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Soldier Trail #706, AZ

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Guide 49 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
2.9 of 5 by 13
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 2.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,200 feet
Elevation Gain 1,625 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,800 feet
Avg Time One Way 1-1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 8.6
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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1  2019-02-10
Soldier/AZT/La Milagrosa
18  2018-03-24
Soldier Trail to Mount Lemmon
19  2018-03-08
Brins Mesa Trail #119
8  2017-03-29 uphill_junkie
93  2016-01-17
Gibbon Mountain
26  2014-09-13
Soldier Canyon
18  2013-08-27
Soldier Trail Babad Do'ag Loop
43  2013-01-07 OldNslow
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Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,746 map ( 18,187 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 7 AM
Seasons   Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:18pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
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March soldier
by fricknaley

The Soldier Trail is a nice, tough little climb right off the base of the Catalinas, at the beginning of the Catalina Highway as it starts to climb into the mountains. It follows an old power line road to the old Prison Camp found at the Gordon Hirabiyashi campground. The power lines no longer exist, but the trail does and it is pretty fun.

This trail starts climbing immediately from the signed trailhead, away from the highway. Shortly you come to a little saddle and the trail switchbacks up to your left. Swing around and climb steeply for about a quarter mile. It levels out a little as a drainage forms to your right. This trail climbs nearly the whole way. As you climb more and cross over the drainage, the hillsides become coated in knee high grass. Soon Soldier Canyon is on your left. The trail starts to climb more steeply, and the views become nicer and nicer.

You keep climbing for about a mile and a half towards a small saddle. Once you crest this saddle the views open up all over, especially in front of you. Soldier Canyon is hundreds of feet below you and the hillsides are grass covered. There are peaks everywhere and the hike just becomes very interesting in general. If you are here in the right time of year, you can hear water flowing in Soldier Canyon and even spy some nice falls. You are towering way above the canyon floor, but off to your right you can see where it levels out and where you will cross the canyon.

The trail breaks to the right and descends a little to cross a relatively flat section of the canyon. Again there may well be water flowing, though crossing is pretty easy. This is a nice riparian area with all sorts of small trees. It's green and lush. If you break off the trail and go left down the canyon a couple hundred yards, you can see where the walls quickly choke in. Follow the right side of the canyon. It immediately closes in and forms a more narrow chute. If you are careful and climb down on the right side this actually ends up forming a beautiful slot canyon that you can climb a ways down before essentially cliffing out. You can climb down and swing back to your left under a ledge to get a great view of water flowing down the slot. BE CAREFUL here, a fall would be BAD.

Back at the crossing go only a short way before crossing again then climbing away to the left. Steeply you access a nice ridge and hike along the grassy trail towards a prominent ragged peak. The canyon comes back to your left and if the season is right, you can see a couple of nice falls again. Soon the trail breaks to your left, descends and crosses over the canyon. It then descends more to the signed intersection with the Molino Trail and Sycamore Reservoir at the Prison Camp.

You can turn around here. I recommend heading left on the Molino Basin trail and following it along it wide sandy way to a saddle at the official beginning of the Sycamore Reservoir trail. This saddle looks out over the upper Bear Canyon with jaw-dropping views of Cathedral and Mt. Lemmon. WOW! It is between 0.8-1 mile to this saddle and a couple hundred feet of easy climbing. If you go to the saddle it makes for a roughly 6.8 to 7 mile roundtrip hike, depending on how much exploring you do along the canyon crossings.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2008-01-12 fricknaley
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Coronado FS Details
This trail follows the route of an old road and power line from the Catalina Highway to the site of a now-abandoned prison camp (Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site). The camp has been razed and the power line removed, while the road has been closed and is being allowed to return to a natural condition. The trail follows portions of this old route and provides access to an excellent example of Sonoran desert habitat that is conveniently close to Tucson. As the trail winds up the mountain, it visits a few ridge tops that provide good views back toward the city before dropping into Soldier Canyon, where there are some picturesque waterfalls when the stream is running. The boulder-strewn cascades over which those falls tumble are pleasant to spend a few moments by even when they are dry.

The trail's rating is moderate, as is its length, and it is relatively easy to follow from beginning to end. In a few places, however, spur paths that lead to overlooks or other off-trail places of interest have developed through repeated use and could prove a bit confusing. The trail ends at the western limit of the old prison camp, from which it is a short walk on the road to a closed gate that marks the trailhead.

In the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site, you can connect to the Arizona Trail.

Attractions:Desert setting, views of Tucson, a rocky canyon, it's convenient short and moderate.

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 Triplog Reviews
Soldier Trail #706
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Soldier/AZT/La Milagrosa Loop
good big loop using catalina highway, soldier trail, the AZT and la milagrosa ridge. perfect day. felt decent for the most part. saw some people here and there.

ended up being a small fire in molino basin the next day. yikes. certainly wasn't from me burning rubber :lol:
Soldier Trail #706
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I concluded my Catalina overnight trip with a short, late afternoon hike on Soldier Trail. After a quick climb, I set up my backpacking stove on a big rock overlooking the canyon, and watched the sun set over dinner. The wind whistled through the ocotillos. Quail chattered. A lone deer bounded across the hillside. It had been a fun Tucson trip.
Soldier Trail #706
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I like this trail. It apologetically hands it to you from the beginning. No lead-in, no warm up. I managed to get out there early enough that the sun was masked to the east on ascent and it was still less than 105F on the way back out. It's pretty clear that the section between the "moonscape" before the canyon floor to Prison Camp doesn't see a lot of use. Saw several big cat tracks. Probably bobcat based on the sign and gait.

Stopped off at the unofficial shooting range on the way out. It looks like the FS went through there and cleaned things up recently. It's a shame that it came to that, but we are probably lucky they didn't just close it. Every time I stop there, I end up hauling a hefty bag of crap out that I didn't bring in. The good news is that they placed two huge boulders at the entrance so that no one can drive in there any longer. That used to be a nightmare; I had a meth-head looking for spent brass drive his 1981 "Beater" right in my line of fire once a few years back. Selection Pressure arguments aside, I ceased fire...
Soldier Trail #706
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Managed to get out early this morning before the rains. It was still very humid. This seemed like a fitting trail for a 4th of July hike. Stopped on the way down to shoot a little...I had to zero my new EOTech :D
Soldier Trail #706
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It was day 1 of Escape From The Arctic Wasteland, and the fine city of Tucson was my destination.

After buying my fill of cacti, I ended my brief visit to Tucson with a hike on Soldier Trail. I started hiking at 5:15 pm, figuring I would turn around at dark. I did so 1.5 miles in, at a cottonwood tree next to the trail. Took a few night shots of the stars and city lights on the way back, navigating by a bright moon. Roamed around town for a bit before heading up to Tempe to spend the night. Man, do I love Tucson!
Soldier Trail #706
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I had such a great time the previous day on Kimball, I opted to skip the *Wasson* Peak Loop and do another hike in the great Catalinas. I didn't want to be right next to the Finger Rock Trail, or up high, so this seemed good. It was. I like the desert contrast from saguaro to oaks. Windy while hiking, but that just felt good.
Soldier Trail #706
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From Nick's photoset, it was obvious this was a technical canyon and armed with two 100ft ropes & recent canyon beta from the ACA forums I descended this short & sweet canyon from the Prison Camp TH down to the Catalina highway down below. :sweat: From the trailhead, we started briefly on the Soldier trail but left it after about a quarter mile and headed down the drainage towards some narrows. We hit that cool slickrock narrows sections that looked like it'd present some rappels but after a few tricky down climbs & jumps, we were able to make it thru them without having to break out the gear or get wet in the pools. :) Another easy slickrock section was encountered before the canyon flattened out and we had loads of rock hopping & bushwhacking. The trail crossed over the flat dry wash and we followed it briefly to take a break from bushwhacking but it soon crossed back over the wash and headed up the hillside just before another sweet narrows section. :y: We made our way into the chute at the beginning of the narrows and soon encountered a 20ft drop & some shredded webbing indicating the first rappel. We geared up, made a new anchor, rappelled down the chute, avoided a small pool at the bottom, and found another 15ft drop on the other side of a van-sized chockstone. The webbing appeared to have been washed out and was laying in the sand below, but instead of building another we decided to slide down the 15ft slope to the sandpit below. :o Another 20ft drop was below the sandpit, so I used the failed anchor to make an anchor for this next short yet awkward rappel. This was followed by a tricky down climb and then a living room sized chockstone with a 50ft rappel to get past it. This was definetly the most awkward rappel of the day since there was a 4ft long by 1ft wide crack to rappel past to get below the chockstone. I used a stiff leg-in-the-crack & lean back technique to prevent my body from sliding in and getting helpless wedged in there. ;) A little further down and we hit the big falls that stopped Nick on his trip and found a sturdy tree with webbing around it to make the final 70ft rappel down these sweet falls to the sandy bottom. There was still plenty of rock hopping & down climbing past a few more drops & small falls before reaching the highway and a popular small climbing wall known as Left Hand Wall. We dropped our gear while briefly watching the climbers before crossing the highway to our lower vehicle and driving back up to the Prison Camp TH. Yet another amazing short & sweet winter canyon in the lower Catalinas! :D
Soldier Trail #706
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The brittlebush have laid siege to the Catalinas! Catalina highway and the trail are both lined with brittlebush and Apache plume. The poppies, chicory, bee balm, and globe mallow were all at it, as well. I hadn't been to Soldier in a while, but it doesn't look like they have made any progress with the phone poles they left up there a couple years back (I was hoping their presence meant maintenance was imminent). Speaking of maintenance, it looks like someone stumbled hisher way up the trail at a pace heshe couldn't handle and kicked a ton of rock and soil loose all over the first mile of the trail. It made for fun foot placement decision making while headed uphill, for sure. On a lighter note, there was quite a bit of water back in Soldier Canyon and the waterfall down in the head of the canyon was going strong. Also present was a neat little creek carving its way through the sand there where the trail meets the stream course, which I have never seen back there in the past (kinda neat). I got a few shots of the flowers and the scenery, but I'm working with a new camera so bear with me...
Soldier Trail #706
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Although the hike description says its 2.6 miles one way, the signs at the trails say its actually 3.2 from the lower trailhead to the upper trailhead. Started at the upper trailhead this time and worked my way down to where the trail intersects the creek.

Followed the creek and explored the area I discovered last time, then wandered farther down and came to a small waterfall that I could not climb down. Looked around and noticed a small opening in the rock and was able to look down to the bottom about 15 feet below. Found a second larger opening just above the first that had a section of rope lying next to it. Traced the rope to its source to find out it wasn't tied to anything but was actually wedged in-between some rocks. Gave it a few hard tugs to reassure myself it would support my weight, and lowered myself through the larger opening. Explored this new lower section for a short time only to discover that you reach another steep section of rock that you would need another section of rope to drop down, or would have to retrace your steps to the top and find an alternative way down.

The climb back out is more challenging than the way down, I ended up climbing up to the narrow opening and wriggling my way out. The problem with getting yourself out is not so much the size of the hole, but the angle at which you approach it at which makes straighten out your body and climbing out of the hole a little challenging.
Soldier Trail #706
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Before I even had a chance to start the hike I spotted a desert tortoise near the trailhead that was attempting to walk across the highway. Given his rate of speed, and the amount of traffic returning from mt lemmon on a saturday evening, I figured he wouldn't make it and that I had to intervene, so I carefully moved him off the road.
Didn't quite make it all the way to the Prison camp due to my late start, and i wasnt prepared to find my way back in the dark. Trail is very similair to the nearby Babad Do'ag trail. My only suggestion is when you get to the part where the trail passes the stream, you can head down the stream and it enters a narrow section of rock and then drops down into the canyon.

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
Upper trailhead - Drive up the Catalina Highway to the turnoff into the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site (Old Prison Camp) beyond milepost 7. Turn left and follow the road to a closed gate that marks the trailhead.

Lower trailhead - This trailhead is located on the north side of the Catalina Highway about a mile from the bottom of the mountain.
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