa, by the way), and then took the turnoff toward Agua Caliente Hill. It is only less than a 1/2 mile trail that connects into Agua Caliente, 1 1/2 miles from the top.

Made my way up Agua Caliente, and probably like most people their first time out, was fooled by which peak was really AC. Being called "Agua Caliente Hill" I assumed it was the one in the foreground that the trail was heading to...then I went passed it and realized I had a BIT more climbing to do! Finally made it to the top of AC just before 2:30, rested for 10 and signed in, then headed down. Just as I started heading down, a solo hiker was also making his way to the top. He told me it was his second trip up today. Yikes, I enjoyed it but wouldn't enjoy it THAT much. ;) Made it out just past 4.
La Milagrosa / Agua Caliente Canyon Loop
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What a fantastic day in the granite goodness that is the Agua Caliente Hill area (I don't know - is that the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, both or neither?).

Tons of water from the snow still melting just a few hundred feet above our heads. The road to Mt. Lemmon actually closed just after noon on that day because it was so crowded up there... We were glad to be down in the desert.

I'm sure it was amusing to watch us try to keep our feet dry at first... We took of shoes and socks for the first few crossings. Then we got to the multiple crossings at Agua Cailente canyon and decided that it was going to be wet feet or retreat. Sirena and I don't have retreat in our skill set - so we plunged in, got wet, and enjoyed the heck out of it. Lilo, my trusted 4 legged companion, most nobly tested the water's depth for us first (I think she was a bit puzzled as to why we were making such a fuss of the water's temperature).

All in all, a fantastic short day hike with big payoffs no matter the season. Someone took the tequila from Tequila Spring, though - left nothing but a glass knuckle locked to a tree. :(
La Milagrosa / Agua Caliente Canyon Loop
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I have to say this was a convoluted hiking day for us. I'm still not sure what part of the trail we were on but I know we were in the Agua Caliente area. We started out and hit the first fork in the road, passed a cowboy on his horse who told us to take the right fork. Wrong! So as we walking along the stream bed, we ran into a lady with her Golden Retriever and told her we were trying to find the Milagrosa Trail. She told us to go back to that fork and go right. So off we went and climbed and climbed. Wonderful views! I think this was the ridge trail.
We turned around and started down and bumped into another hiker who told us we should have taken a LEFT turn before the stream bed. Will I try this one again? hmmmm, maybe. There were lots of houses around and I kept thinking, why can't someone just put a doggone trail sign up??
Lots blooming! The saguaro blossoms are out, the chollas, the prickly pears, and the ocotillos. They were wonderful to see and enjoy.
I consider this a sweet walk through the blooming cactus forest.
La Milagrosa / Agua Caliente Canyon Loop
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After hitting the short & sweet Soldier Canyon, I thought it'd be nice to finish the day off by hitting these two short & sweet canyons again. :) Well the recent rainstorms left more water in the pools than we encountered last year, so the theme of the day turned into: Don't get wet & cold unless we absolutely have to... ;) So we made our way up the ridge and dropped into The Marvelous (La Milagrosa) Canyon above the narrows and geared up before dropping in. We again bypassed the first two drops (dry falls) since they had murky pools below them and down climbed to the first 'official rappel' and noted that there was also a large murky pool below that drop that wasn't there last year. :roll: Hmm, well I don't mind cold water as long as it's brief but green pond scum is out of the question if I can avoid it. Scott climbed up on the right again and found another easy down climb to avoid both the 'official rappels' and the pool below the final rappel was also much bigger than last winter. So we were able to check out these short & sweet narrows without a single rappel this time, but now I'm tempted to come back with a wetsuit when it's flowing descent and rappel all 5 waterfalls. : rambo : We then scrambled out of the canyon on the left LDC and made our way up the ridge to get back on trail and hiking east to now drop into Agua Caliente above it's technical section. :sweat: Almost every other hiker we passed by asked us if we we're rock climbing... No we're canyoneering gosh dang it!?! :roll: many climbers use a Peztl Pirana or carry an ascender? Are you people blind? :sl: After dropping in Agua Caliente canyon and heading downstream, we quickly ran into the first drop with a large pool below it. The pool looks clean enough but most people bypass it with a slightly exposed traverse on the left. There's a nice slickrock section afterwards following by another living sized chockstone with a short 15ft rappel below it. We both made the short rappel and then I looked over the chockstone boulders at the next 30ft drop and realized it also now had a large pool below it that wasn't there last year. ](*,) I volunteered to ascend back up and look for a bypass on the ledge on the leftside and quickly found some anchors already in place to make a 50ft rappel to bypass the pool. Went back to tell him the good news that we'd be staying dry & warm and made the bypass and dropped our gear & stuff the rope after this final rappel. Still loads of rock hopping & down climbing as we made our way down this amazing canyon with tall imposing walls before it eventually opened up to become a simple dry wash. We re-found the trail & other hikers and made our way back thru the neighborhood to our cars. So we got detoured by a few extra pools, but still managed to stay dry and have a fun time exploring these short & sweet canyons. :D

Woot, lucky number trip 777! :GB:
La Milagrosa / Agua Caliente Canyon Loop
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I was down in Tucson with some friends and we hit this technical loop that involved a couple rappels in both of the technical sections of each canyon. In both canyons, the technical sections also started off with a drop into a swimmer that could be bypassed but then the following two rappels were relatively dry. Once past the swimmer, he hit the 8ft & 30ft drops in La Milagrosa Canyon, we scrambled up to the ridge on the left and then followed the ridge back to the trail until it dropped into Agua Caliente Canyon. From there we followed that canyon downstream, bypassed the swimmers, rapped down the 15ft & 20ft drops, and then rock hopped down canyon until it opened up and then hopped back on the trail back to the car. Two short & sweet canyons that are worth checking out without being too terribly technical. :D

Permit $$

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Agua Caliente Trailhead
Take Catalina Hwy toward Mt Lemmon and turn right on Snyder Road. Turn left on N. Avenida de Suzenu to the intersection with Horsehead Road. There are usually a few cars parked along Suzenu at the intersection. The trail starts at Horsehead Road. This is actually a residential area, but the residents have agreed to allow foot traffic to get to the public land, so please be respectful so we can continue to have access to this lovely area. You must park where Horsehead Road and N. Avenida de Suzenu intersect.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 128 mi - about 2 hours 15 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 19.0 mi - about 38 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 272 mi - about 4 hours 20 mins
page created by Red Rover on Jan 28 2009 11:31 pm
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