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Oracle Ridge Trail #1, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Oracle
3.4 of 5 by 13
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 12.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,720 feet
Elevation Gain 3,149 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,546 feet
Avg Time One Way 6-7 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 27.65
Backpack Possible & Connecting
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
13  2019-04-19
North Oracle Ridge Loop
25  2018-07-05
Apache Peak Abort
22  2018-06-09
Oracle Ridge to Catalina Camp
21  2018-02-18 DarthStiller
33  2016-10-01
Apache Peak & Oracle Hills x2
19  2016-03-24
AZT: Vail to Oracle
5  2016-03-19
Oracle Ridge - AZT #12
4  2016-03-10 rvcarter
Page 1,  2,  3
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
Historical Weather
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Preferred   May, Oct, Sep, Aug → Early
Seasons   Spring to Summer
Sun  6:06am - 6:31pm
Official Route
10 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
AZT leaves the show!
by HAZ_Hikebot

Likely In-Season!
This trail follows one of the earliest known routes to the top of Mt. Lemmon, believed to be the trail that John and Sara Lemmon followed in the early 1880's on their trip to the summit of the mountain which was later named in Sara's honor. This trail is reportedly where biologist Lemmon saw his first Arizona pine. Actually a subspecies or variety of ponderosa pine, this was the first of roughly 100 plant species and subspecies Lemmon cataloged in the state's southern mountains.

In spite of the fact that the Oracle Ridge Trail has been traveled for so long a time, it is quite hard to follow in a number of places, perhaps because it passes through a center of mining and prospecting activity. As a result, old mining roads and bulldozer paths have obscured the trail in several places. If you are a history buff, you'll appreciate the old and not-so-old mines you encounter along this route. If your interests tend toward more natural sights, you'll probably spend more time taking in the views which stretch to the north, east and west. The Oracle Ridge Trail passes very near the summit of Rice Peak and relatively near the summit of Apache Peak. These two peaks offer good views of Mt. Lemmon and the Santa Catalinas, as well as of the historic mining district around the town of Oracle and the basin and range landscape beyond.

Attractions: Ridge top panoramas, North, east, and west views, Pine forest to desert diversity, Historic mining area & Arizona Trail segment.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2008-02-25 HAZ_Hikebot
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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 15 deeper Triplog Reviews
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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Chris needed to start working Oracle Ridge Trail #1 off his 100 Hikes list. Wally was joining and Bruce wanted to hustle Cabin Boy 2 from Chris Elliott. A good lil' stats hike in an area we don't visit often sealed the deal.

Oracle Ridge Trail #1
Starts off through tall grass and catclaw. Lucily well maintained. Not interacting with the razor beast was dandy. A few nice examples of Cane Cholla in the first mile.

Lunched at the peak then headed back down. Apparently Wally and I got into a distracting conversation and missed a junction. This being such a straightforward hike I turned the volume on RS way down. A quick 700 feet straight down a steep road perched us over Chain Link Tank. Wow, how'd we miss that earlier and why is RS beeping off trail entering the prize water report sure to save countless backpackers grief?

Gee we're way off trail, good thing we're experienced hikers... back up the ridiculous grade. Ah there's our turn, whew! 10 minutes later, why are we still ascending??? Gasp we turned back up towards Rice

For the first time I recall we had to shake a leg to catch up with Stiller four miles down the trail.

Great to see Chris & Wally. I enjoy a good burn and it's nice to see fresh horizons. That said I would hike this often if I lived nearby, otherwise once every ten years is enough for myself.
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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Oracle Ridge/Canada del Oro Loop
I wanted to hike CDO again, but with a few changes from the Red Ridge loop we did last year. We travelled down Oracle Ridge and also started from the top of Lemmon, taking care of Aspen Draw and the road at the beginning.

Oracle Ridge was great in the cool morning weather. Catalina Camp is just as amusing a trip as I remember it being last year. There was water near the trail from the CC/RR junction all the way to the homestretch of the CDO trail. Since I finally remembered to bring a filter, we were able to refill our water a few times (I easily finished 4 liters and a big gatorade). Cooling down in the water made a big difference too.

Now for the whining: wear long pants. The trails are easy enough to follow, but my shins and knees got pretty torn up in the overgrowth - especially above 6k on CDO and in the burnt-out portions of Sutherland. That being said, CDO is gorgeous from all the recent rains and it was still worth the annoyance. There's a lot of climbing to do in the final miles of this hike, but my CO trip left my legs in good shape, so nearly all of my ranting was at the overgrown trails.
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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AZT: Vail to Oracle
March 24th
Miles: 17.46
AEG: 5,520 ft

We flew through the first couple of miles to X9 Ranch Road, where we left off the last time we got off the AZT in this area.

Back on the AZT!

Soon we reached the Saguaro National Park boundary. Up until this point the wildflowers were sparse and withered, but from here there were plenty of great looking blooms for the next couple of miles. After taking a short break at the Quilter Trail water crossing, we passed our first thru-hiker of the trip and started the long climb to the top of Mica Mountain.

As we climbed the environment slowly transitioned from saguaros and ocotillos, to shrubs and century plants, then oak grasslands, and finally pinion-oak as we rolled into the Grass Shack Campground. Here we met 3 other thru-hikers. One was on her first thru-hike, and the other two (No Trace & Unbreakable) are triple crowners (those who have completed the PCT, AT, and CDT). We stopped to eat lunch and enjoy the company at the campground. It's always fun to pick the brains of triple crowners.

After finishing up lunch, we filled our bottles at the spring and continued on the trail up to Manning Camp. From Grass Shack, the environment transitions to a hearty ponderosa pine forest. At the campground there was one other person staying the night, a section hiker from Canada who had picked up the trail at Grass Shack and was planning on continuing to Superior.

By the time we were going to bed I was feeling pretty crappy. Extremely soar throat and congested. Before starting the trip I was still getting over a chest cold, and apparently I wasn't better yet. We expected it to be very cold at 8000ft, but surprisingly we both kept pretty warm the entire night.

March 25th
Miles: 21.97
AEG: 2,910 ft

Today was our "long day", with minimal AEG. Our goal was to make it to Molino Basin Campground. I woke up feeling slightly better.

After packing up camp and getting some more water at the spring, we headed up the trail for the top of Mica Mountain. Along the way we passed No Trace and Unbreakable again. The pine forest on top of Mica is quite impressive. Once we topped out and started down the other side, views of the basin below and Mt. Lemmon open up. Italian Spring had drinkable water but lots of algae on top.

We started the long descent into the basin below, and then the traverse across the hills to the base of Lemmon. Beautiful grasslands! By now the mistake of wearing newish shoes for this hike had caught up with me and my right foot had been rubbed raw on the back. I tried fixing things up with some mole skin and some bandaids.

Just before the Lake, we caught up to the section hiker from Canada who was going to stop at the next drainage. We stopped with him at the drainage to get some water for the last hump into the campground.

Once we got to the campground we greeted the camp host to get a spot. We asked him if there was any water around, he claimed "there is no water, it's dry out here." We were both surprised a little considering how much water we had seen getting to this point. He kindly offered us a liter each to make it through the night, and gave us a spot which was right next to the AZT. We didn't quite believe him about the water situation, so once we set up camp we dropped into creek bed below the campground and sure enough there were spots that had running water (not even 200 yards away from the camp host, I might add...)

March 26th
Miles: 17.25
AEG: 5,133 ft

I woke up feeling terrible, super congested, coughing up lots of phlegm, and running a small fever. I thought about bailing at the Highway next to the campground, but decided to try a few miles before making the decision. The going was extremely slow, probably less than 2mph.

We reached Shreve Saddle and took a quick break, I popped some Tylenol for the fever. I knew after this point I was going to be committed for some serious uphill either going forward or turning back. I decided to keep going.

We saw lots of people along this stretch going to Hutch's Pool. It was cool to see Saguaros again near the bottom, because at the end of the day we would be back up in the Pines. I'm a sucker for "transition hikes." Once we reached the bottom, we took another break in Sabino Canyon where there was flowing water. This was the point where I was either going to commit all the way to Summerhaven or go back. I nearly turned back here, but there was just too much planning that went into this and I wasn't sure I would be able to come back to finish this up for a long time.

We passed the junction to Hutch's Pool and started the long climb up through the west fork of Sabino Canyon. This place is stunning. With every foot of elevation gain the views got better. The trail itself is graded extremely well so the climbing felt almost effortless. Once again we got to see the transitions from saguaros, to sparse pines on Romero Pass. There were plenty of pools and spots with running water in the canyon.

I was starting to feel a bit better after we took a 30-45 minute break at the pass. It was a good thing too, because this is where the real climbing starts. You aren't graced with very many switch back after this point, it's just straight up. About half way through huffing and puffing, I looked at my Arizona Trail app to see how much further we had to climb and let out a little snicker. My cousin asked "what's up?" and I told him "do you really want to know?", he said "yes", I told him "it gets steeper." We both laughed and continued up the mountain.

After topping out and taking a break, we joined the Wilderness of Rocks trail. This was by far my favorite part of the hike. This is one of those places that feel really special, a feeling of reverence overcame me. We meandered through the beautiful giant boulders and trees, before reaching an awesome spot to camp right next to Lemmon Creek.

By the time we were going to bed I felt great, except for my feet. I used some alcohol wipes, and anti-septic wipes before reapplying a few bandaids.

As we drifted to sleep I heard a series of bangs/explosions in the distance, which culminated into a bunch of bangs/explosions at once. Fireworks in Tucson?

March 27th
Miles: 18.8
AEG: 2,609 ft

We got up excited for a real meal in Summerhaven. It was actually warm enough during the night that I started sweating in my quilt. After eating a quick breakfast and filling our bottles with water out of Lemmon Creek, we started the gradual 1000ft climb to where we would meet the Marshall's Gultch Trail. I was still awe struck by beauty and grandeur of the Wilderness of Rock. We made our way to the paved road we would walk into town on.

After satisfying a soda and candy craving at the General Store, we ate some breakfast at the Sawmill Run restraunt. The manager or owner (not sure which) came out to talk to us and asked if we were on our way to Utah. We told him we were ending this segment in Oracle.

Oracle Ridge was hot. On the way down we met a 3 time triple crowner "One Gallon", who was taking a siesta in the shade of some cedars. We talked with him for about 45 minutes. Another very interesting person.

We reached the American Flag TH about an hour before the sun set.

This now puts us at just over 50% of AZT miles completed, and we have now connected a foot path all the way from the border to Roosevelt. Woo hoo!
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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Sweet lollipop route: up OR#1 to Dan Saddle > west down CC#401 > up RR#2 > road walk east to upper trailhead and back down Oracle Ridge. Single track trail sections are in good condition, dirt road sections are decent. Plenty of clear, cold flow in East Fork creek at the CC#401 / RR#2 junction.
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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I was looking for something a little different today, and hopefully a bit cooler. Looks like I hit on both counts. After I finished up work in Tucson, I headed over to Oracle to start my hiking day by the American Flag Ranch TH. First off, the trail is in great shape and easy to navigate. There are numerous OHV roads that you cross, but lots of carsonite sign markers to help guide the way if there is any confusion. I made my way up to the Hijinks mine and looked around a bit, but all of the private property and no trespassing signs kept me from getting too involved. Got back to the trail and continued to the base of Apache peak where I found a nice Alligator Juniper for a shady break before heading back. I managed to spook a whitetail and her two little ones, they ran off too fast for me to get much of a photo. This hike has big time views in all directions, I have to imagine it only gets better the higher up you get. As it was, I could see a good view of the Bioshpere and mountains all around. Everything is so remarkably green out here right now! Pretty sure this hike would get a 5 if I ended up doing the whole thing.

A few Fleabane Daisy here and there, and some of the barrels were showing good bloom. Very spotty at best.
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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With the threat of rain in the PHX area we went down to Oracle. Fan wanted to knock AZT passages 12 & part of 13.
It’s been a couple of years since I've done these passages.

We started at the Tiger Mine road and the wind was chilly from the start.
Passage 13 was easy to complete.

Passage 12
As we started to rise to the Oracle ridge the bitter cold wind got stronger. When we got above 6,000 feet the sky darkened over the peaks and the wind got stronger. Fan was almost blown off the ridge :o ! I had 4 layers on and was still cold. Even Fan was cold! We decided to turn around.

We took lunch at an unnamed trailhead. Fan went down to the Cody TH as I went exploring in the lower elevations. I went down an unnamed creek to ruins of a house or it have might have been the Campo Bonito. Then I explored the lower Oracle Ridge trail to where the trail comes close to the mansions of Oracle.

It rained for about 10 minutes as we left the Cody TH.
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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Oracle Ridge - Catalina Camp - Red Ridge Loop. The Oracle Ridge Trail was great - ferns and flowers at the start and big views as usual. In just a spot or two the small Arizona Trail sections that bypass the road the trail was a little indistinct - but never hard to follow. On Catalina Camp I lost the wind an it was a bit hot. The real surprise for me was that when we arrived at the East Fork of the CDO there was flowing water! Red Ridge was just as steep as ever...

Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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Red Ridge/Catalina Camp/Oracle Ridge - this is a great loop, the highlight on this hike was the Oracle Ridge Trail - lush, green, tons of flowers and clouds rolling across the ridge - incredibly lovely!

Pictures: ... 442591977/
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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I was looking for something substantial, but not devastating to fill out a day. Looking over my list, I came upon this one. My spreadsheet ranked this as a 12 (my rating system attempts to reflect an approximation in hours). This should have been doable from civil dawn to civil dusk with about 2 hours of lounge-time along the way.

I was on the trail at 05:30 sharp, well rested and enthusiastic. I made my way doing just fine to the first water cache at the 3 mile mark, and from there it became a roller coaster ride of the steepest sort. The trail mostly follows a jeep road, which may play into it's difficulty. It seemed that the 'straight on charge' approach that a jeep would take is not so easy on human legs. Even the down hills were very taxing. Every time I thought the worst was surely over, a new slog presented itself. This was to be the case to the very peak of the run.

This is not the most scenic of trails. In fact in today's dirty air, the views were pretty much limited to the Catalinas ahead. The Biosphere could be seen, but without much clarity. On the approach to Rice Peak, the air was clean enough to catch a couple of pics, but that was about it.

I had already taken 20 minutes in breaks and was 10 minutes short of the top when my turn around alarm sounded. I was not making good time, so I shortened my 1/2 hour kickback to 10 minutes, then headed back down.

The trip back was not any easier, but was at least much quicker, affording me short breaks as needed. In the second half of the decent came relief under cloud cover, a steady breeze, and an occasional light shower.

While I wasn't looking forward to returning to the city, I was relieved that this trek was behind me. It looked a whole lot easier on paper than it turned out to be. Anywho, it's done and so am I... :zzz:
Oracle Ridge Trail #1
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So, not exactly what we were expecting to do... I'd listed this with the ABC as a day hike to complete AZT #13 - Oracle. However, we were a bit kerflummexed from the start because there was a big group of javelina hunters at the trailhead. Of course, that really isn't an excuse, just like the fact that it was snowing on and off isn't, and the fact that we all seemed to be pretty stupid together. But, regardless of a good reason...

We all 4 of us went the wrong way at the start. Rather than beginning the trail heading east toward Oracle State Park, we started West, toward the Oracle Ridge Trail. Yes, we walked right under the sign that said "Santa Catalina Passage Dedicated...". And, true, we climbed a lot more than we'd expected. We even failed to notice that we never passed a boundary for the State Park. I even checked the GPS route I'd downloaded a couple times - deciding that I'd just downloaded the wrong file somehow - it was nowhere near where we were hiking! How irritating :sl: .

About 3 miles in we hit a trail junction, and my GPS showed two clear options: uphill and downhill. This route certainly wasn't supposed to take us up to the mountain, so logically we followed it downhill. We happily hiked along, amid the snowdrifts and wind-blasts. The wind was strong and bitterly COLD, so we kept our heads down and just hiked pretty quick. There wasn't a whole lot of sight seeing or debating about where we were going.

I suppose all of this explains why it wasn't until we hit the Cody Loop road at approx. 6 miles in that we realized our mistake. We were in completely the wrong place. Our shuttle vehicles (at the Tiger Mine Trailhead) were still about 6 miles away by road-walk. :yuck: Amid all of our feeling-stupid and embarassment we came up with a better option, though. Return to our cars at the American Flag trailhead via some dirt roads and little back-tracking on the trail we'd come out.

Turned out to be a half-decent little hike afterall, a good work out, pretty hiking and only a little over a mile on pavement. We got back to our cars with little other incident - other than our encounter with some extremely polite horsemen who, thinking we were quite lost, offered to escort us back to the trailhead. Sandy thanked them politely and assured them that we had it all figured out so we went on our way.

I can't help but wonder, now, what that AZT Passage 13 is like... Maybe another cold, windy day I'll find out :oplz:

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Coronado Forest
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Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive

To hike
From Tucson: Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue 25 miles to a point past the Loma Linda Picnic Area where the Control Road (FR 38) turns right and passes the Mt. Lemmon Fire Station. Follow this road straight, past the fire station and down the ridge. Just beyond the first cattle guard, the trail leaves from a parking area on the left side of the road and cuts through a notch in the ridge.

From Oracle: Follow the Oracle Highway through the town of Oracle to the Old Mt. Lemmon Road (also called the Control Road and FR 38). Go down the Old Mt. Lemmon Road .2 miles to Cody Loop Road and turn right. Then proceed .7 miles up Cody Loop Road until you see a small turnout on the left below a large water tank. There is enough space to tightly fit in about three cars. From this parking area look across Cody Loop Road into the brush and you can see the trailhead sign poking through the brush.
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