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Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail, AZ

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Guide 67 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson NW
3.8 of 5 by 27
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 13.65 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,900 feet
Elevation Gain 4,337 feet
Accumulated Gain 4,550 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 8 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 36.4
Interest Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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11  2019-04-06 LindaAnn
5  2019-01-12
Mount Kimball - Pima Canyon Traverse
7  2017-06-04 JuanJaimeiii
5  2017-03-25 LindaAnn
15  2017-03-19 DarthStiller
11  2016-09-10 JuanJaimeiii
4  2015-10-14 friendofThunderg
6  2015-10-14 JuanJaimeiii
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
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  6:09am - 6:27pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Diverse and challenging
by Wildcat04

The last stretch of the Pima Canyon Trail is far and away the steepest and most brutal of footpaths in the front range of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Although the first 3.2 miles are nothing more than a walk for most, the final 4 miles to Mount Kimball are unrelenting and unforgiving.

Beginning in the desert scrub at the base of the Catalinas, the Pima Canyon Trail leaves the parking lot (2,900 feet) and travels gently uphill for a short distance. Saguaros are abundant on the hillside, and in warmer months, may have flowers in bloom. Turning back to the southwest reveals gorgeous views of West Tucson, providing an excellent opportunity for photos. Shortly thereafter, the trail drops down into Pima Canyon, and winds across a drainage numerous times as the vegetation occasionally transitions into riparian (streamside) habitat. After three miles of hiking, you will arrive at the Pima Canyon Dam (3,700 feet), where two small, bowl-shaped depressions in a large slab of rock signify the imprints of the Hohokam Indians, whose women used the rock to grind mesquite beans over 1,000 years ago.

A steep and rocky climb awaits you after the dam. The trail ascends continually through dry grassland for about two miles before reaching Pima Canyon Spring, which will most likely be an adequate source of water during most of the year. Around the spring, there are several nice camping spots, and some small pines provide a break in the shade. In the upper parts of this section, the canyon is narrow and the walls are very close to each other. The remaining 1.9 miles after the spring climb from an elevation of about 5,550 feet at the spring to 7,255 feet at Mount Kimball; therefore, you should be well-conditioned and experienced if you are to continue. The first part of this section traverses an open hillside, yielding incredible views of Tucson and the lower part of Pima Canyon, where you just were a few hours ago. Climbing to Kimball actually doesn't seem possible at this point, but with plenty of water and numerous rest stops, you should be just fine.

As always, summitting Mount Kimball is well worth it. The tall pines are a welcome sight after a long, exhausting, 7.1-mile hike. The actual high point of Kimball is not the most spectacular, though; walk as far as possible on the trail until it reaches a rock outcropping overlooking the "other side" of the Catalinas. The sight of looking down onto Interstate 10 and Biosphere 2, and the views of Mount Lemmon and Cathedral Rock, are sure to be the among the most memorable impressions of any trail you've ever hiked in the state of Arizona. To return to the trailhead, just hike back the way you came.

On a personal note, this trail is a favorite of mine for three reasons: 1) It provides a formidable physical challenge; 2) One is able to cross several different life zones in a relatively short amount of time; and 3) It's another way to get up to Mount Kimball, which is never disappointing in the way of scenery. I would recommend hiking this trail during the spring or autumn months, so that one will avoid heatstroke down low and lighting strikes up high during the summertime, and icy or snowy conditions during the wintertime. I have been on top of Mount Kimball in all conditions, and believe you me, it is very subject to harsh conditions given its exposure to the elements of nature.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

This is a difficult hike. It would be insane to attempt this entire hike 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
Though the stream in Pima Canyon is dry for most of the year, it supports a desert riparian habitat located conveniently close to the Tucson metropolitan area. Unfortunately, that accessibility has resulted in significant overuse of this beautiful and fragile area, especially during the winter, its season of highest use. From the trailhead, located among suburban ranchos, the trail ascends a V-shaped notch carved along the south face of Pusch Ridge. Views down the canyon get better as you climb, encompassing the city of Tucson as well as distant mountains and valleys.

The riparian area on the floor of the canyon provides excellent bird watching for a wide variety of resident and migratory species that make use of this most productive of all desert habitat types. Other desert creatures you may encounter in this area include javelina and jackrabbits, but the real viewing prize of Pima Canyon and the entire Pusch Ridge area are the desert bighorn sheep that maintain a surefooted existence here among rocky crags and rugged canyons.

Beyond Pima Spring, the trail becomes steeper and harder to follow as it continues to climb to the upper slopes of Mt. Kimball. Incentives for persevering here are good views of Window Rock and Cathedral Rock. Trail #62 ends at its junction with the Finger Rock Trail #42.

Riparian forest
Canyon hike
Craggy peaks
Tucson views
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 25 deeper Triplog Reviews
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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Mt. Kimball and the Window via Ventana
Nice day for trail running with Ryan, Kent, and Kevin. We originally planned to make this a loop by starting at Sabino Canyon parking lot, road running to Ventana TH, up to Mt. Kimball and the Window, and then back down to Sabino via Esperero. However, Ryan told me the wrong start time, so I was about 30 minutes behind the guys and had to cut off the road running section.

I met up with them at the Ventana TH at 6:30, just as the sun started to slowly light up the sky. The sunrise looking back out of Ventana Canyon was pretty amazing. Ventana trail is runnable for the first couple miles, and then starts to steadily climb to the trail junction for the Window to the right and Mt. Kimball to the left. We wanted to bag Kimball first, so we headed left on a somewhat overgrown, but generally well-maintained, trail. Kent took us off trail at least five times before everyone agreed that I needed to lead. The climb up Kimball was quite steep with only a couple short runnable sections. The views from the top of Kimball were outstanding. You can see everything up there: the Biosphere, top of Lemmon, Tucson, Oracle, etc. We only ran into one other person all morning and had the peak to ourselves.

We headed back down to the junction of Pima Canyon/The Window via Ventana. While on the top of Kimball, Ryan and I told the guys that we were just going to run straight back to the parking lot, but the allure of seeing The Window (which I had never been to) was a little too great for me to pass up. We all decided to go for it, and I'm so happy we did. It was only a mile or so up to The Window, but very steep. The Window was way cooler than I expected! Gorgeous views on both sides. We took a nice break and tons of photos before heading down. Kent stuck with the original plan of completing the loop via Esperero, while the rest of us headed right back down Ventana. Like always, the last few miles seemed to drag on, especially with the temps rising and more people on the trail.
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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Daniela and I wanted something with decent mileage and good aeg. We debated between Kimball and Wrightson since last week and finally decided on Kimball. There were a handful of people within the first mile of the trailhead, but we only saw two people after that. We took our time heading up, taking one snack break along the way. For some reason, I had it in my head that we would go all the way up to Pima Saddle. We had actually turned at the correct spot, then I doubted myself; we turned around and went up to the saddle, where I realized that I had originally been on the correct route. Oops. Nice waste of 35 minutes. I joked to Daniela that I wanted to make sure went go over 5000' for the day. Once at the summit, we had lunch, took some pictures, and then headed back down. It was an uneventful trip back down, but seemed to last forever. I greatly preferred going uphill on this one rather than down. Nice weather today, never really too warm, and the breeze helped.

Nice variety of flowers, especially on the lower half.
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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Every once in a while I invade Frick's stomping ground. It's not the Superstitions but I guess it's okay. :lol: Chris scheduled this hike a few weeks out so the forecast heat was not on the original plan. I took 4 quarts and made that last the entire trip but an extra quart would have been nice. The hike up was mostly shaded and the air was cooler at the top but the heat was real on the hike down. There were several other hikers in Pima Canyon but once we were above the small dam the trail was empty. The trail was fairly obvious but there areas where we had to back track to a missed turn. The hike is a tough one and would be better to do without the heat. The plus side for me is that the off trail I did last week was much worse (steeper, loose and choked) so it was an improvement. :D I forgot both my camera and GPS on this hike. On these early starts my body is awake but my brain is stilling sleeping.
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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I have a lot of vacation time so I took Friday off and met up with Kyle for a quick day trip to Tucson. We met at Bestbuy at 6:30am off Ray Rd & I-10 and made the drive to the Pima Canyon Trailhead. The drive went by quickly & we were hiking by 8am.

The first couple of miles are easy going & we made good time. We passed a cluster of eight people about 2.5 miles in. We continued on and noticed the grade steepened. Our pace slowed & we plugged away. Views down Pima Canyon are spectacular & the Pusch Ridge looks gnarly! The final two miles to the summit are a real grind & more effort than I anticipated. We topped out around noon & took our lunch break. We admired the views of Mount Lemmon to the east & Tanque Verde Peak & Rincon to southeast.

After lunch we started the descent & made good time. We carefully worked our way down any loose sections & took a break at the dam to soak bandanas & check our water. We were cutting it close but were fine. The last two miles flew by & we knew we were close as we saw more people. We arrived back to the jeep around 3:30pm & made the drive back to Phoenix.

Kimball is a solid summit with fantastic views! I'm glad we finally made the trip it was definitely worth it. I'd like to summit via the Finger Rock trail another time.
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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Did a few warmup miles on the Pontatoc trails, then headed up Finger Rock for the main event. Relentless climb to great views on Kimball. Trails are in good condition with the exception of Pima Canyon between about the 6200' and 5200' elevations where the route drops into a very steep, loose narrow gully with minimal cairns.

Only a few thin patches of snow up high in shaded areas. Finger Rock Canyon is essentially dry. Surprising how much greener Pima Canyon is - seeps in the upper elevations increasing to good flow in the lower canyon.

Bike shuttled between the trailheads.
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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My first time hiking Pima Canyon and Mount Kimball. Pretty area. Trail is in good shape. It could use some trimming, but just nuisance branches. Nothing serious.

When we left Chandler it was cool, overcast and sprinkling rain. By the time we got halfway to Tucson the clouds were gone and sunny skies prevailed. We didn't get started hiking until almost 930 AM. It was already about 90 degrees. A warm hike up. The last couple miles up it cooled off with a nice breeze. We saw Jim H on the summit and chatted for a few minutes before departing.

The trek down was a bit toasty. I haven't had a chance to acclimate to the heat and I felt it. Overall a good hike. I probably won't do this one again midday in June. An early start would have improved conditions dramtically I'm sure.

We stopped for tacos then cherry dipped cones after. Excellent trip. Thanks for driving John! :)
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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I have not done Pima Canyon to Kimball since 2013. It is a really beautiful hike, and I wonder if part of the reason I had not done this since was the trail's need for maintenance. Downed trees I remember being in place on my first hike here in 2012 are still laying over the trail, and new slides and rock falls from the heavy rains over the last year have had an affect as well. Plus, it's a hard hike!

Seems most who hike Kimball come from Finger Rock, logically, but this is so much nicer for the scenery, views, and wildlife sounds. I love the upper trail parts, too. Pima has a lot more water in it, and the upper cliffs are so nice to walk among. Too bad it takes as long as it does to get to them, but that is part of what makes it so nice. Still hard to believe that just over a rock ridge is Oro Valley, urban sprawl, and noise. Well, until to you accidentally take a social trail to a ridge and see and hear it! Oh, any very steep south facing slopes with trails are probably wrong and not the trail. Grass over grew a lot of the trail during the last 2 heavy monsoons, so it isn't always obvious.

I started late becuase I had things to do. I was still tired from Kimball on Friday, moved slowly and developed a nice large blister on my right 2nd toe. Hopefully, that won't hold me back, but I think a hike this big and hard was too much to jump to in Sandals. I probably need more Blackett's Ridge, or similar, hikes. I was on the summit just before and after 4 PM, and hiked down and out by 8:30, but not before I scared a solo female backpacker below the grinding stone area, and then moved super slowly back to my car with all manner of physical pain in the lower body. I constantly remind myself of a few things. First, I have had this issue every spring over the last few years when I visited Tucson and hiked 4000'+ hikes, and I have had worse at times. What is new is related to the Sandals, but that was a choice. I just seem to be able to maintain a fitness level for 2000' hikes with ease, but 4000'+ is either not natural for me, or is beyond what my body wants to maintain.
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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Met up with Dave at Pima Canyon trailhead, shuttled over to Ventana trailhead, then set off under sunny, chilly skies. I had forgotten how beautiful Ventana Canyon was. Window Peak and banded cliff walls framed the greenery perfectly. Maiden pools called to me, but in this cold, I knew better.

Turning onto the path less traveled, upper Finger Rock Trail was slower going as we moved from cairn to cairn, and we had to search for the route a few times. The forest on this stretch was quite nice, and so were the views down Ventana Canyon. I battled the eye gouging, hat-thieving branches overhanging the trail along the way with my aluminum yeti-wand as best I could, and added a few cairns.

Clouds had arrived in full force and the temperature had dropped significantly by the time we reached the south shoulder of Mount Kimball. A bearded gentleman suddenly emerged from the trees, whom we talked with briefly before he vanished like a ghost. This was the third and final person we would see all day. "Snowflakes? Cool!" A bit more climbing brought us to Kimball's summit, where Dave and I took a lunch break and watched misty white snow curtains tease the slopes of the Catalinas.

The temperature dropped into the upper thirties as we began our descent on the wonderfully woodsy upper Pima Canyon Trail, under a dark, gloomy sky. Nearing Pima Saddle, our route entered a forbidding gathering of cliffs and rocky peaks. I admired the route finding skills of the original trail builders as we dropped through them. Below Pima Spring, we left the biting cold, and I enacted savage vengeance upon a catclaw mimosa bush that I had become tangled in.

We made great time during the last few miles as the terrain eased, passing the access canyon for Table Mountain and its thorny guard hedge of catclaw along the way. A few misty sprinkles and a cold wind came rolling over, but the weather held. Pima Trailhead was pretty quiet when we arrived, tired and satisfied after a full day of fun on mighty Pusch Ridge.

I had a great time as always, Dave. Thanks for a fun trip! :)
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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GREAT trip. After overworking for the last month trying to catch up from the holidays, I played hooky today and enjoyed the Catalinas. It didn't disappoint! Preston & I decided to do a traverse that few if any have reportedly done...going up Ventana Canyon, down Pima Canyon.

We left Ventana Canyon TH at 8:45am. As we hiked up the lower 1/2 of Ventana, I have to say this was the most BEAUTIFUL canyon I can recall in the Catalinas. I loved it! It kind of encloses around you...reminded me of LaBarge Box in the Supes. As we went further up Ventana, I was surprised to see all the buffelgrass. There is a good section of trail maybe 1/3 of the way up Ventana that is just taken over with the stuff! Unfortunate. But man, some nice views as we ascended!

When we turned off Ventana onto Finger Rock, we were surprised at how poorly maintained this section of trail was from there to where it connects with Pima Canyon's northern end. The trail is there, and it's not as bad as the section of Sutherland Trail up around 7000 feet, but it's really not in great shape. Once we hit the end of the Pima Canyon Trail where the Finger Rock Trail takes off down the canyon, then we were fine.

SURPRISE of the day ... once we reached about 7,000 feet and closing in on Kimball, snow flurries started falling. The temps were just above freezing. We also hit more snow flurries near the top of Pima Canyon, once we had reached the area where we could start descending into the canyon itself. Thankfully we never hit any real was raining all around as we could see from our (incredible!) views, but we stayed pretty dry.

We made it to the top of Kimball from Ventana TH in about 5 hours (I was putzing a bit :sweat: ), but we made it down Pima from the top in just over 3 hours. Finished up a little before 5:30pm.

Preston ... thanks for the great trip, and the great company! Sorry I was too full this morning to down the Gatorade, but thanks a bunch for offering!!!

NOTE HAZ READERS, LOST & FOUND -- we found a pedometer today that had been yanked off someone's stuff by a tree branch. With the rain coming, we knew that if we left it, it would be toast. If it's yours, PM me!
Mount Kimball via Pima Canyon Trail
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The alarm went off at 4:30, but I just couldn't get vertical. By 7:30 I was on my feet, but still asleep. Shortly after 9 I awoke on the trail, already sweating and thinking I should get back to bed.

My original goal was to do the entire Pima trail at a relaxing pace. Now, 3 hours behind and groggy, I resolved to just do what I could do. I averaged a whopping 1.4 mph on the way up, taking countless, minute long breathers. That section from the spring to the pass nearly killed me. After a real break of a half an hour on Kimball, the time had come to turn back. I can't believe I made it to the peak. Just wasn't feelin it today. The trip back went better at a touch over 2 mph, making it back just before sunset.

There's a decent amount of water in the lower half of the canyon, but from Pima Spring to Kimball Peak I saw none.

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Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Iris O. Dewhirst Trailhead
Drive north from Tucson on the Oracle Road (US 89). Turn east on Magee Road and drive to the parking area and trailhead at road's end.


From Tucson, drive north on Campbell Avenue until you reach Skyline Drive. Turn left on Skyline, which will eventually become Ina Road. Continue on Ina Road until you reach Christie Drive. Follow Christie Drive north until it dead-ends at Magee Road. Turn right on Magee and follow it until you arrive at the Iris O. Dewhirst Trailhead on your right.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 110 mi - about 1 hour 44 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 9.6 mi - about 19 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 253 mi - about 3 hours 50 mins
1 TB Flash Drive... $40
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