for free!

Ditch Mountain 6443 - Santa Ritas, AZ

Guide 1 Triplog  0 Topics
  3.5 of 5 
37 1 0
tap icons for details
Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,681 feet
Elevation Gain 768 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,660 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 16.5
 Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Perennial Creek & Peak
 Backpack Yes
unreported if dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All MineFollowing
37  2023-04-20 Mike_W
author avatar Guides 58
Routes 89
Photos 3,698
Trips 238 map ( 1,357 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
Radar Map
Expand Map
Preferred Sep, Oct, Mar, Apr → 9 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  5:23am - 7:17pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimeteracres
🔥 2005 Florida Fire23.2k

3,000 feet below Mt Wrightson
by Mike_W

Ditch Mountain, with an elevation of 6,443 feet, is on the East side of the Santa Rita mountain range and is accessible from the well-maintained Arizona Trail. The nearest major trailheads are the Cave Canyon trailhead and the Tunnel Spring trailhead. The hike involves 1.3 miles round trip of bushwhack up/down a ridgeline to the peak that gets a bit steep at the top, and several miles of nice Arizona trail with some rocky 4x4 road, depending on which trailhead you start from.

I've used my phone to extract this text from a sign on the Arizona trail South of the Tunnel Spring trailhead:

Historic Mining in the Santa Ritas
Scarce Resources: Water and Gold

Step back in time.....
This section of Arizona Trail follows a water system built a century ago for a short-lived hydraulic mining venture. In hydraulic mining, powerful jets of water blast away hillsides to reach gold deposits But in the Santa Rita Mountains gold deposits and ample water do not occur in the same valleys. In 1904 the Santa Rita Water & Mining Company built ditches, pipes, and tunnels to carry water from streams and springs near here to the dry, gold-bearing gravels near Greaterville.

Here, a tunnel nearly 1,000 feet in length connected a ditch in Big Casa Blanca with Gardner Canyon and the rest of the water system. As you hike north along the trail, signs will point out features of this system.

A ditch carried water 2½ miles from Big Casa Blanca Canyon to this tunnel entrance. Now, the boarded-up tunnel Impounds underground water.

Start at the Link and Cave Canyon trailhead which is in Cave Creek Canyon and hike West/Southwest following the Link trail which heads uphill. Take this trail roughly 0.75 until you reach a road, which I believe is called FS 785. Follow the road downhill for roughly 1 mile until you reach the Tunnel Spring trailhead. If you were able to drive to this point, you could start your hike here.

At the Tunnel Spring trailhead, which is in Gardner Canyon, this junction is where you merge into the Walker Canyon trail which is part of the Arizona trail. Continue along the Arizona trail for 1.7 miles until you reach the ridge that is Northeast of Ditch Mountain. This part of the trail is relatively flat. You should be able to look South/Southwest and see the top of Ditch Mountain.

You will want to hike off the Arizona Trail climbing North at about this point to get on the ridge that leads up to the summit of Ditch mountain. It may be a bit steep getting up to the ridge, then once on the ridge, the hiking will be a little easier. You should be able to wind through the oak and pine trees, heading West toward the summit. There are a few tricky areas, but if you stay in the middle of the ridge you can follow it up to the peak.

At the peak, there were excellent views of Mt Wrightson, Mt Ian, Florida Saddle, and the entire high ridgeline of the Santa Rita mountains. You'll see a registry at the top under a rock pile. At the peak, there were also some nice oak and pine trees with some shady areas.

Check out the Official Route and Triplog.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2023-04-21 Mike_W
    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 $$

    Coronado Forest
    MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
    Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

    High Clearance possible when dry

    To hike
    Take I-10 in Tucson East to Hwy 83 South. Take Hwy 83 South for about 21 miles. Turn right on Gardner Canyon road and take that for just under 9 miles until it dead ends at the "Link and Cave Creek trailhead. If the road is relatively dry and there hasn't been a lot of rain, a standard high clearance should be all that's needed.

    I have a 4x4 truck and I never had to engage the 4WD at any point on this road in mid-April. Note: When I tried to drive this road in February, there was a lot of water in the stream and I felt it was too much to cross. In April, the water level was low and there were no issues.

    For a shorter hike, it's also possible to take Gardner Canyon road for 6.4 miles and turn left at a junction (FS 785, I believe) and continue another 2.6 to the Tunnel Spring Trailhead. I'm not so familiar with that road and the last 2.6 miles may require 4WD.
    page created by Mike_W on Apr 21 2023 3:46 pm
     90+° 8am - 6pm kills
    prehydrate & stay hydrated

    end of page marker