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Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina, AZ

Guide 83 Triplogs  1 Active Topic
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Difficulty 1.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 3.2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,451 feet
Elevation Gain 335 feet
Accumulated Gain 372 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1.5 - 2 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 5.06
Backpack Possible & Connecting
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8  2019-10-11
AZT In A Day 2019
4  2019-06-29
Catalina Camp Trail
2  2018-06-25 fricknaley
25  2018-06-14
Butterfly Loop
5  2018-05-05
Upper Lemmon Canyon & Pools
3  2018-04-14 azbackpackr
1  2017-10-29 friendofThunderg
6  2017-07-22
Sunset-Aspen-Marshall Loop
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author Red Rover
author avatar Guides 3
Routes 0
Photos 70
Trips 18 map ( 143 miles )
Age Female Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   May, Jun, Sep, Oct → Any
Seasons   Late Spring to Autumn
Sun  5:33am - 7:25pm
Official Route
17 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2020 Bighorn Fire119.5k
🔥 2003 Aspen Fire87.7 mi*
🔥 2002 Bullock46.8 mi*
🔥 View All over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

Pleasant Trail Along a Canyon
by Red Rover

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If you only have time for a short hike on Mt Lemmon, this is a great trail. It's a pleasant, fairly easy hike from the Catalina Highway to the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area for a 3.2 mile roundtrip. You can experience the canyons, deep woods, and streams that contrast so sharply with the desert you left less than an hour before.

The trail winds through a shady, wooded area and then along side a canyon that often has water making a trickling "waterfall" far below. It's possible to climb down to sit on the boulders near the water if you're more adventurous. Along the way there are vistas into the canyon and toward Tucson. This area was only slightly burned during the fires on Mt Lemmon in 2002 and 2003, so the trail is one of the few that's attractive most of the way.

When the trail nears Marshall Gulch it becomes rocky and more uneven with big boulders and then drops steadily down into a forested creek bed. The trail crosses the creek (often dry) before reaching the parking lot at Marshall Gulch Picnic Area. There are some steep spots here, but there are several routes to try--some in the creek bed itself. The picnic grounds are in a deep forest with huge pines overhead, thus the ground is carpeted in needles. There are well scattered concrete picnic tables and restrooms, but no water. It's a cool, shady spot to relax and enjoy being in the woods. Many birds and squirrels find the area attractive, so keep your eyes open, especially high in the trees.

To make a longer hike, head up the Aspen Trail to the left before you reach the parking area. After 2.5 miles the trail intersects with the Wilderness of Rocks, Mint Sprints, and Marshall Gulch Trails. Take Marshall Gulch Trail for 1.2 miles to return to the picnic area. Part of this loop goes through some of the heaviest burn areas, however. Return to your car on Sunset Trail. Total with this extended loop is 6.9 miles.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2005-10-13 Red Rover
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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.

Permit $$
Visit this link for full details.
2021 - FAQ
$8 per vehicle per day
$10 per vehicle per week
$40 per vehicle per year (valid for one year from date of purchase)

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.

2021 Catalina State Park
Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
Individual/bicycle: $3.00

2021 Sabino Canyon Tram is $12 extra. [ website ]

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
HAZ: Take the Catalina Highway north off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue up Catalina Highway... I believe past mile marker 23. Be on the lookout for Butterfly Trailhead signs pointing to the right. Sunset Trailhead is maybe a hundred yards further on the left.

Red Rover: Catalina Highway from Tucson toward Mt Lemmon. Trailhead is marked on left near milepost 23. There's a small parking area and a marked trailhead.
90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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