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Box Camp Trail #22, AZ

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Guide 36 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.9 of 5 by 14
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Difficulty 4.5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 6.1 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,050 feet
Elevation Gain -4,314 feet
Accumulated Gain 179 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 - 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 6.7
Backpack Yes
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13  2017-05-28 DarthStiller
5  2017-05-28 wallyfrack
25  2015-07-12
Aspen Sabino Loop
15  2015-04-20 Jim_H
8  2015-03-06 Sredfield
7  2014-06-25 Mountain_Rat
10  2014-05-27 Timknorr
25  2014-04-03
Box Camp Bear Canyon to Sabino Visitors Center
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Wildcat04
author avatar Guides 3
Routes 0
Photos 0
Trips 7 map ( 73 miles )
Age 37 Male Gender
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:05am - 6:32pm
Official Route
4 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Downhill but steep
by Wildcat04

The Box Camp Trail provides a "ponderosa to saguaro" hike in the Santa Catalina Mountains that will take the hiker through every life zone of the Sonoran Desert. Created in 1897, it was once the most popular pack route into the high country for an escape from the summer heat in the Tucson basin.

Because of its steep and rocky terrain, the Box Camp Trail is most often hiked downhill, beginning at the trailhead (8,050 feet) next to the Catalina Highway. The first two miles of the trail are by far the most pleasant of the entire hike; a gentle descent combined with thick, shady forest and a carpet of pine needles under your feet offer the perfect relief from Tucson's typically hot and dry climate. Some bear sign may be seen in the area, as well as the occasional squirrel. At times, the trail follows (and sometimes crosses) a drainage leading down into Sabino Canyon, which, in the rainy seasons, may contain water.

The forest eventually thins out and transitions to oak woodland, at which point the terrain becomes steeper and follows a ridge. This section, because it is much more open and exposed than the high forest, provides incredible views of the Tucson area and the front range of the Santa Catalinas. One particularly interesting part of this section wanders through an area that was torched by wildfire in the summer of 1997, where some of the charred vegetation remains. There is also a clearing at the end of the ridge that appears to have been cleared for a helicopter landing, which makes for a great lunch spot. After the clearing, the trail begins to drop sharply toward Sabino Basin, and thus, the real hike has begun.

Slightly less than five miles from the trailhead, Apache Spring appears. This spring usually has some amount of water flowing through it, but don't count on it as a water source. The vegetation has now changed to juniper and occasional oak, with some cacti thrown in for variation.

The remaining 2.3 miles down to Sabino Basin traverse through saguaro and dry grassland. The last half mile may be difficult to follow; if you get lost, just bushwhack down to the basin, which is a large area filled with oak trees and bushes next to a creek bed. The basin is shady and cool, giving the hiker a wonderful rest spot.

From Sabino Basin, you have a few options. After crossing the creek bed, the Box Camp Trail comes to an end, and intersects with three different trails: The West Fork Trail, which will take you to Hutch's Pool; The East Fork Trail, which connects with the Palisade Trail in less than a mile; and Sabino Canyon Trail #23, which will lead you back to the end of the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. From there, you can walk down the road for 4 miles back to the visitor's center, or ride the tram back for a fee.

Overall, the Box Camp Trail is an exciting downhill hike that takes the better part of a day. Expect to spend about 3-4 hours hiking down to Sabino Basin (7.1 miles), and another 1 to 1 1/2 hours if you hike back to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area (9.6 miles).

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

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

2003-02-28 Wildcat04
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Coronado FS Details
Box Camp Trail provides some of the most dramatic views of any trail in the Santa Catalinas. It also challenges the wilderness traveler with some of the steepest and rockiest. As you might expect, the most rugged sections also offer the best views. This trail extends between the Catalina Highway in the vicinity of Spencer Campground and the East Fork Trail in the Sabino Basin. During the summer, most people hike this trail from the top down. During the winter, use increases on the lower end of the trail.

Starting from the top, the trail follows a course through magnificent stands of large ponderosa pines. If you would like to take an interesting side trip, Box Spring Trail #224A leads 0.9 mile to a perennial spring.

Below the turnoff to the spring this trail begins its steep descent into Sabino Basin. This section is steep and brushy. In some places it can be hard to find. It is maintained infrequently, so if you do come, expect to work hard for the vistas that you will find here. They include views of Sabino Basin, Palisade Canyon and the sprawling city of Tucson in the distance. And in the Fall, aspen leaves splash the mountain slopes with gold.

Before the Catalina Highway was constructed, this trail was the quickest access route to the Soldier Camp high on the mountain's pine-clad slopes.

Great views
Tall trees
Forest to desert diversity
Challenging trail

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 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
Box Camp Trail #22
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Palisade/Box Camp Loop
Dropped a car off at the Box Camp TH Saturday night, camped on Bigelow, and then got started down the Palisade Trail around 7:30. I've been around Organization Ridge quite a few times, but I had never been very far down this trail. It was in much better shape than I expected, and though the final descent was quite steep, it was a pretty easy hike down to the East Fork.

Box Camp trail was tough - especially with the sun beating down the first few miles - but I was bracing for much worse than it ended up being. The very steep and often eroded upper portions of the trail were tiring, but the views of Tucson over Sabino Canyon were unreal and definitely worth the effort. It was as clear a day as I can remember. We saw a few nice campsites in the final ~1.5 miles and a very nice shady section with water that reminded us of Mica Mountain. Some really fire-damaged areas near the end.

There was water at Mud Spring (unappetizing though) and sporadically along the BCT, but I wouldn't count on it to last long.
Box Camp Trail #22
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A nice trail to see some of the interior of the Catalinas. Much quieter in this area and it reminded me of the approach to Italian Springs when I was in the lower elevations. It was hot lower, but perfect up higher. It was also really nice to be back in some real pine forest. Heard some frogs barking in the canyons below me, so there is still water around, and there were trickling pools higher in the forest. I was originally thinking I might like to do the Box-Palisade loop. but when the area over 7000' is nice, the area below 5000' is hot for mid-day hiking. However, the upper parts to the great view points would make a nice hike.
Box Camp Trail #22
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WOW!!! That was beastly. Right out of the gate, I overslept by an hour and a half. Anytime I start something that far behind the ball, I should just give it up, as I know the situation will only worsen. So what do ya think I did? That's right, I went ahead and did it.

The trail starts at 8,000 ft through beautiful aspen forest, which continues for 2 miles where the sky opens up and the sun comes out. Being now 8:30 in the morn, at high altitude, it doesn't seem too bad, but after another hour or so at lower elevations it starts to wear on you. The trail is just a touch over 6 miles one way. At mile number 4, I began to second guess my whole decision to do this trail. By mile 5, I was sure I had made a big mistake, but decided that since there was only one mile left to go, that I would finish. Just gettin dumber as the day goes on.

The return trip was the most brutal 6 miles I can remember in my life. While the main issue was the inescapable sun exposure, the incline was relentless as well. This trail is uphill the whole way. It's like the Finger Rock trail and the Sutherland Switchbacks got together and had an evil baby and named it Box Camp.

Well, it's in the bag now and I don't expect to revisit that one.
Box Camp Trail #22
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We had hiked to Gibbon Mountain the previous day and had hoped that maybe it would be just high enough for some some even though it didn't exactly looked snowy from the highway - but there wasn't any real snow on Gibbon so the next day I made the most of the time I had available and headed to the Box Camp Trail to enjoy the snow!!! It was great! Not so cold, fluffy snow, maybe 1' deep in places and no footprints for the last 10 or so minutes of hiking - fun!

Box Camp Trail #22
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I had never been on either of the Box trails, so off I went. The storms had parted and the sun was out. Old burn areas were full of ferns and wildflowers. Vague memories of reading that Box Spring Trail was a disaster came to mind, but I wanted to give it a try. The bushwhack and fallen trees were more than I was looking for today, so I turned around just above Box Spring, while a couple of determined backpackers continued the descent. Beautiful area, I can't wait to go back when I have more time.
Box Camp Trail #22
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I had never done the entire Box Camp Trail - so as part of doing some training hikes for the Grand Canyon I decided a down and back up dayhike was in order! The top of the trail was in decent shape - I always enjoy the short section wandering by the stream - and after leaving that section there are some really spectacular views which is always a treat. As I went lower there were one or two brief moments where I had to look around for the trail - less use down here I suppose - interesting views, one of the best views looks back into the technical section of Palisade Canyon, this is the only spot I have been to that has such great views of those falls! It was a hot day and seemingly endless switch backs kept me too long from a dip in the gloriously cold water. After a break it was time to head back up - mercilessly hot until a thunderstorm moved in about 4 miles from the end - a welcome relief from the heat!

Pictures: ... 201085316/
Box Camp Trail #22
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Box Camp runs for about 4 miles before becoming impassable due to downed trees and other obstacles in the drainage routes. I also tried o follow the description for Sabino Box below Box Springs Trail. This is a nightmare. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone that isn't looking for some seriously heavy bushwhacking. There are cairns along the route if you dare to venture down there.
Box Camp Trail #22
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(Almost) Box Springs Hike
We were going to go up to the top of Mount Lemmon, but it was so crowded, we decided to go down a bit to the Box Camp trail head instead. The idea was to go to Box Spring, but the trail was really overgrown and the footing was a little sketchy. I couldn't risk an injury this close to my summit up Mount St. Helens (next week!), so we headed back. We checked the maps when we got back to the car and found that we were less than a tenth of a mile from the Spring! Shoulda, coulda, woulda. Bleh.
Box Camp Trail #22
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Another pleasant forest hike in the Catalinas. If I had read the beta a little more carefully, I would have had some pants and long sleeves to plow thru the thorn bushes that have overgrown the trail down to upper Sabino Canyon. I got about halfway down the hillside and into that side-creek before turning back due to lack of daylight and gear. :? Even if I plowed thru and made it down to the box, it would have been a tad to late in the day to truely enjoy the water anyways. Next time, I'll just have to come a little more prepared. :roll:
Box Camp Trail #22
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Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to do the whole hike, so I had to turn back about a mile after the Box Springs Trailhead. The mountain is still a bit charred but is recovering nicely. The trail goes from dense to open which gives a nice variety of scenery. Make sure to go off the trailhead to catch some great views of the mountains. At the Box Springs Trailhead head left off the trail, up the hill to catch an awesome view of Thimble Peak, Tucson Valley, and the Rincon Mountains. Make sure to wear long pants and a good pair of hiking shoes/boots for traction for the pine needles can be a bit slippery when veering off the trail. Rabbits, Squirrels, Butterflies, and Woodpeckers were most of what I encountered on my journey.

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
Trailhead access is from the Catalina Highway about 100 to 150 yards uphill from the Spencer Canyon turnoff (in the vicinity of milepost 22). The lower end of the trail can be reached via the Sabino Canyon Trail #23 and East Fork Trail #24A.

From Tucson, drive east on Tanque Verde Road to Catalina Highway. Turn left on Catalina Highway (the only way you can go) and follow it into the Santa Catalina Mountains for nearly 30 miles. The trailhead is just after milepost 21 on the Catalina Highway, and just beyond the Spencer Canyon Campground.
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