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Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5, AZ

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Guide 48 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson S
3.5 of 5 by 11
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 13.85 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,201 feet
Elevation Gain 860 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,942 feet
Avg Time One Way 6-7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 20.32
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
3  2019-03-02
Old Pueblo Endurance Run 25 Miler
5  2017-04-16 Sredfield
40  2017-04-16 tibber
30  2017-04-15 tibber
23  2015-08-08
Big Casa Blanca-Cave Canyon Loop
15  2015-03-08 mazatzal
7  2015-03-06 pjhikes
12  2015-02-28 DallinW
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
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Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Feb, Mar
Sun  6:07am - 6:29pm
Official Route
9 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby

Overview: This passage begins on Gardner Canyon Road, just west of Gardner Canyon Trailhead. The route passes the trailhead, heads over to Cave Creek, descends into Fish Canyon and then heads northwest to Kentucky Camp. It goes through the camp area, follows the Kentucky Camp Road and then works its way up Sucker Gulch. It goes past Granite Mountain, through Ophir Gulch and then turns on to FR 165. It descends to Enzenberg Canyon, climbs up to a road, crosses California Gulch and then crosses FR 62. After a couple of small ridges the trail reaches the upper end of Oak Tree Canyon. It follows this canyon down to a point about 3/4 mile from Highway 83.

Southern Trailhead: Gardner Canyon Road - FR 92

Northern Trailhead: Oak Tree Canyon - FR 4072

Note: This page is open to authors. Hike must be listed South to North as one-way. Do not include an overview as the above is permanent.

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2018-07-14 HAZ_Hikebot

    One-Way Notice
    This hike is listed as One-Way.

    When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
    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 Reviews
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Arizona Trail Passages 4-5
    This was a casual paced 2-passage hike on AZT passages 4 and 5 over a 3 day weekend. Our biggest day was day 1 where we hiked from Patagonia to just shy of the junction of the Mt. Wrightson summit trail and camped in a lush oak drainage. Water was plentiful in the mountains and we never ran dry.

    Day 2 was a casual stroll up and over the saddle and down to our awaiting reservation at Kentucky Camp in the rental cabin. What a luxury! We had the entire afternoon to relax with some beers left in the cooler of a car we staged there, and it was great sleeping in actual beds and having running water to clean up and cook with.

    Day 3 was the majority of passage 5. The scenery in this passage is breathtaking with rolling hills of tall grass and drainages that nearly all had good water to filter. It was hot on day 3, but we had a quick storm roll in that actually hailed on us for 5 minutes before completely clearing up again.

    Another 2 passages knocked off the list!
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    Highway 83 to Morningstar Mine After a great nite at camp we packed up our things and then drove up to Highway 83 to start our hike.
    We checked out a stock tank and like most we would see today, it had quite a bit of water. The first one had a great reflection too. We continued on the road as it met up with the Trailhead and then continued on our way west enjoying the views thru this beautiful Oak Treed Canyon.

    Eventually you make your way top side or ridge side and then head south and west for most of the rest of the trip. The trail is in great shape and even though some of it is old road that has grown in, it made for great hiking so we could do a lot of gawking. Off and on you get great views of Mount Wrightson and the rest of the Santa Ritas so that's great. We even saw Baboquivari.

    Trying to find Bowman Spring we stumbled on a stock tank that has this red fungus algae over part of it. Very strange looking substance. Soon after we would encounter a herd of cows and calves. Some of the calves were still pretty young. Part of the herd had gotten on the other side of the fence so we tried to be careful not to spook the calves into the fence. Well one of them insisted on crashing thru. Then we figured out if we walk along the fence, they can't do that anymore.

    We headed down into Enzenberg Canyon before the endless hill up. Shawn went over to check another tank while we waited for him up the hill. It was nice that we had filtered sun for all those false "should be downhill from here" moments. On the way toward the road we spotted a mine and another tank with a measuring gauge before hiking the road back to camp.

    I enjoyed hiking this passage from both directions. A nice way to mix it up. And now, of course with the fire, it will be interesting to see what it looks like.

    Then it was over to pick up the other vehicle and head to Tucson for lunch. A lot of places were closed but we finally found one, La Parilla Suiza off of Ina Road. It was quite good.

    Part 1 of 3 [ youtube video ]
    Part 2 [ youtube video ]
    Part 3 [ youtube video ]
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    North to Morning Star Mine A glamping weekend at Morning Star Mine. One of our crew is recovering from an injury so we opted to break this hike into a weekender. We set up a shuttle near the Mine (think we accidentally found a short cut that saved a lot of drive time). We didn't start hiking until late in the morning so needless to say, we were glad our restaurant was only a couple miles away at Kentucky Mining Camp.

    The hike starts out with a pretty good hill but it's short and once on top you have great views. You get exposed to some of the history of the area rather quickly with an Interpretive Sign and the remnants of the rock bridge for the big flume that runs up here. You also hike over that big pipe that is in the ground. You do a little road walking and we did have to let some OHV pass us by. It was quite busy out here today but that was the only traffic we encountered.

    Walking thru the gulches is pretty cool :) and once again there is an interpretive sign letting you know that the holes in the ground, though not obvious, are not natural. Soon we were at Kentucky Camp eating our lunch on a picnic table in the shade on the porch. This is a place I've always wanted to see so I was glad of that. After lunch we walked thru the building and around before heading on to our camp near Morning Star Mine. Once again more road walking but Shawn was stalking out a different route for the AZT to get off the road. Eventually we headed right and up and down a few times. There are great views over the plains to the east of the Whetstones, Mustangs and Chiricahuas. When you're not road hiking the trail is in fine shape.

    We checked out a 2016 claim, checked out another claim up on the side of the hill before wandering around Morning Star Mine (the adit is now enclosed for bats). It looks like it was a pretty decent-sized operation. I can't find much info on it except it was part of the Greaterville Mining District and it was a lode claim. (Prior to the 1874 discovery of the placers, early miners of the St. Louis Mine, the Morning Star Mine and nearby workings recovered native gold and silver and gold-bearing cerussitc, as well as argentiferous galena and sphalerite, pyrite, chalcopyrite, and barite, from quartz-calcite veins in the quartz latite porphyry and adjacent sedimentary rocks at Granite Mountain.)

    We hung around at camp before heading back to the southern TH to retrieve Shawn's truck and then headed to Sonoita for dinner at The Steakout. My strip steak was awesome and Ambika bot us a bottle of the local wine which was also quite good. We headed back to camp, hung out for awhile before turning in. Ambika got some nite shots and I assisted before turning in myself.

    Pictures are done. Three-part video in production 4-21-2017 including inside Kentucky Camp Quarters. (4-24-2017)
    Part 1 - to Kentucky Gulch [ youtube video ]
    Part 2 - Kentucky Camp [ youtube video ]
    Part 3 - to Morning Star Mine [ youtube video ]
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    My first triplog - I hope I get it right ;) And I'll try to add photos later. . .

    I am section hiking the AZT (along with a friend, Jamie) and we did passages 5 and 6 this past weekend. We dropped my car at the north end of passage 6 and because my brother-in-law agreed to shuttle us to the start of passage 5 we dropped Jamie's car with extra water on FR 231 where the trail crosses.

    The hike into Kentucky Camp from the start of passage 5 was nice, and Steve (the caretaker at the camp) offered us hot coffee and a tour of the facility. We decided to take an early lunch break here too. Ran into four thru hikers ('tis the season) and wished them well. It was a very windy (gusty) day (at least it kept us cool).

    After Kentucky Camp, there was a lot of road walks with some ATV riders coming and going, and lots of ups and downs. We did 12 miles and started looking for a place to camp. Lots of rocks, and not much in the way of flat areas, but we did find a space to pitch the tents and have dinner and watch the FULL MOON come up! Very bright night - and cold. The coyotes were having a party all night.

    After wiping the frost off everything in the morning (burr) we packed up and headed out to get to Jamie's car (a few miles into passage 6) for lunch and to refill water. Fairly easy hike to there and we took our time at the comfort of the car to get re-organized, eat lunch and freshen up. Then on to more climbs and descents all day. It was hot, and the sun was starting to get to us, but then we got some overcast skies and a breeze :app: We didn't see any other hikers out there at all (strange for a Saturday I would think), but there were a few mountain bikers, and of course we heard gun shots near the roads where the there was target shooting areas (I always get a little freaked out by the gunshots - hoping that a stray bullet doesn't find it's way to me - that would suck!)

    Once again we were getting to the end of the day and looking for camp spots and finding few options. There were places in a couple of the canyons but it was too early so we kept going. We ended up camping just off the trail near a spring because it was the only flat spot (maybe just past mulberry canyon?). Not as cold the second night, and very quiet. No coyote parties that night.

    The last day was a much easier hiking day as the terrain flattened out, but it was my least favorite part of the trail (lots of open space, cactus. . .). Was glad to get back to the car early and head into Tucson for lunch before driving back to Phoenix for the work week. Glad to have these two passages behind us, but still a fun weekend on the trail!

    We didn't check any of the water sources since we had plenty and were able to cache water, but for thru hikers there is of course water at Kentucky Camp, and we did notice some water along the way that could be filtered - and of course lots of options to cache water along some of the roads if you want.

    Hope to see you on the trail!

    some white daisy like flowers, fairy duster, and a few other flowers just starting to show.
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    AZT Passages 4-5
    It was my hope from the very beginning that I’d be able to share a bit of the glory and adventure of Sirena’s through hike on the AZT. The fact that I am insanely envious barely plays into it at all (wink). So, when my schedule shifted about a bit and opened up an opportunity for me to not only join her for Passage 4 but to take her family camping afterwards in my travel trailer, King Gilbert, I was ecstatic! An overnight on the AZT…with my celebrity friend…just the two of us and the foothills of the Santa Rita mountains on one of the most beautiful weekends of the year? Oh yeah. I’m in!

    Passage 4 of the AZT follows the Temporal Canyon Road in Patagonia for the first 13 miles. For most through-hikers, road walks are similar to unwanted chores: often necessary, rarely enjoyed. Sirena had taken care of the first 7 miles of the road walk the day before to speed things up, so we had only about 6 miles to go before we truly got off into the wilds. Luckily, even road walking in this area can be scenic and rewarding. Winding through the oak forests and over the pools of Temporal Gulch wasn’t such a horrible chore at all – and the terrain offered enough distraction to keep us contented as we hoofed along.

    Throughout our walk on the road, we were amazed at the amount of water that we were finding. The spring boxes were full, and there was often a slow trickle in the bottom of the canyon. Although it has been an unusually dry (and warm) winter and early spring in southern Arizona, it seems that a few well-timed storms have really helped out these riparian areas. It’s unlikely that the pools will remain long without more moisture coming from the sky and soon – but it was a real treat to know that we would not have to worry about running dry on this particular piece of trail.

    Once we turned off onto the Walker Basin trail and got back to our preferred single-track hiking, the mountains rewarded us with even better vistas and diversity. Mt. Wrightson, the highest mountain in the Santa Rita range, is topped by Baldy Peak at 9,453 ft. This barren, granite summit presides over the entire range like a patriarch, and it’s steep wooded flanks have always called to those seeking solitude and adventure. Both Sirena and I have visited the summit on multiple occasions – but somehow it’s even more impressive to see the mountain this way – wandering about at it’s base staring up. Although the Arizona Trail does not climb to the top of this range as it does with the Rincons and the Santa Ritas further north, it does provide hikers with an intimate experience with Wrightson just the same.

    16 miles into Passage 4 (9 for us today), we arrived at Bear Spring. Our initial plans were to camp near the spring, as Sirena had often wanted to but schedule often didn’t permit. The spring is a beautiful spot – cold, clear water from the tank and a sycamore-studded stream babbling just down the hill in Big Casa Blanca Canyon. There were some ideal tent sites near the creek, and plenty of trees for my hammock. We took our hiking shoes off and dunked our feet in the icy creek, filtered and drank our fill of the delicious water and considered our options. It was still early in the day, with hours until sunset, and our feet now felt refreshed and ready to go again. We decided that while the spring was an ideal spot, we’d take our chances on the trail ahead and keep moving just a little while longer. Besides - we knew there was a group of high-school students hiking the opposite direction who were supposed to be staying at Bear Spring as well that night, and we really didn't want to be all settled in when they crashed (if they were coming).

    Luckily, we found them just a few hundred yards down the trail, camped in a large spot beside the creek. Now we knew where they were, we could camp in confidence that we'd not be disturbed by "eager young minds" that night.

    Beginning at Bear Spring, the trail follows a historic drainage feature called a “flume”. This ditch was dug into the mountainside in the early 1900′s as a part of an effort to provide water to a gold mining operation in nearby Kentucky Gulch. Water from Bear Spring was diverted into the flume and ran in the ditch for 2 1/2 nearly level miles to the next improvement at Tunnel Spring. Because of this historic engineering effort, the trail feels almost dead-flat, and contours high above the steep floor of Big Casa Blanca canyon. At one point, Sirena began telling me, it’s supposed to duck through a hole in the rock – but she missed the spot back in 2008 by accidentally taking the bypass built for equestrian use. She was just finishing the story when we came around a corner and found the “hole-in-the-wall” – a small tunnel through the conglomerate rock that makes up the canyon walls. Her excitement made passing up the Bear Spring camp 100% worthwhile!

    As the sun got lower in the sky, we began to look for a spot to camp. Since the trail is carved into the mountainside, we started to scan the ridges and slopes that ran perpendicular to the trail for a spot. I spotted a faint foot-path heading off onto one such ridge, and we followed it out to one of the finest campsites we could have hoped for. A small fire ring, cleared spots for ground sleepers, trees for hammocks and drop-dead amazing views to the south, west and east. We arrived just in time to settle in before the evening light show started, then made ourselves a modest fire and ate Thai green curry chicken and rice by its glow. For girls like Sirena and I, it simply does not get any better.

    The next morning we didn’t get an early start (which is SO typical of us!), but we were on the trail in plenty of time to cover the 10 miles remaining to our base at Kentucky Camp. We had more historic flume hiking ahead, followed by a series of small ups and downs along the historic water system, and ending with a short but wearing road walk from Kentucky Camp to my trailer just down the road. We were low on food (Sirena’s finally got a through hiker’s appetite), and eager to get back before her family arrived at camp. Never the less, we hardly hurried. The trail is just too much fun to rush!

    By the time we caught sight of Kentucky Camp, we were hungry and a little tired in the feet - ready to kick back and relax. It was good that from the same ridge where we first spotted the buildings, we could also see King Gilbert - full of food and promising sandals and chairs. We were on a mission!

    Seeing her family's reaction to my choice of campsite was hilarious. It was a busy weekend in the grasslands, and the larger, more established sites had already been taken when I arrived Thursday night. However, I picked out a spot on a ridge with 365degree views - but no existing fire ring or bare dirt. Where do we camp? Where do we make a fire? I lead them through the steps of building the fire ring and that process stamped down the tallest grasses immediately around the trailer. By sunset, they were as in love with the spot as Sirena and I had been. Just took a little "getting used to" the Arizona way of things ;)

    I took my hammock down the hill to the nearest copse of trees for my hang that night and slept with a contented smile. What a great weekend on the Arizona Trail!

    One spot of poppies, blue dicks scattered, cacti looking like they're starting to bud out.
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    Every single one of the AZ Trail Segments completed so far, has at least one moment that makes yo go "Wow, this is really Arizona?". AZT Passage #5, lends quite a few of those moments.

    The golden grassy rolling hills, holding the dark green Junipers, set against the vivid blue skys, dotted with white puffy Fraley's, was just incredible! Add in a Kentucky Camp and a Morning Star Mine.... You've got yourself a memorable hike.

    For me, this one was up towards the top of the Passages done so far. Not a long distance, not a bunch of elevation, the shuttle was not a tough one to set up. Just a wonderfully relaxing hike.

    As always, the AZT Clan was stellar. We even pulled in one of those Tucson people to join us.

    Thanks all for a blast!
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    met up with the boys (joe, dave, the eagle & the tortoise) to hike segment 5 of the AZT. questionable forecast turned to gold as we had great clouds all day that seemed to spare only us of the serious stuff. the wind was pretty strong, but it didn't matter in the least. it got ugly later in the day around tucson.

    this section charmed me with the rolling grassy hills and fantastic views of the santa ritas and baldy. we also enjoyed distant views of the huachucas, whetstones and rincons all day. passing through kentucky camp was much cooler than i thought it would be as well. southern arizona offers so much diversity you just have to see it to believe it, even then you have to tell yourself you are in southern az. the morning star mine was also pretty neat, even though denny pulled out his gun and shot a bunch of holes in the walls.

    i had a great time: great trail, great weather, (mostly) great group of guys...what more do you need?
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    What a great AZT day. After psyching myself up for a day of wet, God held back the rain just for us :A1: The first sprinkles didn't fall until we were loading up at the cars. :DANCE: Not knowing that would be our blessing, I marched on intently for much of the day, focused way too much on the goal : rambo :

    For me, the highlights on this one were the nice views and the historical sites (Kentucky Camp and Morning Star Mine). Good views of Mt. Wrightson all day, which still appears to have a bit of snow above 9000'. All these bennys allowed me to get some nice photos. Did get a bit windy, but nothing unmanageable...they talked about bungee cording me to Denny, but it didn't prove necessary :D

    Saw some javelina hunters and heard several gunshots during the day, but nothing whizzing by too close thankfully. We're not used to seeing anyone much on the AZT, so today we saw more people than on any other segment, between the hunters and all of the people practicing with the Tucson Orienteering Club (we actually found a couple of their devices, that their group was supposed to find ;) ). Other wildlife was limited to birds being tossed around by the wind, a couple of little snakes and 3 deer running in front of us toward the end.

    There is some discrepancy about where segment 5 ends and 6 begins. The spot we chose to use was 3/4 mile west of AZ83. At that point the AZT crosses the dirt road, so we chose that spot. There was a place to park a few yards west of there, further down. HIking to this spot is why we are a little higher on the mileage than expected, so technically we probably did the first little bit of segment 6 (shh, don't tell Denny!).

    Great hiking with the crew, and having Nick join us. He holds his own with Joe rather well, and Bruce was pretty nice to him today (you know, honeymoon phase :sl: )...Nick, consider yourself warned...
    Santa Rita Mountains - AZT #5
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    Some days are better than others. Today I struggled with a cold that is making me feel like I'm dragging a mummy. Nevertheless the show must go on. The big question of rain never panned out. Albeit pressing windy for the later half of the hike it was still pretty nice out.

    Highlights include Denny and even Bruce at one point relentlessly trying to get my tired sole to deliver the melody all enjoy... "Send'er a Letter on the Cinder Trail". Rolling hills of cool tall dry grass. Though worrisome that a match could destroy this entire place in a heart beat. What we thought was an illegal moving fast towards us outta nowhere. Turned out to be student in an orienteering class. My opinion, bad location to hold that class. A snake which I think was a Sonoran Whipsnake darting across the road at unbelievable ultra fast speed. Followed by a tiny dead Gopher Snake. Kentucky Camp? and basically just finishing without dieing... I hate being sick, who was the idiot that invented it...err

    Answer to today's trivia... Inception

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    page created by joebartels on Jan 09 2010 12:35 am
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