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Santa Catalina Front Range Traverse, AZ

Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 27.72 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,713 feet
Elevation Gain 3,337 feet
Accumulated Gain 6,654 feet
Avg Time One Way 12-14
Kokopelli Seeds 49.89
Interest Seasonal Waterfall, Seasonal Creek & Perennial Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
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22  2014-11-29 Pivo
1  2014-11-29 Pivo
10  2011-09-24
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 446
Photos 4,918
Trips 3,812 map ( 23,926 miles )
Age 65 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar Map
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Preferred Apr, Oct, Nov, May → 6 AM
Seasons   Late Autumn to Early Spring
Sun  5:38am - 7:21pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2020 Bighorn Fire119.5k
🔥 2017 Burro Fire27.2k
🔥 2003 Aspen Fire87.7 mi*
🔥 2002 Bullock46.8 mi*
🔥 View (All) - over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

An instant classic.
by Pivo

The traverse can work as a shuttle or, better yet, as a key swap. One group starting at the Lake in Redington on Bellota Ranch Road (R2CSP), heading West, and one begins in Catalina State Park heading East(CSP2R). Prepare for a long day and depending on available water sources plan on carrying four-plus liters. You can easily cache water at Gordon Hirabayashi Campground or Molino Basin Campgrounds.

Avoid the Summer months; try to plan this when there will be available water to filter/treat. You should be very fit. Trail Fit is different than Gym Fit. Gym Fit is excellent for, not so good here.

This hike started in CSP on the Romero Canyon Trail #8. We did this hike on Thanksgiving Saturday, 2014; the weather was mild, low 70's and after a bonus late monsoon, there was plenty of water in the various canyons and streams. Both conditions made the day easier to complete. I would recommend an early start, and do take a headlamp just in case your day runs longer than you planned.

Heading East on the Romero Canyon Trail, we quickly made our way to the Romero Pools area. We dropped the extra layers we were wearing and continued to the Romero Pass segment of our hike. The trail was very overgrown in some areas, so there was a bit of route finding involved. In the upper segment of Romero Canyon, the trail was washed out due to the extra heavy rains in late September and early October. If you were coming from the East as part of a key swap late in the day, this area would be a problem with low or no light. I recommend downloading a GPS Track and using it.

After arriving at Romero Pass, we dropped more layers and had a snack before continuing. The West Fork Trail will have plenty of sun exposure and drops 2300' in elevation over the first 6 miles. When we reached the creek, we were treated to a good flow and wonderful Fall foliage. From here, we started climbing again up the canyon for this segment heading East. Then descending the trail to the Hutch's Pool area.

If you are doing a key swap, it would be best to avoid Hutch's Pool. It is off of the main trail, and there would be a chance you could miss your other party with your key.

We took a lunch break and filtered water creekside a little farther East, near the trail.

Continue East on the West Fork Trail until the Junction with East Fork and Sabino Canyon Trail. Here is a bailout option; you can take the Sabino Canyon Trail to the tram road, catch the tram or walk the road to the Visitors Center.

We continued on the East Fork to the Sycamore Reservoir Trail, taking that to Gordon Hirabayashi Campground. We didn't find any water here, there are toilets here, and Molino Basin Campground has toilets too.
Upon reaching The Gordon Hirabayashi Campground, we hiked to near the end of the roadway in the campground before picking up the Molino Basin Trail. Taking that to the Molino Basin Campground. From there, we crossed the Catalina HWY and picked up the Bellota trail. That would take us back to our waiting vehicle near the Lake.

When we crossed the highway, signage indicated it was 6.4 miles to the Bellota Ranch Rd. However, it was the longest 6.4 miles I have ever encountered. There is one final bit of elevation gain before dropping into the Redington Area of about 500' of gain.
There was water at West Spring, La Milagroa, and the Agua Caliente Canyons. However, at that point, we were in the home stretch and did not stop to filter any water. We arrived at The Lake and my Land Cruiser just after sunset.

All and all, a great day, with wonderful conditions.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike without prior experience hiking.

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

2014-12-25 Pivo

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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 $$
    AZ State Parks more info
    2021 Day Use Fees range from $2–$30

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

    Map Drive
    High Clearance possible when dry

    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 Pivo on Dec 25 2014 10:42 am
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    prehydrate & stay hydrated

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