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Rincon Peak, AZ

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Guide 91 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson
4.6 of 5 by 32
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 16 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,190 feet
Elevation Gain 4,281 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,719 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 7-10 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 39.6
Interest Peak
Backpack Yes
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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35  2019-04-05
Rincon Backpack
14  2018-11-11 DixieFlyer
5  2018-03-17 LindaAnn
12  2018-03-17
3  2017-11-11 air
3  2017-04-29 trekkin_gecko
4  2017-04-29 The_N
4  2017-04-29 LindaAnn
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6
Author brianb
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 0
Photos 164
Trips 3 map ( 0 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Oct, Nov, Mar, Apr → Early
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:09am - 6:20pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
A true sky island
by brianb

Rincon peak is one of the outstanding peaks in the Tucson area. It is the main attraction of the tiny Rincon range, just southeast of Tucson. At 8482 feet, it's actually only the second highest point in the range, but the higher peak is even more inaccessible and does not offer the sweeping 360 degree views of Rincon Peak. Rincon Peak is probably only visited by an average of one party a day throughout the year. Although just a few miles outside of Tucson (as the crow flies), it is over an hour drive from Tucson - the last 12 miles of which is over a very rough gravel road. This makes the peak more isolated than it would seem.

Besides the incredible views from the peak, I find the hike up Rincon Peak to be one of the most unusual and diverse trips that I know of. Click Map to Enlarge The ascent to Rincon peak is a long and often very steep journey through several distinct ecological areas. At about 4200 feet, the trip begins in chaparral country with oaks and manzanita instead of cacti. The trail winds its way through the endless fields of boulders, oaks, pines and manzanita. This is followed immediately by a lush, shady riparian area, then immediately again by a cool alpine zone. Then it's back up through a higher chaparral zone and back into a pure alpine environment.

It is important to pace yourself on this trip. 8.1 miles (each way) with 4200+ feet gain makes for a long hike. You will need plenty of energy left for the super-steep last 1/2 mile of the trip, as well. By the time you're at the top, you will swear it was more than 4200 feet. Then, there's always the 8.1 mile hike back...

At the very beginning of the trail, at the edge of the parking area, there is a gate. Just past the gate, there are two trails - follow the trail to the left - the Miller Creek Trail.

For the first mile or so of the trail, you criss-cross a creek bed on a relatively flat trajectory surrounded by large hardwood trees. After a mile or so, you begin a long, steep trek up the side of the mountain - winding through a seemingly endless field of large boulders. The trail is more or less carved out of the solid rock, winding its way south-westward through the rocks. As you travel up the field of boulders, you get sweeping views of the valley below and to the east, and a stunning rocky cliff to the west.

Eventually, you top out on a ridge and begin traveling south towards Rinocn Peak. This area is a surprisingly lush, shady riparian zone, making for a nice respite from the more exposed chaparral below. There is a pretty creek bed in here which will have flowing water in a wet season.

Soon you climb up and out of this area to the top of another saddle, and catch your first glimpse of Rincon Peak since the beginning of the hike. At this point you are about half way there, but Rincon peak still looks very tall and far away - it's a rather dramatic sight. About here you will encounter a Forest Service sign. The Miller Creek Trail ends and you can take the Heartbreak Ridge Trail either north or south. Just keep going straight (south) at this point. You quickly descend into another stark change of scenery, along a mercifully flat stretch through a canopy of huge pine trees. There are some very old pine and juniper trees here. This being about the 1/2 way point, it would be a good spot to rest or have lunch in the shade.

About 1/2 mile into the pine forest, you'll see another FS sign where the Heartbreak Ridge Trail ends, and you can take the Rincon Peak trail either west or south. Take a left (south) here. The trail begins another long, steep trek upwards - out of the pine forest and into a mixed chaparral and pine area. You're accompanied by scores of manzanita during most of the trip. The manzanita seem to get bigger the higher you go - some as tall as ten feet with trunks a foot thick. From here you'll be treated to more views of Rincon Peak and dramatic views to the north and west.

The trail will eventually leave the chaparral and enter the pine forest which continues to the peak. At first, this last section is fairly steep. But the last 1/2 mile or so is extremely steep, winding it's way up through about a 45 degree slope. This will really put your legs and your lungs through a workout.

Finally, you emerge near the top of the peak. Follow the trail up and around the top of the mountain and up on the rocks at the top of the peak. The very top can be a little confusing - the trail can be hard to follow in the more or less solid rock. Keep an eye out for cairns to help you find the very top.

Once on top of Rincon Peak, you will be treated to an unobstructed 360 degree view of the area. It makes for a great viewing platform as there is plenty of flat, bare rock to run around on. There's also a huge cairn up there (over 6' tall) to mark your arrival. The view from the peak is similar to Mt. Wrightston in the Santa Ritas in that it's almost like looking out of an airplane window. Standing on the top of a small mountain range, the view is not as remarkable for nearby features as it is for all the distant mountain ranges in all directions.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a more difficult hike. It would be unwise to attempt this without prior experience hiking.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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

2002-04-14 brianb
  • sub-region related
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 21 deeper Triplog Reviews
Rincon Peak
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For some reason, I'd never previously set foot anywhere in this sky island, nor anywhere in Saguaro National Park. Spoiler Alert: Not a single Saguaro was seen the entire day! ](*,)

Miller Creek #28
This trail starts off with an easy warmup mile along the creek before the climb begins near the NPS boundary. The climb is steady and switchbacks frequently through bouldery terrain. The highlight of this trail is the half mile in the oak woodlands along Miller Creek below the junction with Heartbreak Ridge.

Heartbreak Ridge
The half mile between Miller Creek and Rincon Peak trails is fantastic. This area is called Happy Valley, and it's amazing. I kept thinking that this is what all the sky islands used to look like before catastrophic wildfire. There are enormous old growth ponderosa and fir along with sporadic desert scrub, nicely spaced and overall just healthy looking. Though not reliable, there was water flowing intermittently in the sandy drainage along the trail.

Rincon Peak Trail
The first mile of this one continues the pleasantness of Happy Valley, with a bit more climb. It passes through a couple of drainages that were lightly flowing with winter runoff. There's a tiny flat spot near the map marked point at 7330 where a sign indicates the end of stock use. From here the trail steepens significantly pushing the final 1100 feet to the summit. If I were to guess, this point was actually the end of the original built trail, with the resulting climb having been pieced together over time from use. It just doesn't seem to be a professionally planned or built route. Very odd actually. Nonetheless, despite it's steepness, I really enjoyed this final climb. A bit below the summit there's an affixed register box. It's in need of a new notebook as there is a single sheet of paper that is completely full of writing.

The summit features excellent views in all directions, including the largest summit cairn I think I've ever seen. Another oddity for this peak! The winds today were strong on the exposed summit so we dropped back down a bit to shelter for lunch, before heading back down to Happy Valley.

Happy Valley Campground
I was curious about this "campground" marked on the map and with a sign along the trail. It's really quite nice. Three sites with bear boxes and fire rings, and even a pit toilet! One site was occupied and the backpackers there reminded me that this is a national park, so camping there requires a permit and $8 nightly fee. Unfortunately, there is not a reliable source of water here, though there was still some running in this mid-March.

Happy Valley Lookout
Since I was feeling great, I suggested we continue north on the Heartbreak Ridge Trail, instead of heading directly back down. This was a 4-mile addition to the day and featured outstanding views and the best NPS-quality trail construction I've seen south of Grand Canyon! The lower part eases through shaded oak forest and other desert scrub before climbing into an old burn area and a steady climb. Near the peak, the trail exits the burn area that again reminded me how nice all the sky islands must have once been. We took the spur trail up to the old lookout but the cabin was boarded up and locked, providing no break from the wind which had now picked up even more. After a quick snack, we headed back down to Happy Valley and the return trip on Miller Creek to the trailhead.

This was a great intro to the Rincons and I'll definitely be back. :y:
Drive time to the trailhead was a little over 2 hours, and I think we counted 7 other people all day. My kind of crowds! :) Though the wind on the summits was a bit chilly, the temperature overall was ideal. Sadly no wildlife sightings, save for the loose heifers near the trailhead.

Rincon Peak
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Since I didn't know of any Irish people to hand out with on St Paddy's Day, I went with the Norwegian option. They drink beer too. After I managed to offend the donut lady at 5:30 in the morning (I don't think she ever likes me, I stop in there all the time), we made good time to the trailhead, starting our hike before 8:00. Great temps to start with, a little cool, but we quickly warmed up as we made our way uphill.

The walk through Happy Valley is one of my favorite parts of this hike, nice scenery, and a good reprieve before the uphill starts again. We ran into two hikers about a mile from the top, chatted with them for a moment, then I started my whining for that last mile. Chumley stayed far enough ahead to where he didn't have to hear most of it. Views from the summit were great, very clear day, but it was windy. After a few minutes up there, we retreated back down a little to eat lunch out of the wind.

Once back at Happy Valley, we looked at the campground, then decided to head over to the Happy Valley Lookout. I was originally told that it was an additional 900' of aeg, but was later informed that it was really more like 1100'. Either way, it wasn't bad, as that trail was in great shape, with lots of steps built in to the rocks. It was windy up there too, with no place to find escape from it. Sitting in the sun was the best choice to warm up, windbreakers were actually helpful for a couple of miles even though most of the day had been comfortable in just a short sleeved shirt.

The hike back down was easy and uneventful. There was plenty of water in the creeks and drainages on almost the entire hike, but that water will likely be mostly gone before too long. Great day, and a great hike, which felt easier than what the stats would imply. I posted my route, which was from Route Scout, but used Chumley's stats, since the Route Scout on his phone always seems to be more accurate than mine.
Rincon Peak
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Kelly organized this Rincon Peak hike, and I was happy to join in. We all met at the trailhead, made the necessary introductions, around 8:00 and got started.

The first mile was relatively flat and easy, with a lot of walking through sand. After that, the uphill begins. The trail is easy to follow, and is never steep. But I was feeling gassed right off the bat, off day I guess. Kelly was nice enough to hang back with me as I trudged uphill. The were some nice views to the east and north through this area, and walking through the boulders was enjoyable.

At around four miles, the trail turns south. There's another relatively flat mile, then it starts climbing uphill again, but not too steeply until the last half mile or so. That last half mile--wow--I really felt it. The ground was loose and slippery in some places too, which didn't help. The last stretch to the summit was nice, with the trail winding through the rocks. The summit was very nice, with great views all around, and lots of room for a large group. I was too tired to take many pics, and mostly rested and had a snack. It was cold and windy up there, but felt sort of nice since I know how warm this week is going to be.

The walk back down was mostly uneventful. A steady downhill, but good footing once past that top half mile. Lee threw in some creative route finding at one point, but we made it back to the trailhead around 3:00. We all headed to BK Tacos for a late lunch, which was a good way to finish out the day. Fun hike to a good peak with a great group!
Rincon Peak
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this peak has been high on my list for a long time
finally had an opportunity to hike it with some good folks
loved the hike; one of my favorites
up miller creek to happy valley and on to rincon
some solid uphill
very nice summit area, although the wind made it a little chilly
had a break, then headed down
nice campsite at happy valley
good weather and great company
got to see what bk tacos is all about on the way home
nice to meet and hike with dave, dallin and nick
a worthy peak, and one that i would certainly do again
a new one for six of us
good times! :)

route scout mileage and aeg seem a little high
will see what a few others post, then adjust accordingly
*using linda's aeg
Rincon Peak
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been a long time since i've been up here and it's been calling my name so i had to go see if it was still my favorite tucson summit. the good Count Tacula was down so we checked it out. yep, still fantastic.

couple of minor trees down, not a real hindrance. road is in good shape. wonderful trail and summit.

randomly saw 6 wild turkeys near the summit.

great hike JJ. let's keep em rolling.
Rincon Peak
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Rainy, well misty day in the Rincons. Was a little scared about excessive rain stopping me from getting back to the paved road, as there is flash flood signage everywhere along Mescal rd. Beautiful hike, gets steep near the top. Summit is great, not much of a view due to the mist that day. This completed my tour of the four premier hikes in each Tucson mountain ranges- or so I've been told- Cathedral Rock, Wrightson, Wasson, and Rincon. I'll be back for sure.
Rincon Peak
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With last weekends cool weather I decided I wanted to try Rincon Peak again. The entire hike is hot, from the bottom where it is expected to the summit, where I didn't expect it. Sadly, the gnats were really bad. They're not just bad in the saddle area as they were last October, but also on the upper Miller Creek area, and the worst was nearing the summit in the Douglas fir, where it was practically infested with them. Some cicadas were out, though. Lots of insects clicking in the trees.

I am surprised at the visitation this peak has had over the last 4 months. Lots of names signed in on the register, almost seems like Rincon gets more than Kimball. I spotted the 2/28 HAZ party and 3/21 Alt hiking group party. I notice a lot of people go when the weather is cooler. Even though the summit could be chilly, and who knows I might prefer that to today on top, I expect there are no gnats. If I do this again I would like to think I would be smart enough to do it when the gnats aren't out.
Rincon Peak
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Rincon Mountains
Day 1: Parked at Turkey Creek TH (not at the actual TH, just where the road gets bad), walked to Miller Creek TH, hiked up to Happy Valley, dropped our heavy stuff, and headed up Rincon Peak.

Day 2: HBR trail up to Spud Rock Campground via the Deerhead Spring Trail, again dropped stuff off, then waddled up the rest of the way to see Mica Mtn, Spud Rock, Manning Camp, and all sorts of other goodies I hadn't seen before. Everything up there was amazing and well worth the schlep...

Day 3: Down Turkey Creek Trail. It was a much nicer trail than I was expecting, but it's not something I would want to do during typical May weather given how exposed it is.

No issues aside from a few scary looking clouds the second afternoon and lots of very excited (but non-threatening) bees on the Heartbreak Ridge Trail on the way up to Happy Valley Lookout. The Manzanitas were blossoming and there was a constantly disconcerting buzz the entire time... :scared: Otherwise it's a fantastic trail.
Rincon Peak
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We were expecting to see snow at around the 8000' level due to the rain from mid-week, however there was none to be found anywhere today. Really perfect conditions, water in most of the drainages, flowers, green, green green, and very pleasant temperatures on the summit and trail.
Rincon Peak
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First, I want to congratulate brianb on the excellent description of this hike. One of the most beautiful and diverse I've done. Five of us from Saddlebrooke met Matt (Mountain Rat) at the I-10 exit and drove the 16 miles in to the Miller Ck TH (over 12 miles is dirt/gravel, but a sedan can make it ok if no recent rains). Only one other car at the parking lot, a couple from Philadelphia trying to escape the cold. We followed a recent HAZ track but the signage is very good all the way up; a map would help in deciphering the several intersections. The reward for reaching the peak is fantastic. Simply making it up the extremely steep last 500 or so feet is enough, but the views once at the top of Wrong Mtn to the south, Tanque Verde Pk (with Helen's Dome, and beyond that, the Catalinas), and the Galuiros to the NE are magnificent.

There is a world class cairn at the top, biggest I've ever seen. This hike should go on everyone's bucket list.

There is plentiful water along Miller Crk and at several points along the stream that passes near the Happy Valley Campground, after the Happy Valley Saddle.

It took us 5 hours up and 4 down, but I thought we made good time. Definitely a long day, eat your wheaties before tackling this one. I can't believe that Matt was going to Window Rock, from Finger Rock TH, today with JJ. I hope JJ takes it easy on him.

Permit $$

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

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
From Tucson, head east on I-10 for about 35 miles to exit 297 for Mescal. Turn left (north). Just follow this road for sixteen miles all the way to the Miller Creek trailhead. The first four miles of the road are paved and the next twelve are gravel. The gravel road was grated recently but can still be a little bone-jarring. A passenger car is fine, but you will need to go slow. After the twelve miles down the gravel road, you will see a sign for the Miller Creek trailhead. There is a small parking area here. Park here, and the trailhead is right there.
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