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Palisade Trail #99, AZ

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Guide 22 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.9 of 5 by 9
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 6.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,125 feet
Elevation Gain 3,700 feet
Avg Time One Way 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 18.53
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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17  2018-01-19 rvcarter
17  2014-10-26
Prison Camp to Palisades
4  2014-04-04 rvcarter
32  2013-09-17
Palisades to Sabino Visitors Center
61  2012-09-23
Pine Canyon - Catalinas
12  2011-09-17 hexclimber
23  2011-08-10 sirena
11  2010-09-18
Palisades Canyon
Page 1,  2
Author HAZ_Hikebot
author avatar Guides 16,882
Routes 16,052
Photos 24
Trips 1 map ( 6 miles )
Age 22 Male Gender
Location TrailDEX, HAZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, Oct, May, Mar → Early
Seasons   Late Spring to Early Autumn
Sun  6:06am - 6:31pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Saguaros to Pines
by HAZ_Hikebot

You'll enjoy good views and get a tour of most of the biological life zones which grace the slopes of the Santa Catalinas along this moderate to more difficult trail. From its upper terminus at Showers Point Group Campground, Palisade Trail starts out through stands of old-growth ponderosa pine and drops down the ridge which separates Palisade and Pine canyons. Upper sections of the trail are shaded and carpeted with pine needles. Views through the trees extend into both canyons and to the Sabino Basin below. In the distance, the city of Tucson spreads across the broad Tucson Basin.

Mud Springs is the only reliable water source along the Palisade Trail and, after dropping into Pine Canyon to visit it, the trail sidehills back to the ridge to treat you to expansive views of Pine Canyon, parts of the central canyons of the Santa Catalinas and the Front Range. Below Mud Springs, the trail drops into lower Pine Canyon down a two-mile series of steep but solid switchbacks which tend to be brushy and rocky for much of their length. The trail can be hard to find in this area. Watch for rock cairns -- a cairn is a small stack of rocks -- to guide you.

From trail's end at the junction with the East Fork Trail #24A, you can either return the way you came, or turn left to the Bear Canyon Trail #29, or turn right to the Sabino Canyon Trail #23 which leads to trailheads in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

Attractions: A trail full of views, mountains to desert diversity, access to Sabino Basin, wildlife, and a segment of the Arizona Trail!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2008-02-27 HAZ_Hikebot
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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
Palisade Trail #99
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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.
Palisade Trail #99
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Nice morning. Started early (5:40am). Lot of monsoon activity going around, but except for a little sprinkle when hiking between Palisade Trail & Bigelow Trail, I was dry all morning.

Started at the Palisade Trailhead, hiked down to East Fork Trail and back up. Then hiked Organization Ridge Road to the Bigelow Trailhead and looked around up top there before heading back. Pretty quiet on Palisade, only 1 couple all morning. Bigelow had quite a bit more.
Palisade Trail #99
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Mt Bigelow from Sabino Canyon
Bigey Bigey Bigey can't you see, sometimes your towers just hypnotize me

been wanting to do this for a while and today seemed as good as any. made pretty good time all day. breeze up top was very pleasant. the birds were a'singing all day :)
Palisade Trail #99
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Great outing today on Palisades #99 from Prison Camp. Did a key exchange with my buds Frank, Mike, Sharon, Maureen, Bob, Beaver and Stan. First time on Palisades; the trail is very good with outstanding views. If you haven't done this trail, it's not that difficult, although tiring, and is well marked and easy to follow. Plenty of water at Mud Springs. Will try to post some pics.
Palisade Trail #99
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Pretty much as described. When you reach Mudd Spring there is a large down tree blocking the trail. Over or under neither is exactly "convenient", but if you proceed you'll likely have the rest of the trail to yourself. The trail stays more or less level and relatively easy to follow for the next "while", but as you begin downslope into the East Fork drainage it becomes progressively brushier (grassy actually) and harder to discern. That said, it's still very "do-able", but pay close attention (not easily accomplished with such great views in every direction...!). As advertised, there are cairns, but not always where most needed. Still, we only lost the trail briefly on two occasions. If you do lose it entirely it could prove labyrinthine picking your way through the various minor cliff bands. Gaiters are recommended as the grass (Love Grass, methinks) has a little needle-like seed (?) that has an affinity for socks.

We originally intended to make a loop out of this incorporating the East Fork Trail and Box Canyon, but were disappointed by not finding any water when we hit the EF (it was supposedly "the wettest September on record"...). We turned the opposite direction on the EF trail and intersected the Bear Canyon/Sycamore Canyon/East Fork saddle whereupon we descended into the Sycamore drainage and hit a magnificent (by Catalina standards) flowing stream. We rejoiced at not being forced into a dry camp (we were OUT of H2O at this juncture). We tanked up and continued on toward the Prison Camp area to spend the night. We slept soundly on solid rock at "The Marryin' Place" above the popular Prion Camp climbing area, Jailhouse Rock.

The next morning we started to repay the debt we incurred by hiking downhill all day on Saturday. Not sure exactly what the cumulative elevation gain was, but I'd be surprised if it weren't in excess of 5,000 feet. The Bug Spring trail was HOT until we descended into the lovely little riparian area that connects it to the Bear Canyon Picnic Area. From there we continued on the Green Mountain Trail to the San Pedro Overlook then by road (2.5 miles more or less) back to the Pallisades Trailhead. It was quite the tour taking in a LOT of what Lemmon has to offer.

Note: Mileages and elevations are VERY rough estimates.
Palisade Trail #99
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Left the trailhead at 6:45 am; arrived at Tram Stop 9 at 1:45 p.m.

The trail was easy to follow to Mud Spring. After that there were places that would have been very difficult to find the trail, except for the many, many cairns along the way. We didn't think this was an exceptionally pretty trail, mostly due to fire damage. Even though it's been years since the fire, you can still see dead ferns along the way...and they're usually some of the first plants to come back. But it was an interesting hike with spectacular views....for us it was a good training hike for the North Kaibab trail to be done later this spring.
Palisade Trail #99
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Went on a long hike today on the Palisades trail..a pine to saguaro trail in the Catalinas. This is a long, difficult hike that descends on the way and thus climbs like mad on the way back.

The upper stretches of this trail are both wonderful and sad. This whole route follows a major corridor the fire ascended into the Catalina highcountry. There are areas in the pine forest that were spared and they are amazing. There are also areas that were heavily burned. It seems that this trail was probably an absolute jewel before the fire.

As the trail drops down to Mud Springs a nice, active riparian habitat is great to see. The trail gets pretty fuzzy through here though. If you wonder down the creek bed or just bushwhack on the left side of the canyon it will pick back up again. After this, though at times quite faint and obviously lightly traveled you will not lose it again.

The far reaches of this trail lead you into about the most remote and isolated place you can get in the Catalinas, and this is what ultimately won me over about this hike. You see Thimble and Cathedral like never before as you head on down to Pine Canyon, where another pleasant riparian oasis awaits.

Overall this hike is worth doing for it's own rather unique reasons, plus going from pine forest to saguaro desert is kind of neat. The totals I got were about 13 miles and 3625 feet of climbing...pretty worn out at the end.

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
Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue 19 miles to Organization Ridge Road just downhill from the Palisade Visitor Information Center. Turn left here and drive a quarter mile down the Organization Ridge road to the trailhead parking area. Trailhead parking is not available in the campground. The Catalina Highway is paved and suitable for passenger cars but it may be snow-covered in winter when chains or 4-wheel drive may be required. In winter, Organization Ridge Road is closed, so you'll have to hike about a quarter mile to the trailhead.
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