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50 Year - Baby Jesus Loop, AZ

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HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 4 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 21.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,718 feet
Elevation Gain 1,170 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,067 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 31.74
Interest Ruins & Seasonal Creek
Backpack TBD
Dogs not allowed
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13  2017-12-21 DarthStiller
6  2015-11-10
Baby Jesus Trail from Catalina State Park
2  2015-04-16 fearnestiv
21  2014-02-24 writelots
14  2011-11-18 azdesertfather
5  2011-07-18 sirena
7  2010-08-25 sirena
22  2010-05-13
Sutherland Trail #6
Page 1,  2
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 387
Photos 3,971
Trips 3,102 map ( 20,159 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb
Seasons   Early Winter to Early Spring
Sun  5:16am - 7:33pm
Official Route
10 Alternative

The name's funny enough
by fricknaley

The 50 Year Trail is a mountain bike favorite out of Catalina State Park. Looking at the map, it seems that it would run along some nice, seldom visited desert and offer unique views of the Catalinas. Plus, it's long. Baby Jesus has the coolest name ever for a trail. This is an unusual hike for Tucson in that you can log 20+ miles without 4000-7000 feet. Usually, that kind of gain is exactly what I'm looking for, but now and then, you need something different, right?

From the ubiquitous Trailhead in Catalina State Park, take off from the back corner onto the Bridle Trail. This is nothing but a short connector segment to get you over to the 50 Year Trail's official beginning. It's a short, easy walk straight west. After o.6 miles, you will cross the road leading to the group camping area. Pick the trail up on the other side and continue 0.8 fast miles to the official 50 Year trailhead, 1.4 miles from the parking lot. There is a sign announcing your arrival, and the trailhead takes off from the back of the Equestrian Center. You are now going to hike north, then northeast for a long way. The trail starts wide and sandy but narrows down before too long to a comfortable trail wandering through the desert. There are always fantastic views of Pusch Ridge, then later of Samaniego Ridge and Charouleau Gap and it's neighboring Peak 5961 to the north to be had. After about 4 miles total, you will come to a small fence to pass through, marking the park boundary and entering State Trust Land. The trail makes a hard right just through the fence, then continues back on its normal course. Of note, the trail is generally always well-signed, and there are a lot of nameless trails braking off all over, but they should never really fool you.

About 0.9 miles from the fence, you will come to the signed junction for the Sutherland Trail Link, breaking off to your right. Stay on 50 Year. The next roughly 3 miles are a simple desert wander. You will cross over a few dirt roads. There are innumerable palo verde, cholla, and prickly pear. After about 7.6 miles or so, you will come to the parking lot used by mountain bikers off FSR 642. You will loop around the east end and then continue a minor descent into the desert heading north. Notice the continuation of FSR'll be back for this. Continue on the 50 Year Trail as it enters the slightly more rocky and scenic immediate desert. There are big rock piles and boulder piles around, and the saguaros pick up too. The trail starts to wind around more here, and nameless trails begin to break off all over. The main route is signed. From the bikers parking lot, the 50 Year trail continues on about three more miles. The Green Trail map says 2.9, and the Rainbow map says 3. I went 3.4 and never actually saw the end of the trail, but I quit seeing trail signs, so I'm not sure where the trail officially ends, and the nameless routes take over. I just turned around atop a ridge and headed back, relatively satisfied I had walked as much of the 50 Year trail as any map had to offer.

You can head back the long way or look for a certain unnamed branch point atop a ridge. A trail sign right here sends you one way, and a clear wide trail goes the opposite. You can take this as a shortcut back to the main 50 Year trail and shave off about 1.2 miles on the way back. At (32.49520, -110.86765) make a left on your way back instead on the signed right down the slope to access this shortcut route. It's probably only a 0.3-mile route at most. Just make all the rights whenever there is a split, and you'll end up back on the 50 Year trail right at a sign marker. Head back to the FSR 642 for the next leg.

At FSR 642, make a left onto the road, crossing over the cattle guard and passing through the open gate. Head down the rocky road, making rights whenever you see a split in the road. After about 0.5 miles on the rough road, you'll bottom out in a circular wash. On the other side of the wash is a rickety old fence with some ill-defined paths leading off. Interestingly, even though the Baby Jesus trail appears on two separate Catalinas maps, it is not signed on either end. The first trail far right is NOT the one you want. Look one or two to the left and see a small gate through the fence with a little brown sign simply stating no motorized vehicles and another small sign saying something to the effect of Rehabilitation Area or something like that. No mention of the trail name, but you'll know it's the Baby Jesus because it's the only one with any signage at all.

My GPS told me I was 14 miles in here. The maps say the Baby Jesus is 3.8 miles. So away you go. The trail is rather primitive, and if you look at it, you will see testimony to how overgrown it is. This was not the case on this day. Primitive yes, but there's much worse in the Catalinas or Superstitions or wherever you call home. There is always something to follow and enough traffic to generate some prints to follow. It's a narrow trail the runs southeast then south behind Baby Jesus Ridge and its famed petroglyphs. There are several creek/wash crossing along the way, and there may well be some water trickling by. The hike's only real climbing is along this segment, but it's less than 1000 feet. The trail affords spectacular views into the high country of Samaniego and the Catalinas. As long as you closely scrutinize the route and path, you will not get lost. Roughly 2.75 miles or so from the beginning of the Baby Jesus, you will come to a large cement spring named Wooden Trough Spring. The trail cuts down in front of the trail here and to the right, descending slightly to cross some washes and ultimately heading towards some power lines that cut up Cargodera Canyon to Mt. Lemmon. The power lines signify the end of the sweet Baby Jesus trail at the Sutherland Trail. You'll know the Sutherland for it's a wide rocky road in this stretch. There is no sign marking the trail intersection. Only a moderate sized-cairn signifies the Baby Jesus trail on this end.

Turn right onto the Sutherland and prepare for a mile of the worst torture as you stumble a mile sharply down the rocky road, which just brutalized your feet and ankles after a good 17.5+ plus miles on the trail. Do what you have to do to make it down this mile, where the Sutherland breaks off the road at a signed intersection, to the right back into the foothills. From here, it is a much more smooth 1.8-mile descent amidst magnificent views of the mountains down into Sutherland Wash, where a sign points you the right, last 0.8 merciful miles back to the trailhead. A couple of nice wash crossings in this final stretch often have water running, even when it appears dry at the Romero trailhead. Total mileage is about 21.4 for this trip, through some lovely country. Please don't try this hike when it's hot. There is almost no shade at all.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a moderately difficult hike.

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.

2009-02-05 fricknaley
    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
    Paved - Car Okay

    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 fricknaley on Feb 05 2009 8:27 pm
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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