Background: Finger Rock Trail #42 is one of the most popular trails in the Catalina frontrange/Pusch Ridge. A lot of people go to one of the 2 nice ridges or overlooks that loft high above the Canyon offering nice views of Finger Rock or Prominent Point. A lot of people go to Linda Vista a little farther up for some great views of Tucson. A lot of people (relatively speaking) use Finger Rock Canyon as their access route to climb Mt. Kimball. Very few folks hike the entirety of Finger Rock Trail #42 all the way to it's end near the east head of Ventana Canyon, at the junction with the end of Ventana Canyon and Esperero Canyon Trails. Three of the Pusch Ridge's finest come to rest together in a special place in the absolute middle of nowhere.
Hike: A significant part of this trail has been written up at least twice here on HikeArizona...both the Mount Kimball via Finger Rock (by brianb) and the Mt. Kimball - Pima Canyon traverse (by Jeff MacE and yours truly) fully describe the section of trail leading up to the junction with Pima Canyon Trail #62 about 4.3 miles in and 3700+ feet of climbing, so in order not to be redundant I'll be brief on this part.
From the trailhead off Alvernon, cross the street and walk up to the signed trailhead. Almost immediately a junction leads right to Pontatoc Canyon and Ridge. Go left on Finger Rock and head across the desert to the big canyon in front of you. You'll see Finger Rock itself right away on the left/west wall of the canyon. To your right are nice views of Pontatoc Ridge. The trail is really pretty level for the first 1 mile. When it crosses to the east side of the canyon and you encounter a small unmarked trail split you've reached Finger Rock Spring and the end of the flat stuff. Go up and right and get ready to keep going up for the next 3.2 miles. This is Finger Rock Canyon...and it's legendarily steep trail. You will go up mildy and more often madly all the way to the junction with Pima. The trail always stays on the east wall of the canyon for most of the way up, making only one crossing much higher up. Finger Rock is visible most of the way for the first half. A nice spot of note is about 2.55 miles in where you hit a somewhat flat, grassy overlook with exceptional views up and down the canyon. You're almost in profile with Prominent Point, Finger Rock and the Guard here. From this nice rest spot the trail will break hard right/east to cross over a prominent side drainage spilling in from the east. This is usually a pretty lush little spot. Near the head of the drainage, at about 2.9 miles is the short unmarked spur breaking off right to Linda Vista. Stay on the main path and enter pinyon and oak country for the last leg to the trail junction. Finally in a lush little forest you will finally make the one crossing over the creekbed and climb away from the canyon through a manzanita scrubland. The trail gets really steep here again...and then you're at the junction, again about 4.3 miles in or so.
Instead of making the accustomed left and heading to Mt. Kimball, make a right and stay on the Finger Rock Canyon trail. Almost immediately there will be a little campsite off to your left. Walk across it and take a peak through the clearing for one of the most spectacular views of the day - Mt. Lemmon, Cathedral Rock and Window Peak are staring right at you. Hit the trail again and descend away from the saddle separating Kimball to the northwest from big old Peak 7123 to the southeast. The trail is going to descend and run generally north for a while down the east slope of Kimball. The trail will pop in and out of the forest here, when it pops out it opens up jaw-dropping views of the mountains east, then takes you back in the woods to calm down. In general the trail is not too hard to follow, when it's out of the woods and in the open it is generally crossing rocks and is well-cairned to lead the way. In the forest it is a beaten enough path that you can typically follow it. Cairns are there when needed, there are a couple of little drainage crossings that can be tricky the first time. Look for the cairn and do NOT follow the drainages when heading north down the east slope of Kimball. There is one other tricky spot where a big tree went down across the trail, seemingly long ago, and obscures the path. Be patient here and look around, remembering you want to go north, and you'll pick it up again. After about 0.95 miles, the trail will finally cut right and head east towards the head of Ventana Canyon, descending all the while.
Once heading east, the trees will open up occasionally to offer views north over Oro Valley and out towards the Picachos. After about 0.2 miles of heading east it opens up in front of you enough to see the divide at the head of Ventan Canyon. To the right lies Ventana. To the left is one of the major tributaries feeding Montrose Canyon. You can see you gotta drop sharply to hit the divide and that the trail must cut right around the south base of the big rock formation beginning the shelf that leads up to Window Peak. Hit the divide and drop right along the path beneath the base of the big rocks to hit the low point of the section leading away from Pima Canyon trail junction, at about 5977 feet. The next half mile or so is along a very faint path as the Finger Rock trail winds back up and into the drainage coming down from the shelf above where it will ultimately come to rest at the simultaneous end of the Ventana Canyon and Esperero Canyon trails, at a small sign located at about 6205 feet and about 6.2-6.3 miles from the trailhead. From here you either have a long hike back, or you can head down Ventana Canyon to your prearranged shuttle vehicle. Heck you might just as well hit up the Window 1.2 miles and a little over 600 feet above you along the Esperero Trail...I did.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
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