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Leviathan via Alamo Canyon, AZ

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Guide 2 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson NW
3 of 5 by 1
HAZ reminds you to respect the ruins. Please read the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 & Ruins Etiquette
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 0 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,698 feet
Elevation Gain 2,034 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,200 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11
Interest Off Trail Hiking, Ruins, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
15  2016-12-15
Alamo Canyon
17  2016-11-25 rvcarter
Author rvcarter
author avatar Guides 33
Routes 304
Photos 2,146
Trips 236 map ( 1,436 miles )
Age 73 Male Gender
Location tucson, az
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Feb, Nov, Jan → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:21pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Crazy Climbers Approach
by rvcarter

The magnificent conical rock formation called Leviathan can be seen from Oracle Road, and it’s distinct shape has attracted us for a while. We made a recon trip up Alamo Canyon a couple of years back but got off in a canyon to the south that went nowhere and ran out of gas. Recently we gave it another shot, mainly because the scrambling and boulder hopping up Alamo Canyon was so much fun. The formation just beyond and above Leviathan (which is about 5550 feet) is Wilderness Dome (unk 6079 on the Oro Valley quad). It’s claim to fame is that it has a 5.9 trad climbing route named (according to Mountain Project) “Smokin’ a J at the See Saw”. I leave it to you to decide whether the person that named the route is insane or just on the weed. The approach is listed as 3-4 hours, but I think it would take a lot longer with climbing gear. Mountain Project drily put it like this “you probably won’t have to stand in line for this one”. Anyway, hiking to the base of Leviathan up Alamo Canyon, past Buster Mountain from Catalina State Park, is one of the better scrambling, boulder hopping experiences around Southern Arizona and a great day out, you are not likely to see another human after leaving the Romero Ruins area, and..... there is an actual trail for a mile or so.

You start at the large parking area for access to the Catalina State Park Romero Ruins and veer to the right just before reaching the ruins. The hike is initially flat and easy, but after a mile or so you arrive at a nice small gorge on your right that is obviously frequently visited. Coordinates for this point are 32.40889, -110.91102, WGS 84. This is where most people turn around, and there are a couple of Forest Service signs that announce that past this point you enter the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area. Dogs are prohibited beyond this point. The faint trail continues for a quarter mile but eventually disappears and you drop into Alamo Canyon to begin the boulder hopping in earnest. The canyon proceeds to the southeast around the south side of Buster Mountain. After a few turns in the canyon, the noise from Oracle Road finally disappears.

After a bit, you encounter some massive, house-size boulders that have dropped into the canyon from the cliffs above. These rock falls have created several caves and sheltered areas that are used by wildlife. Even as dry as it’s been, there are several pools in the wash, but no running water. The scrambling is usually class 3 or less, but there are a couple of places where the moves feel like class 4, especially on the way down. There is about a mile here that the waist deep grass makes it difficult to safely place your feet. Watch particularly on the way back. You will encounter a few places where the pour-off or boulder arrangement is severe enough to look for a way around. Do what you need to do to stay safe.

Watch as you pass the drainages to be sure you stay in the main one until just below Leviathan. From here, the climb is very steep and footing is iffy. Just take your time up and down. We took a short rope but didn’t use it. This might not be one to do alone. As usual, there are several cairns in the lower canyon, but few up where you really need them. If you attempt this, I recommend a good map and GPS. It is very important not to get off in the wrong canyon, unless that is your goal, but it would be hard to get completely lost because of the canyon walls. The stats for this hike are not intimidating, but it is definitely a tiring hike because of the complex terrain and difficult footing.

The last quarter mile is very steep and good footing is hard to find. To reach the base of the rock, you have to fight your way through some manzanita and other bushes, but it’s not too bad. Retrace your steps back to the car.

After you leave the Catalina State Park and enter the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area, this hike is off limits from January 1 to April 30 of each year because of the Bighorn Sheep Re-introduction Project. Dogs are never allowed past the lower canyon for the same reason. This is not a summer hike.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2016-11-27 rvcarter
    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 Review
    Leviathan via Alamo Canyon
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Alamo Canyon
    Since we didn't make the complete traverse across to Pima Spring, I'm calling this Recon 3. Frank and I fully intended to make the complete trip up Alamo Canyon from Catalina State Park to Pima Spring, then down to Pima Canyon TH. We dropped a car about 7:30 a.m., made good time up the trail part (which gets you to about even with Buster Mtn.), dropped into the wash and beat our way forward though lots of boulders and waist high grass. We had to pick our way around a few pouroffs, but were optimistic about reaching the saddle with Pima Canyon... but got off into the wrong canyon past the spur to Leviathan. The two ways south to the Saddle are very close to each other (couple hundred feet) and have the same directional alignment. I didn't make the right call until after plotting our position several times. With the extreme elevation, by the time we realized the error, we were too far up to move laterally over to the right canyon (got cliffed out), and too tired to drop down to pick up the correct route.

    We tried to go around the high point by moving right to a view point but ran into a difficult descent which would have to be followed by a difficult ascent. It was then 1:00 p.m., and we were pretty much out of gas... and we could not see the top part to have any assurance that it was doable. We opted to return down Alamo Canyon and reached our vehicle just as it was getting dark. The descent from the highest point back into the canyon was difficult (there's that word again) and not much fun. I left quite a bit of skin up there. Next time, we're taking a 100 foot rope, some webbing and bale rings.

    To be honest, the part above the spur up to Leviathan is not much fun. Wouldn't recommend it, unless you have an insane goal of completing the traverse from CSP to Pima Cyn TH. When we finally make it, I'll post it on HAZ. We got really close to making it: maybe 900 feet horizontally and less than 300 feet of elevation, but close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes.

    There is quite a bit of water in the upper canyon.

    At this point, I expected little or no color, but a few cottonwoods and the lush grapevines (yes the ones that make this canyon so difficult) are a nice yellow, but fading fast.

    Permit $$
    AZ State Parks more info
    2018 Day Use Fees range from $2–$30

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    Park at the large Romero Ruins access parking lot in Catalina State Park, and walk south across the Canada del Oro.
    page created by rvcarter on Nov 27 2016 12:42 pm
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