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Butterfly Trail #16 - Catalina, AZ

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416 98 3
Guide 98 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
Rated
3.6
3.6 of 5 by 25
 
14
Statistics
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Shuttle 5.05 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,725 feet
Elevation Gain -1,095 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,797 feet
Avg Time Hiking 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.04
Backpack Yes & Connecting
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Collective Slideshow
Inaugural Calculation next Tap
25  2018-06-14
Butterfly Loop AZ
DixieFlyer
7  2017-10-29 friendofThunderg
7  2017-01-28 Pivo
17  2016-08-30
Catalina Mts Crystal Spring Hike
markthurman53
2  2016-06-19 uphill_junkie
15  2016-05-29
Butterfly Loop
Pivo
7  2015-08-29 Craigbhikin
15  2015-07-28 gummo
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Apr, May, Jun, Sep → 8 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:52am - 5:22pm
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Official Route
 
10 Linked
 
Water
Nearby Area Water
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
same trailhead
3.2 mi
372 ft
Box Camp - Palisade Loop
Box Camp - Palisade Loop
0.5 mi away
15.6 mi
4,775 ft
Box Camp Trail #22
Box Camp Trail #22
0.5 mi away
6.1 mi
179 ft
Sabino Box below Box Springs Trail
Sabino Box below Box Springs Trail
0.5 mi away
5.4 mi
-1,300 ft
Brinkley Point
Brinkley Point
0.5 mi away
6.8 mi
2,242 ft
Upper Lemmon Canyon & Pools
Upper Lemmon Canyon & Pools
0.8 mi away
8.0 mi
1,600 ft
Oracle Ridge - AZT #12
Oracle Ridge - AZT #12
0.9 mi away
15.5 mi
1,840 ft
Aspen / Marshall Loop
Aspen / Marshall Loop
0.9 mi away
3.5 mi
1,015 ft
Aspen / Marshall Superloop via Radio Ridge
Aspen / Marshall Superloop via Radio Ridge
0.9 mi away
8.6 mi
2,482 ft
Aspen Trail #93
0.9 mi away
3.7 mi
1,800 ft
[ View More! ]
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Are we there yet?
by Desertboots

This delightful summer trail is best done in a two-car shuttle. Even though it is technically only 5.7 miles, it is the quality, not the quantity of the miles. You'll thank ol' Desertboots for suggesting a two-car approach! My group and I did the opposite of what is described in most of the trail books. The first time I hiked this trail, I did it the "legal" way from the actual trailhead. If you start from the Palisades Ranger Station, you will shave 200 feet of the climb out of the canyon, and being the lazy climber I am, any elevation gain avoided is okay by me. The trailhead is officially at the parking are near Soldier Camp Road, and since you will have two cars parked at either trailhead, you can begin from either place. The only word of warning is that if you start at Palisades, the trailhead is not marked. Cross the road and find the trail as it marches up the hill, and bear right. This all-uphill approach trail will lead you to a sign where you will be guided to the Butterfly Trail.


From here you will begin a very long descent through a major burn area from the fire in 2003. Chances are if you touch anything you will end up sooty. There is a considerable undergrowth of plants, especially ferns. There are also many fallen snags you have to negotiate along the trail.

Eventually, the trail bottoms out at a place called Novio Spring. There is some water here but only a trickle. This is a beautiful area and a perfect spot to stop for lunch. Here you can get confused and lose the trail if you're not careful. If you go straight and end up seeing the remains of an aircraft, you've gone the wrong way. I do not know the details of this crash or how these plane parts came to be here. If you taken this short field trip to the wreckage, go back the way you came and look for the trail on the left that might be partially covered with vegetation. There are wooden steps on the trail that make it obvious.

From here you will walk along the creek bed and it is a fantastic area. The creek drops significantly into a deep ravine. Then you start climbing. Climbing and climbing and climbing! There is a point where again you can go the wrong way. When you start switch backing and you come to a place where there are some wooden logs hammered down to what looks like a logical step and a trail to the left, that is a faux trail. The real trail switches to the right and continues the grueling, er, I mean, heart-rate enhancing climb up. You will finally reach a sign that indicates Catalina Highway is 1.4 miles. There are a couple of trail crossings here, but you want to go in the direction of Catalina Highway. From here, you guessed it, you keep climbing! It is a very long 1.4 miles. You will emerge on to an old jeep trail. Just keep following this and you will reach Shangri-La, the beloved parking area with excellent restrooms.

At this point, I would recommend taking the 4-mile trip to Summerhaven and visiting the Summerhaven Cafe for a bite of something good to eat and have a slice of homemade pie! Just do it before 5pm, when the cafe closes. Much of this hamlet burned down in the fire of 2003, and there is much construction going on.

Desertboots
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Coronado FS Reports This is a wonderful trail that passes through an area of such diverse biology that part of it has been designated a Research Natural Area. Views are diverse too, facing both east and west in what is a unique situation among generally south and west-facing Santa Catalina trails. In addition, many of these attractions can be reached by hiking the first part of the trail, which is easier, and avoiding those steeper portions that account for its more difficult rating.

This is the perfect trail to bring along your tree and wildflower books and something on butterflies, since these colorful creatures congregate in clusters among the wildflowers that grow here. Along the trailside, there is a wide variety of trees, including ponderosa pine, Douglas fir and Southwestern white pine in the high, cool areas; Arizona Madrone, Box Elder and Big Tooth Maple in the more moderate areas; and Alligator Juniper, various species of oak and yuccas in drier, more exposed areas. Moist ravines are decorated with Columbine and Butterfly Weed, while south facing slopes provide an appropriate habitat for prickly pear and hedgehog cactus.

Views along this trail are as diverse as the biology, especially if you take the short side hike to the top of Mt. Bigelow. At this forest lookout location you'll find good views of Tucson to the west. The rest of the trail offers views to the east of Alder Canyon, the San Pedro Valley and the copper smelter at San Manuel.

Attractions:
Trees, wildflowers and butterflies
East-west views
Cool forest setting
Diverse biology
Easy hike option
Research Natural Area
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.

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)


Directions
Map Drive
or
Road
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue 19 miles to the Palisade Visitor Information Center. The trailhead for Butterfly Trail is located at the north end of the parking lot across the road. The upper trailhead is about another 4 miles up Catalina Highway at the Soldier Camp access road. The Catalina Highway is paved and suitable for passenger cars, but it may be snow-covered in winter when chains or 4-wheel drive may be required.
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