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Wilderness of Rocks #44, AZ

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Guide 163 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
4.3 of 5 by 39
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance One Way 4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,970 feet
Elevation Gain -685 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,300 feet
Avg Time One Way 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.33
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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15  2019-09-13
Upper Lemmon Canyon & Pools
7  2019-08-24
Mount Lemmon / Lemmon Rock Loop
11  2019-07-15
Aspen-Marshall with a hint of Mint
22  2019-06-29
WOR - Lemmon - Mint Loop
14  2019-06-29
WOR - Lemmon - Mint Loop
1  2019-06-17 rvcarter
5  2019-06-15
Mt Lemmon Figure 8
4  2018-10-19
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
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Author Lizard
author avatar Guides 15
Routes 0
Photos 403
Trips 17 map ( 75 miles )
Age 39 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jun, Jul, Aug, - - → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:12am - 6:19pm
Official Route
38 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Geology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Summer Heat Escape
by Lizard

Page statistics are for trail #44. Description below is from a place you can park.

There are lots of ways to access the Wilderness of Rocks area. This hike takes the simplest and most direct route. If all the parking at the smallish trailhead is taken, as it often is during summer, you can go down to Marshall Gulch Picnic Area (see Joe's description of the Aspen Loop) and access the Marshall Saddle trail junction that way.

Starting from Carter Canyon road, the trail climbs uphill for a short ways and then contours around the mountain through a scenic spruce and fir forest. It passes by Mint Spring and then heads over to Marshall Saddle and a confusing trail junction. The Wilderness of Rocks trail takes off to the west, winding through very large granite boulders, a preview of what's to come. The trail eventually reaches the head of a stream course. It follows the small permanent stream down, jumping from one side to the other. Small aspens grow in the canyon. Soon after passing a junction with the Lemmon Rocks Lookout trail, the trail snakes across an outcrop of granite that marks the beginning of the Wilderness of Rocks. The granite formations get more and more spectacular as you go along. Hoodoos, balanced rocks, and water-carved canyons abound. The trail gets faint at times when it cross stretches of bare rock, but it is well-cairned and easy to follow for the most part.

The trail climbs out of the basin and the rocks, and into piney uplands on the far side. Very soon after than, the trail passes a small pocket meadow and climbs uphill briefly to meet a junction with the Mountain Lemmon trail. This is where I turned around. Save your energy on the hike in, as it is a mostly uphill climb all the way back to your car.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2002-01-22 Lizard
  • sub-region related

Coronado FS Details
The name of this trail certainly does catch the attention of anyone scanning a trail map or thumbing through a guide book. The Wilderness of Rock Trail is extremely popular and with good reason. Picturesque rock formations and a diversity of settings that range from sub-alpine to high desert to riparian zone attract so many people that this area is somewhat overused by backpackers and day hikers. Trampling of the area is so heavy in some places that the trail has become difficult to follow and hikers have become lost. Be sure to follow the marked trail carefully. Watch for rock cairns (small stacks of rocks) to guide you through difficult areas.

As you move into this natural sculpture gallery and see the art works of wind and water from a number of different perspectives, you'll be amazed at the variety of shapes they can assume. Long distance views are good in this area too, including Mt. Lemmon, Sabino Basin and Pusch Ridge. Lemmon Creek, near the Marshall Saddle, is a popular destination on this trail. If you camp here, remember to practice sound wilderness and Leave No Trace ethics and camp at least 200 feet from the water.

This trail can be accessed from a number of different connecting trails. It is possible to plan a hike here that includes many of the major features of the Santa Catalinas. Some of the most popular access routes include the Marshall Gulch #3, Aspen #93, Romero #8 and the West Fork #24 trails.

Spectacular natural sculptures
Great long distance views
Access to other trails
Several loop possibilities
Arizona Trail segment

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 of 54 deeper Triplog Reviews
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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As I discovered on the Potato Patch Loop [ photoset ] , in the Hualapai Mountains, two weeks ago, is that I am out of elevation gain shape. Too many flat hikes spinkled between my neighborhood walks. And Mount Lemmon’s trails are all about elevation gain (AEG). ⛰

After digging around, I hit upon the idea of an out-and-back hike on Marshall Gulch Trail #3 and Wilderness of Rocks Trail #44 to the Upper Lemmon Canyon Pools. There would be decent mountain temps, shade, enough AEG to stretch my current limit, and a nice payoff at the end. (Actually, midway.)

There’s not much parking at the Marshall Gulch trailhead, and when my wife & I arrived at 9:00 a.m. it was already full. (On a Friday!)

As I was waiting for my crappy Garmin 62S to find satellites, another hiker remarked that there were no flies in the pit toilet. I responded, “Because the stench killed them.” 😁

It quite lush lower down on Marshall Gulch Trail #3. Higher up, it starts catching a little more sun, as burnt areas higher up on Mount Lemmon expose the trail as it meanders through fern patches and infant pine trees.

At Marshall Saddle, there is a 5-way trail intersection, but there were enough signs, it was obvious which way to go. (I saw quite a few older folks hiking the Aspen Trail #93 loop.)

Despite being a hair shallower than Marshall Gulch Trail #3, Wilderness of Rocks Trail #44 felt steeper. Besides the huge boulder formations which give the wilderness its name, the surrounding terrain was piney & more open, low to the ground. There were a number of good sitting logs that came in handy on the return trip. 🌲

I thought about scrambling up several formations in Lemmon Canyon, but decided I needed the energy to actually climb back out.

¾ of a mile below the intersection of Lemmon Rock Trail #12, II found a decent size pool that was at least four feet deep, being fed by a very loud pour. There was a reclined scoop on the edge of the pool that I could sit in while dangling my feet in the water. I would have taken a nap there, except lack of overhead cover was frying me quick like. It's a great spot!

After a half hour of relaxation at the pool, I slowly hiked my way back up Lemmon Canyon. Grey clouds were rolling in, but it didn’t start sprinkling until just before I reached Marshall Saddle. Wanting to avoid a possible deluge, I booked it 1.5 miles back to the trailhead in only 37 minutes! 🏎

Hike Video: [ youtube video ]

About a dozen species scattered up & down both trails, though primarily Marshall Gulch Trail #3. New Mexico Thistle most common. One large patch of Yellow Columbine in Marshall Gulch.
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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I was looking for a cooler place to hike than the VOS, and decided that Mount Lemmon was a good choice.

We did this loop CCW, and the climb back up to Mount Lemmon on the Lemmon Rock LO Trail was a butt-kicker.

On the way down from Mount Lemmon, while on Mount Lemmon Trail #5 we went past the WOR Trail for about .2 mile to a really cool view point -- it is well worth checking out. On the way to the view point we came across a green mohave rattlerblack-tailed rattlesnake alongside the trail. This snake was not very happy to see us.

We made a side trip to Lemmon Pool -- the water was clear but it was down 10-12 inches from being full, and the waterfall was not running.
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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A day spent at the pools with CJ and the pups. We took a lot of naps, swam and read while at the pools and waited out the warmer part of the day to hike the pups out. Met a ranger who let me know she did not like dogs on the way in, that was fun. Steady traffic on the trail on the way out. Several water sources along the Wilderness of Rocks Trail.
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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This is a fun little area and was a perfect hike and hangout to get some quality time with the pups after an April full of dog watchers and the Grand Canyon.

Perfect temps and a pleasant hike on the way to the pools in the morning. We did run into one couple at the swim hole, but they left shortly after and we had the place to ourselves all day. We swam, enjoyed a couple of adult beverages and chilled at the little oasis for several hours (I have the sun burn to prove it). Lemon, like everywhere else in the state could use some rain. However, there was no shortage of water along the Wilderness of Rocks Trail and along Marshall Gulch to the Sunset, which was perfect for the pups on the hike out, as it was a little warm at times in the direct sunlight. I think this could be a fun area after a little rain.

Wilderness of Rocks #44
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I took all three pups up to Mount Lemmon today for a nice 13-mile loop. We started at Marshall Gulch at 8:30am. There were a few other cars in the parking lot when we arrived, but we only saw three other people for the first 12 miles of the hike. The temps could not have been more perfect all day. It was ~35 degrees when we started and I don't think it ever hit 50. It was pretty windy and chilly on our ascent up Aspen trail to the top of the mountain, and when we got to the top we were literally hiking in a cloud for a few minutes. It finally warmed up a couple hours later as we descended into the Wilderness of Rocks area and had more direct sunlight. WOR had water flowing in every creek crossing, which the doggos all loved. We didn't take many breaks because the temps were so pleasant, and because Blanco and Cup are treat snobs and hated the new treats @friendofThundergod bought them for this weekend, so they weren't enjoying their snack breaks as much as they normally do. We finished in 5.5 hours on the dot to a much more crowded trail head parking lot. I'll admit, I was a tiny bit nervous about hiking alone with three dogs, but they were all on their best behavior and we had a lovely day together. :)
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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Met up with Lee and Carrie for a nice hike on Lemmon. Lee and I left Phoenix fairly early and made the drive down to Tucson where we picked up Carrie and headed up the Catalina Hwy. We made the drive up and parked in a very busy parking lot at the Marshall Gulch area. From there we geared up and made the hike in. We passed a variety of people and then headed up the Aspen Trail towards the summit. Once up top we soaked in the views and headed west and took a snack break before heading down the Lemmon Trail. We then turned into Wildnerness of Rocks and headed across. This section is one of my favorite hikes around. I love the formations and enjoy the creek flowing through. At one point we took a lunch and then continued hiking back to the vehicle. We finished up late in the afternoon and then started the return. We stopped in Tucson to get some food and then dropped Carrie off and headed back to Phoenix. It was a long day but was well worth it. Thanks Lee for driving!
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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This was my first time on Mount Lemmon. And for the first time, I learned how to spell "Lemmon." :lol:

We descended the Lemmon Rock Trail, which was mostly overgrown. Portions of this trail felt like bushwhacking and the trail itself required a little route finding at times, but it wasn't a big deal. Wilderness of Rocks Trail was the highlight, with lots of water coming down from the higher springs. The upper section of Lemmon Canyon Creek was impressive. I was surprised by how much flow there was this time of year, regardless of recent precipitation.
We found a really cool swimming hole and waterfall just off the WOR and Lemmon Rock intersection: [ photo ].

A couple miles later, I saw a white dog in the distance and my HAZ senses started tingling. Could it be @friendofthundergod ? It was great to finally meet @john9l and Lee!

We climbed back up the ridgeline to the Lemmon summit via the AZT. This is a fun loop, with lots of great views reminiscent of Canyonlands (Big Spring Canyon, specifically) and the Chiricahuas.
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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@John9L put together a nice loop for my first time up on Lemmon and I came away with a great first impression of the area. We took a lot of breaks because in accordance with National Dog Day we were hiking with three dogs and it did get a little warm for stretches. Although, apparently not everyone was observing National Dog Day, as someone chose to mumble their opinion about dogs to us as we passed him early on. Luckily for him, we passed him on the trail two more times, but I am not sure we won him over on either of those encounters either.

All of the trails on the loop were in pretty good shape in my opinion. The initial climb was a tad warm, but its a pretty quick and easy climb, so none were too affected by it. It was a little busy on top and the high point is not much to write home about, but Lemmon Lookout was a worthy detour. The hike through Wilderness of Rocks was great and there was ample water for dogs and skinny dipping apparently, as another group was partaking in that. We bumped into @arizona_water in the WOR and chatted a bit, nice to finally meet him. We finished to a crowded traihead area and played a little musical car parking spots to get out and let others in. We finished up at the Tucson Hop Shop, had a couple of beers and ate curry from a food truck, when in Tucson I guess....

National Dog Day

Every day is National Dog Day in my house and I do realize its just a silly hashtag driven holiday. However, I could not help but get a little sentimental reflecting on how much my dogs mean to me. In particular, how much Cupcake means to me. She helped me get "normal" after a tough year in Iraq and then waited for me when I left her again to go to Afghanistan. She turns 13 in December, but is still one of the toughest dogs I know, she has been hit by a car and nearly drowned in the Blue Range, but she still persists and knocks out miles and eats chicken treats with the zeal of a five year old dog. She has been the most consistent entity in my life for most of my adult years and I really can't imagine life without her and Mr. Blanco...
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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Mt Lemmon Figure 8
linda and whitney had planned to hike this figure 8 on mt. lemmon
got an invite from linda to tag along :)
i've done the marshall gulch - aspen loop before, but the rest of the trails would be new to me
not quite three hours from the pecos park & ride, putting some miles on the new tundra
got going around 8:00 up aspen trail
continued on aspen up to the mt. lemmon summit area, and followed preston's track to the top
interesting stuff up there, with the pima county high point as a bonus
continued on meadow trail, then backtracked a bit to lemmon rock lookout
this was a neat little spot, with great views and a fun approach to the building
should have talked whitney into coming with us, and taking a snack break there
dropped down the mount lemmon trail through forest, with good views to the west
started seeing some of the more bouldery terrain near the intersection with wilderness of rocks
loved this trail winding through the rocks :)
a steady climb back up to the saddle
found a little bit of running water, with columbines nearby, then some shady areas up higher
passed by primus wall, where i climbed with johnr1 a few years ago
easy stroll down marshall gulch to finish
not many people out by this point
scenic drive down the catalina highway, slow going across tucson, then back to the valley
i have really enjoyed the sky island terrain recently and this hike was a nice sampler of the available trails up high
highlights included wilderness of rocks trail, mt. lemmon summit, and lemmon rock lookout
nice to meet and hike with whitney and another good hike with linda
in fact, eight of my twelve new peaks so far this year have been with linda
thanks for including me on this one :)
Wilderness of Rocks #44
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Mt Lemmon Torture Fest
big day up on lemmon. i parked at the mt lemmon trailhead. went down aspen draw, upper sabino riparian to summerhaven and back. loaded up the pack then hit mt lemmon, wilderness of rocks, marshall gulch to TH and back, then died up radio ridge on the aspen trail back to my car.

i've recently highlited the post winter conditions of some of these trails. new reports:

Aspen Draw: from the top of radio ridge to the upper sabino riparian juntion is clear. there is a nuisance tree down on the spur to ski valley parking lot

upper sabino riparian: a couple of big down trees that are surprisingly tough to get over/around depending on the route you take (these are on the singletrack, not the nearby wider roadbed.

Mt lemmon: totally clear to WOR from my recollection. awesome of course

Wilderness of Rocks: clear from my recollection. love love love this trail. not much water in upper lemmon creek but definitely some

heading into the beastly final climb up aspen trail to radio ridge nearly killed me today. Wow

cold at the start (upper 30's at 9000 feet)

killer route

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)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
Take the Catalina Highway out of Tucson and into the Santa Catalinas. Turn left into the town of Summerhaven, then turn right onto Carter Canyon Road. The trailhead parking area is unmarked, no more than a widening in the road right before it turns into a private driveway. The actual trailhead is on the south side of the road, somewhat hidden right near the entrance to the private driveway.
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