Finger Rock Fun
We were somewhat surprised that this hike had never been written up in HAZ. Mountain_Rat got it started with a placeholder/short description on April 1, 2015. There have been 20+ triplogs submitted over the years along with lots of pictures, but never a detailed description. Probably just about everyone who has made the Mount Kimball trek knows the saddle as a rest/snack stop with killer views. But, it deserves its own limelight because it is an outstanding moderate hike on a great if sometimes rough trail.
Linda Vista translates from Spanish as “nice view” or “beautiful view”. Reached via a spur off the Finger Rock Trail in the foothills of Tucson, hikers are suddenly presented with fabulous and unimpeded views that extend far to the south (Mt. Wrightson), southeast (Tanque Verde Ridge and Rincon Peak), and southwest (Baboquivari).
Unfortunately, the huge log that served as seating at the saddle was burned in the fire that burned much of the ridge north of Pontatoc Canyon in August 2015. Evidence of the fire still abounds but the grasses and small bushes have recovered to a great degree. Luckily, fire didn’t spill over the ridge and continue down into Finger Rock Canyon.
One last thing, don’t confuse this hike with the similarly named “Linda Vista” which originates at the junction of Oracle Road and Linda Vista Boulevard in Oro Valley north of Tucson, and serves as the start to Pusch Peak.
Start at the Richard McGee Finger Rock Trailhead at the north end of North Alvernon Way and climb a few hundred feet up the relatively steep start to a sign which shows most of the trails in the area. The trail heading east is Pontatoc Canyon #410, from which Pontatoc Ridge #411 branches off after about 2/3 mile. The trail heading north from the sign is Finger Rock #42. FR42 eventually intersects with Pima Canyon #62 and continues a good bit further, eventually terminating where it intersects with the Ventana Canyon Trail #98.
From the orientation sign, FR42 is relatively level for about a mile until you reach the Finger Rock Spring, but there is no mistaking the fact that you are entering Finger Rock Canyon with the namesake Finger Rock looming to the north. The cliffs on either side get steeper, and there is virtually no chance that you will lose the well used trail because there is no other place to go. After a couple of wash crossings, and just before the spring, look for the remains of a small former water catchment area on your left under some cottonwoods. If you want to see the spring, leave the FR42 where it starts switchbacking up a much steeper slop and hug the left side of the cliff. Note: there are no cottonwoods above the spring. There is some flow part of the year (during monsoons) but the wash is dry much of the time. On the day of our hike in early August, water was flowing nearly the entire length of the canyon.
Once you start up the right side of the canyon, the climb becomes serious. There is shade for most of the morning on the way up because of the way the ridge is oriented. There are a few shady spots along the way for mid-day and afternoon stops; look particularly for “the cave”, which is a well-loved shady, cool spot about 2 mile in and at 4400 feet elevation for a break. It will be easily recognized, so don’t worry about missing this great rest point (this is also a fantastic viewpoint for pix of Finger Rock).
From here up to the sharp right hand turn, watch for narrow trails and considerable exposure. If you slide off the trail along here, expect the bounce to be considerable. If heights are a problem, this will be difficult for you. Otherwise, just follow the uneven trail and make the sharp right for the last 1000 feet or so to the spur, which is at a very sharp left turn in FR42. Follow the spur a few hundred feet out to the saddle, and you’re there.
This hike can be jazzed up a bit by climbing the little nearby peaks to the southwest. None are more than 120 feet above the saddle elevation. There is no trail, but the way up to each of them will be pretty obvious. Just look for safe scramble spots; nothing is class 4. Check out our August 3, 2017 track (not the official). If you’re concerned about scrambling, don’t do it. When you’re ready to leave, retrace your steps to the trailhead. Heck of a good hike.
Dogs are never permitted on this trail. Also, there are off trail restrictions in this area from Jan 1 to April 30 (lambing season) each year because of the Bighorn Sheep Reintroduction Project. However, hiking/camping up to 400 feet off what the Forest Service calls a “designated Forest Service trail” is permitted. Bottom line, be aware that there are restrictions, and that you may be at risk if you stray very far from established trails during the lambing season.
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.