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Buster Mountain, AZ

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Guide 28 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson NW
4.4 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 4 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.66 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,704 feet
Elevation Gain 1,862 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 13.97
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Peak
Dogs not allowed
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2  2018-12-12 MSimmons
4  2016-12-11 writelots
6  2016-11-24
Buster Canyon Loop - Tucson
10  2015-12-09
Alamo Canyon-Buster Ridgeline Loop
6  2015-11-03 Mountain_Rat
1  2014-11-26 Mountain_Rat
1  2014-11-19 rvcarter
4  2013-11-24 fricknaley
Page 1,  2
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,743 map ( 18,146 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
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Preferred   Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb → 10 AM
Seasons   Early Autumn to Late Spring
Sun  6:09am - 6:27pm
Official Route
3 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Bust yourself up on Buster Mountain
by fricknaley

Overview: This is an off trail bushwhack to the summit of Buster Mountain, a 4595 foot peak at the northern base of Pusch Ridge from Catalina State Park. It's a steep serious climb through all the desert fixin's, prime for tearing yourself up a little. The payoff are unparalleled, up close views of Pusch Ridge that will bring tears to your eyes. There is a short maybe 8-10 foot class 4 pitch near the top, otherwise this is just an off trail hike...albeit a steep one.

HIKE: Take off from the ubiquitous Catalina State Park trailhead and immediately cross Sutherland Wash. Where the Romero trail breaks left and goes up the steep hill, instead go right on the signed Birding Loop trail and follow it a short stretch until if splits into it's loop at a bug tree. Take the left fork and cross over a wash, go up some wooden steps and climb the little mesa. At the top of the little climb you will see a bench on your left. This is 0.5 miles from the start. Behind the bench a clear unmarked and unmaintained trail heads off left, south towards the mountains. You can follow this narrow little trail into the desert, towards Pusch Ridge. Several faint little nothing trails break off in either direction, but stay the course. At about 1.15 miles from the trailhead a faint path will break off left near some rocks, it is likely cairned (This is at roughly 32.41273, 110.90903).

This scratch route will take you about 2/3 of the way up or so. It is a very faint path and cairned route that is subtle at best. However, a hiker experienced in the Catalinas, Superstitions or other locale home to poor trails and routes will have little trouble following it. The route almost immediately drops down and over a wash, then climbs over a couple of large granite slabs (go up and look for cairns). Very soon the route starts climbing STEEPLY up the southwestern flanks of Buster. You approach many interesting rock formations. The first large outcropping you will skirt right, heading up the whole way to sort of a saddle in the slope of the mountain. From here the route climbs up steeply again, to and up some very red rock. Near the top of this formation you start to veer left and up now heading more southeast to a second more prominent saddle. This is cairned. The views from here towards Pusch Ridge are immediately unbelievable. From here to the top is more of a true bushwhack, the little route deteriorates even more. Just keep heading up, there are traces of use routes you can follow. They mostly consist of deer tracks more than footprints. The climbing is now more sever and rocky, the mountain falls away to your right (far, far down). This is class 3 climbing here. Soon you will come to a short almost vertical rock ledge with seemingly only one way up - a short less than 10 foot class 4 pitch that is very doable. The exposure is really not that bad, but it may feel like it (especially if it is windy). Once over this rock ledge you are pretty close to the top, maybe another 0.2 miles or so of climbing through a plethora of shin daggers and pricklies. Just head up now, and before long you'll be on the southwest end of the summit. A short grassy walk over to the highpoint yields the register for those who care. Break out the handkerchief and dab your eyes as you partake of majestic views of the extremely rugged, jagged spires of Pusch Ridge. Alamo and Montrose Canyons roar up the Ridge. This is the place to be, friends.

Please be careful on this hike, as with all off trail summits a fall here in the right place could cause REAL trouble. Please bring your standard bushwhack gear, including GPS/map.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2009-12-06 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 of 12 deeper Triplog Reviews
    Buster Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    So, I finally got the opportunity to hike with the iconic Doctor Frick on Thanksgiving. He had picked this one out, and I asked if I could tag along. The weather could not have been better for Buster. In fact, I think that this was my first time at the peak without a pounding wind. It was a mellow ascent resulting in itchy feet and ankles, followed by an eventless descent. That's right! I know you all were thinking that this could only end up in a royal bloodbath, but there were no notable injuries between us. It's like a Thanksgiving miracle or something.

    Anywho, it was good to finally meet Frick and get a hike in with him. Hopefully we can hammer out a few more trails in the area.
    Buster Mountain
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Matt was nice enough to show me the way along the buster mountain loop. this hike is outstanding and is the way to do buster in my opinion. we had perfect weather. found the spring after a little poking around. cool to finally see that.

    as always the views up high are some of my favorite in tucson. missed it up here, nice to be back

    on the way up we some a bunch of something really hauling butt up the slopes near the saddle. possibly bighorns? too far away to tell but they were trucking

    great to finally meet and hike with you Matt. let's do it again sometime, on something more brutal perhaps? : rambo :
    Buster Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Call me suicidal, but I let Roy talk me into another easy scramble. Roy had previously posted a track for this one, so I loaded it into Route Manager, looked at the profile and thought “this aint too bad”, and like that, I was in.

    I met Roy and his gang at Catalina State Park just a bit before 08:00 and we immediately hit the trail. The ascent to Buster Mountain was pretty standard and we took a short break there. Now, in my head, all that was left to do, was drop off the east side of Buster, cruise over the saddle, back up the other side to that little peak over there, then go home. Well, that was not the case. The conversation went something along these lines;

    Me: So, is that the peak we’re going to?
    Roy: No. ya see that one to the right of it?
    Me: Yea.
    Roy: Well, there’s a peak behind it and then that one to its left. That’s where we’re headed… And from there we can see the peak that we’re going to. Okay lets go!
    Me: O.o

    Now, I have never considered Buster to be an easy hike. It has its challenges, but this went way beyond. There were moments when I though “huh, Roy has brought me out here to die”, but then I’d see something shiny and forget about it for awhile. We climbed false peak, after false, until we found ourselves perched tediously between Alamo and Montrose Canyons, looking down on Leviathan. Not only were we out there, but we were up there as well. THIS IS AWSOME!!! … and worth the treacherous march/climb we made to get here. I don’t mean to downplay the remainder of the trip, but it was a cakewalk compared to what we had already been through and certainly less scenic.

    This one I may be back for again. It was very tough and with any small misjudgment, could turn bad. I would not do this one alone or suggest that anyone else should.

    Thanks once again Roy for leading the way.
    Buster Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    After a reeeealy bad start, I charged off to see Buster Mountain. I hadn't been to Buster for quite some time. In fact, it's been nearly a year, which it seems is just long enough to have forgotten how tough this little guy is. The first mile chimed at 20 minutes and some seconds. The second mile came in at 54 minutes and some change. After that it got really fun in that the trail is pretty much gone. The rains this summer have redeposited a lot of topsoil and the grasses have gone nut, also, someone has been cairn knocking in the area again (I set up a few new ones today at key locations). Topping the difficulties mentioned so far was the wind as it whipped out of Alamo Canyon. Sudden sheers would nearly knock you off your feet at times, and overall, it just wreaks havoc on the equilibrium. Strangely, at the peak, I received a short reprieve from the wind and was able to read and sign the register. The last entry was from last March. As I put the register back, the wind returned. This time, it wasn't messin' around. For the next 3/4 miles I could hardly keep my eye open as I faced into the wind. At times I could only guess and gamble on my next step. Once there was no more connection to Alamo Canyon, the wind became pretty mild and life went back to normal. The rest of the hike was rather uneventful. All in all, another great day outdoors, but aren't they all :D
    Buster Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I had hiked to Buster Mountain by the usual route the first time, then heard that there was another trail up a ridge on the other side of the canyon. So, I asked some of my cronies what they knew about this area. I got a lot of mixed info from the old timers, I found a bit of information through Google, then I sat down and sorted what I had (which turns out to be surprisingly little). What I did find was that there was an old trail to Buster Spring along a no-named ridge north of Buster Canyon (I'm not sure that the canyon has an official name, but 2 old timers referred to it as such, so...). With little else to go on, I turned to Google Earth and found what looked like pieces of trail as described. My second trip to Buster Mountain would be along that possible route. With a few hiccups, I made the second trip, eventually locating the mystery trail, then recording a full track on my return.

    Today was the day that I would christen the Buster Canyon Loop. I hit the trail at 04:45, with all the details already in my head. The approach was unbelievably beautiful, with the sun rising and setting over the landscape again and again. The lighting is horrible for taking pics, but to the eye, it just doesn't get any better.

    On my last trip, I almost stumbled into Buster Spring, but this time couldn't find it (there's a small spur that leads to it, which I failed to mark), but that wasn't my purpose today. Today was all about traversing Buster Canyon. I did take a break at Buster Mountain before taking the rock slide back to the park, finishing up at 09:00.

    This an excellent hike. I recommend it to all.
    Buster Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Buster Backwards:

    The plan was to do Pusch Peak this morning, but upon arrival at the TH, I saw that I was not alone. There were already 3 vehicles parked and a 4th pulled in right behind me. As I gathered my stuff, I began to think that 5 people in this canyon is pretty crowded, then when all 4 doors opened on the latest arrival, I packed it up. Now, seeing a human or 2 doesn't bother me, but with a minimum of 8 hikers on trail before 05:00 a.m. It was gonna be close quarters.

    With no plan B, I scoured through the vast emptiness of my mind to find another option :| . It wasn't long before Buster Mountain popped up :) (I happened to look in it's direction). The trailhead being 5 miles north, I hit the highway again. I was on the trail, half-cocked at about 05:20, still trying to decide my approach.

    I had this hike on the books for the near future, when I would have some time to bushwack. The plan was to do a loop, taking an established trail up, with a potential 'Google' trail out the other side (or vice-verse). I had it all plotted out for weeks now. I had been hesitating on the approach though; Bushwack up, where I could bail on the lower end if needed, or Bushwack down, which could turn into a long backtrack?

    As I selected the map page on the 'GeePuS', I found that I had failed to ever load the plotted route at all. Fortunately, I had at least loaded some way points (1/2 mile checkpoints) based on Google Earth imagery. There was no way that I wasn't doing this today, so I headed up the Birding Trail until I saw what should be the ravine I was looking for. I made a decision and turned hard left, charging head long into the unknown :gun: .

    I was about 7/10ths of a mile up the ravine when I realized there was not, nor will there be a trail here :-s . I knew the trail was to the south of me running basically southeast. Having lost my allotment of blood already, I decided to cut a line dead south to intersect the trail. Within the next 1/2 mile, this move payed off as I stepped onto the elusive 'Google' Trail. This trail is Niiice. It seems that someone or something (maybe Google :-k ) has been taking very good care of this trail, complete with carins every 10 - 20 feet, until you top the ridge. After that, it's rolling, but rocky plains of high grass, hiding any sign of carins or trail. The upside is that now the route to Buster Mountain is clear and obvious. I dropped down through a saddle, headed straight for Buster Spring and from there contoured the hill counter-clockwise until hitting the saddle below Buster. The only thing left to do now is hit the peak :y: .

    As I took a break at the peak, I decided that I would return the way that I came, so as to record a full track of the 'Google' Trail. I've now been to the peak from both directions, I have solid data on both, and can do the full loop another day.

    BTW, the full loop comes in at ~5.1 miles. You'll Love This One!
    Buster Mountain
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    My buddy Kirstin has been on me to take her hiking for months now. She's busy, I'm busy, but we finally managed a common window of 5 hours. Now to find an adventure that would fit. She wanted water, tall trees, a good workout and a finale. While I wanted those same things, I didn't see it all happening in 5 hours(Kirstin is a "Charge!" kind of a girl, but she is also quite easily distracted). The decision on Buster Mountain was made for several reasons, the most important of which was that it was the shortest hike on my short list.

    My day started at 03:30 as I started packing, while periodically, and very gently poking at the badger to get her on her feet. By 04:45 we were on the road, left the CSP trailhead at 05:30, aannd took our first snack break at about 05:50 (20 minutes and 2,000' from the TH). We were not gonna get to the peak at this rate unless I could motivate the munchkin. Knowing her love for fairytales, I quickly turned this hike into a quest fit only for a princess :STP: . She took the bait and we were on our way. Now my plan was not without flaw. She, being the princess, was ultimately in command, so we still met with many delays. I think the first 1.25 mi or so offered the badger too much confidence. Once the the trail became faint, she suggested that I take the lead. Then once the trail was no more (it seems that people give this trail up just after the first peak), I was in charge. :DANCE:

    The rest of the trip up went as it should, making the peak a bit behind schedule, but within limits. Kirstin found and attached herself to the register, while I checked out the views. Eventually the alarm went off to head back, but as we were replacing the register, what did we find? ANOTHER REGISTER :doh: This was the original one. Try to peel a princess away from that. ](*,)

    Long story, short, we burned another 45 minutes reading the more interesting entries, followed by a race with the devil to get back to the TH. We made it back 3 minutes behind schedule.

    A great day with my best buddy and one more peak in the bag. :y:
    Buster Mountain
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    I loved this hike. Catalina State Park is one of my favorite pieces of desert, but the trails there are always so crowded these days, and they are in desperate need of heavy maintenance. But we had Buster all to ourselves, and from the summit log, it might have been that way most any day.

    It was unnaturally hot up there considering it was December. I actually got a bit of a dehydration headache on the way down. Stupid Arizona sun, sometimes you just want a break.
    Buster Mountain
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    had the distinct pleasure of taking my brother and dad up to Buster Mountain, one of my local favorite hikes in Tucson. Wonderful day :y: :y: :y:
    Buster Mountain
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    This was a great hike. The cairns are very helpful and plentiful, trail is not crowded and the workout is great. The view at the top toward the sheer cliffs along the ridge are great and the register has a lot of history in it. I wish I would have checked out Buster Spring. Next time...

    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)

    Catalina State Park State Park

    Map Drive
    Paved - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Phoenix take 1-10 south to the 241 exit (Tangerine). Follow east to AZ 77 (Oracle Road). Turn right (South) on AZ77 and signs for Catalina State Park lead the way.

    From anywhere in Tucson, connect to Oracle Rd (Highway 77) and head north past Pusch Ridge. After you have gone about 15-20 miles you will see the sign for Catalina State Park on the right. There is an entrance fee to get into the park. To get to the trails, just drive in and follow the signs to a large parking area marked "trailhead".
    page created by fricknaley on Dec 06 2009 7:47 pm
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