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Miller Creek Trail #28, AZ

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Guide 46 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson
3.6 of 5 by 17
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance One Way 3.95 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,195 feet
Elevation Gain 1,980 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,060 feet
Avg Time One Way 2+ hours
Kokopelli Seeds 10.81
Interest Perennial Creek
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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35  2019-04-05
Rincon Backpack
14  2018-11-11
Rincon Peak
5  2018-03-17
Rincon Peak
12  2018-03-17
3  2017-04-29
Rincon Peak
4  2017-04-29
Rincon Peak
4  2017-04-29
Rincon Peak
6  2017-04-29
Rincon Peak
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,743 map ( 18,146 miles )
Age 43 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Apr, Oct
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:07am - 6:25pm
Official Route
17 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Here's to good friends
by fricknaley

I am a big fan of the Rincons here in Tucson. They are very isolated and expansive, though located so close to the city. The hikes here tend to be long, fairly difficult and always worth the effort. The Miller Creek trail out of Happy Valley on the east side of the range is a perfect example. This is a section of the Arizona Trail as well, and partly lies within the Saguaro East district.

From the parking area immediately pass through a gate and travel along fairly level ground as you start to enter the canyon. You parallel the wash which usually has running water. This is Happy Valley and it is a well kept secret in my opinion, as the area is full of vegetation, wildlife and running water. This is not your typical Sonoran desert. Follow the trail, which crosses the stream several times, and after about 3/4 mile or so the trail climbs out of the wash and starts heading right and climbing across the land towards the Rincon foothills.

As you start climbing more seriously you come to a fence marking the boundary for Saguaro National Park. Pass on through, sign the register and get ready to start working. You start climbing around boulders and heading up the base of the Rincons. As you do so, you will start to notice that huge views begin to open up to the east and Happy Valley lies below. I would say that this may be the only area where following the trail gets a little tricky, but well-placed cairns often save the day. If you seem to be off track, you probably are so just retrace and find the next cairn. You will finally reach a outcropping of rocks to your right that affords superior views to the north and east.

From here the trail basically turns left and starts heading up Miller Canyon. All of the sudden you are in a lush forest and water can often be heard running down the canyon. This part of the hike takes on a very different feel from the beginning and was my favorite part. You keep on climbing to the left of the canyon until the trail basically breaks left, winds and climbs a bit more before dropping you off at the Happy Valley Saddle, where the trail ends into the Heartbreak Ridge Trail. This puts you at roughly 4.4 miles and about 2000 feet in elevation.

This is the turnaround point for this hike...but there are other options from here if you are not quite ready to call it quits. To your left (south) lies the way to Rincon peak. To the right (north) you can follow the Heartbreak Ridge trail ultimately all the way to Manning Camp. I admit I did take that right and continued on for about 45 minutes or so. If you so choose read on, if not head back home.

The trail soon climbs through some rocky slopes, winds around and deposits you on the western face of the Rincons. As you climb through nicely recovering forest spectacular views of the western Rincons, Tucson and to the south Rincon peak present themselves to you. Placated by this outrageous scenery I decided to call it a day, turn around, and head back home.

The stats in the heading above are to the saddle. I continued on for about 1-1.25 miles and added great scenery and more elevation gain to my hike, making the total distance for me about 11 to 11.5 miles or so.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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.

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2005-04-10 fricknaley
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Coronado FS Details
This Rincon Mountain Wilderness trail provides access into the Saguaro National Park and, when combined with the Rincon Peak Trail, serves as the shortest route to the summit of that 8,482 foot mountain. The first 1.5 miles of the route are located in the Coronado National Forest, following Miller Creek for about half that distance. This small stream and the riparian habitat it supports combine to provide a pleasant setting for those here to just spend time bird watching or enjoying the picturesque surroundings. Those passing through headed for destinations more distant will most likely appreciate them as well. In order to protect this pleasant but fragile environment it is being managed for low-impact recreation, so no horseback riding or mountain biking is permitted on this trail.

After following the creek for a little over three quarters of a mile, the trail climbs along the canyon's north ridge and enters the National Park bound for its junction with the Rincon Peak Trail. The Miller Creek Trail is a part of the Arizona Trail system.

Desert riparian area
Access to Saguaro National Park
Arizona Trail segment
Access to Rincon Peak

Saguaro National Park restrictions: No hunting, weapons, pets or bicycles. Camping in designated areas only. Must have a wilderness permit which is available at the Park Visitor Center.

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
Miller Creek Trail #28
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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.

Miller Creek Trail #28
rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
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
Miller Creek Trail #28
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Headed over to Happy Valley on Christmas Eve to get up in the high country ahead of the big weather system that was predicted to dump a bunch of snow. No cars at Miller Creek, perfect clear cold weather. Miller Creek trail in good condition, a little confusing in a spot or two as it crosses some drainages. Headed up Heartbreak Ridge, my first time on that trail - wasn't sure what to expect as I figured it didn't get much traffic. Trail in excellent condition, surprised to see tons of steps build on a trail so far in the backcountry - a total contrast to the brushy thrash-fests on all the trails on the "back side" of the Santa Catalinas (like Samaniego Ridge or CDO). I guess the National Parks have a much larger budget for trail maintenance... Lots of water along the way to Devil's Bathtub, which I had never visited, which was also flowing strong. Headed up to Manning Cabin, nobody there either except for a few deer, think I had the whole mountain to myself. (Plenty of water at Manning, as always...)

Ran up to Spud Rock, and the weather started changing fast, was suddenly in a windy cloud with the temps dropping fast and smoky wisps of fog blowing through the forest. Put on some layers (tights, windshirt, buff), ran up to the summit and didn't even stop, and bailed down the Bonita trail, and by the time I hit Heartbreak, I was beneath the cloud ceiling that was enveloping Micah and back in the sun, but the temp kept dropping. Crazy wind along the ridge, literally pushed me off the trail a few times, lots of birds flitting around, couldn't figure out how they don't get blown off the mountain. Made time to run up to the Lookout on the way out, another first - incredible views of Rincon and San Pedro Valley, worth the side trip.

Tried to keep a strong pace coming down Miller, but that is one steep, boulder-filled descent. Returned to the truck in a total time a bit under six hours for 23mi and 6400aev, and cracked a beer just as the sky went black and that huge weather system hit, exciting drive back to Tucson rocking down the freeway in the old 4x4 truck with high winds, sideways precip, and wrecks here and there...
Miller Creek Trail #28
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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.
Miller Creek Trail #28
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Italian Spring Trail #95 to Manning is among my favorites. It's a mini jet ride to heaven on the Mica Plateau.

Rincon Peak is just a tad lower than Mica in the same "Rincon Mountain Range" but a sky island of it's own. I prayed some of the Italian zest would linger being the same range.

Boy howdy can I get a what what, screw it I'm throwing out the woot woot! This hike had me on the drive in. Grassy hills in the morning sun with scattered independant full sized oaks got the safari juices flowing. To our left the Rincon range was a wall to heaven capped in clouds. The stream-weaved baja in front had all our senses in overload riding at the speed of jj. Along the way we passed or flew over a half dozen large party campers scattered in the nooks. Quaint was in full swing.

The hike was better than anticipated. Shade is encountered often on the lower portions of the hike. The pine forest further up is among the nicest in Arizona yet alone south of Tucson. With the exception of the final four furlongs the tread is good. Even that half mile would be of little concern when dry. We encountered fierce inch plus snow drifts that made the steep grade slick.

Slightly chilly up top for my sun baked soul. Otherwise a perfect hike with great company. Even had a last minute add on, Kara, that joined us for the entire hike! I take back all the bad things I've said about Bruce, well within reason. He was kind, delightful and a pleasure to be around... of course shortly after departing ways he was once again using Stiller's favorite all in one noun / verb / adjective.

Thought about pounding out a ++ on Tumamoc Hill heading home. Too intimidating. We cleaned up at the car wash then headed back to the Valley of the Sun.
Miller Creek Trail #28
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My first hike in the Tucson area. While all hikes are good and most great, it's a bummer when you don't achieve the goal. I crashed and burned a half mile and 500-600 feet short ](*,), my legs dead with the steepest section of trail ahead of me. It happens.

With that out of the way, this was still a great hike with great company. There are two long and fairly steep ascents (very steep up to the peak) with a flat section between them. The hike along the first ascent was sunny and warm as we trekked up the eastern slope. That changed once we passed the Happy Valley saddle and started the second ascent on the west side of the mountain. No more sunshine, windy to gusting at times, the peak shrouded in clouds. We started to see snow above 7000 feet.

When I hit the wall, I sat on a rock and decided to wait for the rest of the group to come down. Before I lost them, I told them I was struggling and not to wait for me. I waited about 10 minutes before I started shivering from the blustery winds. Time to get moving. I took a few breaks along the way, hoping the group would catch up, but we didn't see each other again until the 2.5 mile mark. They stopped for lunch near the Happy Valley Campground. That's what I should have done.

The drive down was as entertaining as the hike. Beautiful sunrise, beautiful views of the approaching peak and a Disney-like ride on the road to the trailhead in JJ's Cherokee. We were all wide awake when we arrived!

Fun times everyone. Thanks for a great day!
Miller Creek Trail #28
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With a bail on Plan A, we made a last minute decision to head south away from the rain.
The dart landed on Rincon Peak, so off we went. We left Ray Rd and I-10 at 5:30 and with one stop on the way down, hit the TH at 8am.

As we were driving in, it was quite obvious that The top of Rincon Peak was shrouded in clouds. But with the winds today, we were sure they'd blow off.

Chilly but sunny to start, and within the first 1/2 mile we picked up an additional hiker (Kara) that joined us for the rest of the day.

With the early morning sun and the scattered clouds, there were some neat shadows being cast. This is a pretty good climb, but the last 1/2 mile to the top was a real B Buster. Scattered snow patches made is tricky in spots. I was real glad I had my new shoes on. The new cleats held well.

There was little time spent up top because of the wind and temps.

Great 360 Views from the top :next:

We gathered back down at the Happy Valley Campground and had a quick lunch. It was all downhill back to the TH from here.

A great group to hike with, hopefully a new HAZ'er.

Thanks for Driving JJ, muchly appreciated..
Miller Creek Trail #28
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Had a day off and was passing by Mescal, so I whipped it over to Happy Valley for a Rincon Mountain traverse. Not much to report, but with zero negative issues, it was as perfect as this day could get. Headed up the Turkey Creek trail, hit Spud Rock campsite, took the East Slope to Heartbreak Ridge, over to Happy Valley campsite, down the Miller Creek trail and back to the Exploder. Pretty much a sunup to sundown stroll :)
Miller Creek Trail #28
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Friends in town who wanted to hit the Rincons

Day 1) Breezy but warm. I'm out of shape at this point, trying to keep up with Lynn and Teri up the Miller Creek trail. We dropped our packs at HV camp, headed up to Rincon Peak and back down to the camp to call it a day.

Day 2) NICE day. We headed out to Manning Camp via Devil's Bathtub, took some time to rest, then headed up the Fire Loop trail/s to Spud Rock, Mica and Reef Rock. I had not been to Mica or Spud Rock before. The Spud Rock views are unbelievable. Mica Mountain, though quite pretty, doesn't offer much for views. After our stop at Reef Rock, we headed down to Spud Rock Camp to settle in. I was beat by this point, but Lynn and Teri still had energy to explore the area. We started getting spurts of rain in the early evening, and the sky opened up a few times through the night (of course it always sounds worse when you're in a tent).

Day 3) It was quite a bit colder and pretty windy with not much for sun shine. Now worried about the threat of more rain, we hurriedly packed and headed out down the Turkey Creek trail. We made it back to the car by early afternoon just before the next round of rain hit.
Miller Creek Trail #28
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There was very little water there today but it still made for a great hike. Went all the way to the happy valley campsite. The hike itself was a bit of a climb on the way up but once you get about 1/2 way up you get some amazing views of the valley and shortly after that point the terrain starts to level out a bit and turns more forest like then high desertish. Went on a nice cool day with a breeze and at some point the smell of some flowering berry bushes came wafting my way. That was quite the treat. The camp ground sits right at the trail head to the rincon peak trail. so maybe next time i will make it an overnight adventure. Over all a great time.

On a side note: I went to the Saguaro National Park visitors center to get a pass. It only cost $5 for a person on foot. You should technically have one to enter the land, although I doubt many take the time to get it. It is not that much money and it goes to keep trails like this one in good condition. I hope you consider taking the time to get the pass before your hike.

Permit $$

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

Saguaro National Park
2019 $20 vehicle, $15 motorcycle or $10 for any individual on foot or bicycle - the receipt is valid for 7 days Fees

Map Drive
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
I-10 from Tucson east to J-Six/Mescal road exit. Take left and head north. The Miller Creek trailhead is about 16.5 miles down the road, after a very short, signed spur road breaks off to your left. This road can be rough, but the old Taurus made it just fine.
1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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