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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Mount Hopkins Loop, AZ

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Guide 26 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson S
4.5 of 5 by 4
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Lasso-Loop 7.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,430 feet
Elevation Gain 3,110 feet
Accumulated Gain 3,213 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 23.47
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Seasonal Creek & Peak
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
3  2019-07-14 ShatteredArm
20  2018-03-10
Mount Wrightson Hopkins Loop
14  2017-10-12 rvcarter
7  2016-06-03 rvcarter
18  2015-07-19 Pivo
13  2013-07-28
Mount Wrightson with Hopkins
12  2012-06-16 GrottoGirl
13  2011-08-27
Pete Mountain and Mt Hopkins Loop
Page 1,  2
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,745 map ( 18,154 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, May, Sep, Apr
Seasons   ALL
Sun  6:11am - 6:22pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
If you're desperate there's a road, but come on...
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
Summary: Mt. Hopkins is home to the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, an astronomical observatory owned and operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) and is their largest field installation outside of their main site in Cambridge, MA. It is also one of the dominant summits of the Santa Ritas; the towering peak west of Josephine Saddle and Mt. Wrightson, seen easily from all of Tucson. I've always wondered exactly how to hike up to it, a man well-versed in the Santa Ritas showed me the way.

Hike: There are numerous ways to make this hike. This route is a lasso loop out of the Madera Canyon trailhead. From the ever present Roundup trailhead at the top of Madera Canyon head off from the top end along the Old Baldy trail. Within a quarter mile the Old Baldy trail breaks off left at a signed intersection. Continue straight ahead on up the Vault Mine trail, which has been written up before on this site. The trail first climbs up the east side of Madera Creek for a ways, then breaks away left through some wonderful forested areas. Look and listen for the elegant trogon through here, it seems to be a bit of a hotspot. After a total of 0.6 miles from the Baldy intersection an old metal sign on your right announces the intersction for the Carrie Nation trail straight ahead and the Vault Mine trail which breaks off to the right. Stay straight on the Carrie Nation trail which continues up canyon for another 0.6 miles to the old remants of the Carrie Nation Mine at 6480 feet. There is a nice official "End of Trail" sign here. Look to your right to pick up the very clear trail continuing up and away from the sign. This Carrie Nation "route" is just about as easy to follow for another 0.6 miles and 700 feet up to the Agua Caliente Trail. There are a couple of side trails that break right off the route to ignore. The route pretty much follows the drainage up initially with 2 distinct paths breaking away right. The third trail breaking off right is the one you want, otherwise you continue up the drainage as it becomes steeper. This third right takes you steeply up a ridge cominf down from the Agua Caliente trail, your destination. If you see any side paths breaking off once you hit the ridge, just keep going up. There are several small stands of impressive young pines through here, a wonderful stretch of trail. Soon thereafter, you hit the Agua Caliente trail running left-right at an unsigned intersection.

Make a right onto the Agua Caliente trail and head west for roughly 0.2 miles until an unsigned path breaks off to your left and up. This is the use path to the road leading up to Hopkins. It's not an official trail or on any maps, but it's a clear path nonetheless. Follow it up the eastern ridge coming down Hopkins for about 0.6 miles and 640 feet until it dead ends at a small railing and the road leading up to Mt. Hopkins, right at some sattelites you can periodically see through the trees on the way up. Once you hit the road, just hike that bad boy roughly 1.5 miles and aboyt 650 feet to the summit of Mount Hopkins at 8550 feet. The views from the top are sensational. Mexico, Tucson, the towering Sky Islands of Southeast Arizona, Nogales and Baboquivari among others.

Head back down the uppermost steep stretch of road, past the Wind Sock hill on your right. Immediately thereafter, the road breaks hard left. There is a railing here, and the nothingness beyond is your route back down (UNLESS you choose to head back down to the Agua Caliente Trail via the route you took up - a perfectly acceptable and easier route finding approach). IF you want to continue down via a bushwhack down the north slops of Mt. Hopkins, then this is your route. Drop down to the right of the rail and down the drainage. Eventually you will notice a ridge to your right (there is another one to your left you can follow for ways, called "Wrong Ridge" by the locals who know, just don't follow it for too long). The breakout point of this steep descending bushwhack is the Agua Caliente Saddle. You will drop steeply north through the pines for 1 mile and almost 1200 feet. Through the trees you can periodically see Pete Mountain, keep angling for that. There is a route and occasional cairns. Hug the ridge if all else fails.

When you reach the signed Agua Caliente Saddle you are home free. Take a right on the Agua Caliente trail for a quick 0.25 miles to the signed intersection for the Vault Mine trail. Make a left and descend at an almost unbelievable rate of 1360 feet over the next 0.9 miles back to the intersection with the Carrie Nation trail, make a left and strut the last 0.9 miles back to the trailhead and your car.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2009-03-06 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.

    Most recent Triplog Reviews
    Mount Hopkins Loop
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    After the remains of Mr. Smallwood from Ohio were found in the Santa Ritas, one of my Tucson friends hit me up for a chance to go check out the infamous ridge. I'm a fan of the Santa Ritas first of all, and have already explored two ways up Hopkins (the "main" route up from above Carrie Nation mine, and the old Jeep track from Josephine Canyon). Adding a third sounded fun.

    A group of four of us started before 6:30am up Vault Mine trail, with a side excursion to the namesake mine. From the top of Vault Mine, we headed east towards Josephine Saddle, then took the social trail up to Mount Hopkins road. Power hiked the road up to the summit, enjoyed the view, and then headed the quarter mile or so back down to the ridge where the lost hiker's remains were found.

    The ridge itself was very pleasant; in terms of vegetation, it was all quite friendly, and there weren't really any serious obstacles. One might be tempted to head down the gully, which is a mistake - stay on the ridge. About half way down, another ridge forks off to the right; this is the one you want. From here, there's actually trail the whole way down to Agua Caliente Saddle. As far as ridges are concerned, this one is actually pretty easy, but bring a topo map just in case.

    Our group kind of splintered after this point; I headed over to Josephine Saddle by myself and went about a mile down Temporal trail, with a return via Super Trail. There's no shortage of options in the Madera Canyon area!
    Mount Hopkins Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Frank, Niel, and I got a fairly early start from Saddlebrooke, and managed to be on trail from Madera Canyon by 9:00 a.m. We expected a hot day, but the cloud cover, considerable breeze, and cooler temps made the entire loop very nice. In fact, the drying sweat made it almost too cool when we stopped to rest.

    The hike proceeds up the very steep Vault Mine trail, intersects the Agua Caliente Trail from Josephine Saddle and continues west to the Agua Caliente Saddle. From here, it is a semi bushwhack to the top, but a faint trail has been beaten in (wear gaiters) and cairns will appear sporatically. Once you reach the road, it's only a short hike up to the Whipple Observatory, which affords some of the best vistas in the Ritas, including some killer views of Mt. Wrightson, the other observatories on this busy mountain, and the serpentine road going down the mountain. The best place for lunch is down from the observatory level at an obvious, treed picnic area (with tables), flush toilets, and a small pond which has been known to attract bears.
    There were signs at the trailhead to watch for bears, but we didn't see any or see any sign (scat) of any.

    The trails are in good condition and the connector down to the Aqua Caliente Trail is not overgrown very much. You will not get mangled very much if you wear shorts. The most likely place you might get off track is at the point where you leave the road to take the connector down the AC Trail. I included a couple of shots that shows the departure point, which is at the most NE point in the road (a hairpin turn) behind a shed with some communication equipment nearby.

    After a short stint (few hundred yards) to the east on the AC Trail, turn left and head down the Carrie Nation Mine Trail to the parking lot. Note that there is no metal sign at this junction. All in all, this is a fine day hike, with a great destination with killer views in every direction, a good deal of aeg over a short distance, a pretty good trail with minimal bushwhacking, and a chance to see the impressive, rotating, Whipple Observatory.

    Solid patch of yellow flowers just below where you intersect the road.
    Mount Hopkins Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Frank, Niel and I thought it would be too hot to do this hike, but we went anyway. And it was georgeous. We started a little earlier than normal and temps were very nice after getting off Vault Mine Trail. Man, that is one steep trail, but is in great shape. One tip, go up it instead of down. It had been about a year since we did this loop and it is still a winner. The only difference is that what used to be a mild bushwhack up from the Agua Caliente saddle to the road is now a pretty clearly marked trail with cairns, etc. Nothing difficult about the bushwhack, just steep. There were signs of a bear, with prints and scat along the trail. So keep a look out. There is a good bit of water in the nice raparian area along the lower part of Carrie Nation.

    Expect to see lots of birders along the lower parts of Carrie Nation and Vault Mine. Apparently, the birds are headed north and this is a frequent stop. I saw lots of binocs and expensive cameras and lenses. This is a great hike, highly recommend it. Great views from the Observatory; we could see the fire west of Rio Rico.
    Mount Hopkins Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Excellent day out with 11 friends. Fantastic hike with some steep elevation, a little off-trail near the top, all without long mileage. Just enough elevation to keep things cool all day. The only trick is finding the point at the switchback on the road down to connect back to the Agua Caliente trail. Go out to behind the storage building next to the microwave units and a look over the guard rail for a steep rocky path. It's not obvious.

    No flowers along this track.

    We opted for the Carrie Nixon return but it may be easier to continue over to Josephine Saddle and down Old Baldy trail. The one precaution is the ongoing construction to replace a one-lane bridge just after leaving the parking lot. We were held up about 15 minutes to allow a concrete pour. Mt. Hopkins is a great alternative to Mt. Wrightson, if you're getting tired of it.
    Mount Hopkins Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Mount Wrightson with Hopkins
    we lucked into a perfect day to hit both wrightson and Hopkins. humid but otherwise great.

    nice to check out Hopkins again. it's been a long time and last I was up here, it snowed on me.

    saw a couple of interesting rattlesnakes and a bunch of horned lizards :)

    and with this i'm bowing out of the elevation game. good luck boys, go for a million :y:
    Mount Hopkins Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Met up with fellow HAZ member SaguaroHiker to hike up Mt. Hopkins on a cloudy, windy day. The ambient temp at the summit read 46 degrees with a 30+ mph wind. On the way down he showed me a sweet overlook of Madera Canyon, where it promptly snowed on us briefly.

    After reaching the car, we took a little jaunt out to a gorgeous waterfall in Kent Canyon. I'll be back for this beauty in the monsoon season!

    Thanks Bill!

    Permit $$
    Visit this link for full details.

    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.

    Catalina State Park $6 per day. Sabino Canyon Tram is $10 extra.

    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 Madera Canyon Trailhead
    From Tucson: I-19 south to exit 63 Continental. At the end of the exit take a left and follow brown signs to Madera Canyon. You'll be taking White House Canyon Road 13.2 miles to Madera Canyon.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 152 mi - about 2 hours 31 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 42.3 mi - about 55 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 295 mi - about 4 hours 37 mins
    page created by fricknaley on Mar 06 2009 5:54 pm
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