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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina, AZ

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Guide 79 Triplogs  2 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.6 of 5 by 15
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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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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
12  2016-10-20
Aspen / Marshall Loop
2  2016-07-24 fricknaley
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  6:08am - 6:27pm
Official Route
15 Alternative
Flora Nearby
Culture Nearby
Pleasant Trail Along a Canyon
by Red Rover

Likely In-Season!
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.

Most recent of 18 deeper Triplog Reviews
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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This is a fun little area and was a perfect hike and hangout to get some quality time with the pups after an April full of dog watchers and the Grand Canyon.

Perfect temps and a pleasant hike on the way to the pools in the morning. We did run into one couple at the swim hole, but they left shortly after and we had the place to ourselves all day. We swam, enjoyed a couple of adult beverages and chilled at the little oasis for several hours (I have the sun burn to prove it). Lemon, like everywhere else in the state could use some rain. However, there was no shortage of water along the Wilderness of Rocks Trail and along Marshall Gulch to the Sunset, which was perfect for the pups on the hike out, as it was a little warm at times in the direct sunlight. I think this could be a fun area after a little rain.

Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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Sunset-Aspen-Marshall Loop
My son, visiting from Boston, wanted a Tucson fix. So it was lunch at El Guero Canelo and (for him only) a watermelon Eegee's.

Then up Mt. Lemmon for some cooler temps and exercise. I borrowed DarthStiller's idea to combine the Sunset Trail and Aspen/Marshall Loop and it was a good choice. No parking problems at Sunset Trailhead and we avoided the zoo at Marshall Gulch.

The trails themselves are enjoyable and scenic and were very uncrowded. Mt. Lemmon delivered with 74deg temps though the uphills were still plenty sweaty for the sweaty guys.

After the hike we headed to the Summerhaven General Store for ice cream and it started sprinkling. By the time we passed our trailhead on the way out it was pouring and continued pouring down the mountain and til we left north Tucson. Nice to finally see some rain...can't wait for some at my house in Phoenix.
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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Sunset Rumble
went for a big run up on lemmon. got my pumpkin handed to me on call yesterday so i wasn't expecting much but i figured i'd go to my happy place and see what happens.

route: sunset-marshall gulch-aspen to radio ridge-aspen-sunset-drainage trail and bear wallow to the FSRs up to Little Bigs (my name for it) and back.

sunset: wide open and no issues, other than awesome views
marshall gulch: wide open, no issues. there is some water currently
upper aspen to radio ridge: counted about 10 downed trees a couple of which are a nuisance to get over due to where they fell
lower aspen from saddle to marshall TH: counted about 10 more downed trees, one or two were nuisance.

good weather with a helpful breeze. happy with the effort given the low gas tank heading into it
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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Logging this as the Spencer Trail, but mostly hiked up Bear Wallow Canyon on the social trail, and then on Bear Wallow Road out to a viewpoint. Beautiful fir forest and a rather nice trail. Hiked this one a couple of years ago, too. Overcast, breezy, and chilly: felt great! Met a couple of mushroom enthusiasts, and there were plenty for them to choose from. We picked a few oyster mushrooms to try at home. Hopefully that's what they actually are.
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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pretty big run up high. super humid. A lot of excellent trail work has recently been done on the upper aspen trail and its in great shape! one of my better efforts up radio ridge. came back then ran up to one of the summits off bigelow fsr that i rather like.

in theory i would have liked to add a couple miles but since i was post call, i figured shut up and be happy with this :lol:
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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Bigelow-Aspen/Marshall thing
started at sunset trailhead. ran the creek trail through the culvert and then combination of bear wallow trails and FSRs to loop the summit of bigelow. came back, then took sunset trail out to marshall gulch, back on aspen and sunset.

rains have really livened things up! super humid but much cooler than my last couple of furnace death marches up there.

felt good today :)
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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RIP to the King
monsoon like day up there with yesterdays rain breathing some life into the mountains. having a hard time getting my summer mountain lungs this year.

everything was going as expected and i looked forward to circling around on the meadow trail, one of my favorites. coming down the slopes i was absolutely horrified to see my favorite tree on earth, the mighty douglas fir of the meadow trail, had fallen over the winter. stopped and paid my condolences. forgive me for lamenting a tree, but good people of HAZ, if anyone understands you guys do, the attachment we develop to the rocks, trees, vistas of the places we love. to me, this mighty tree was the gentle king of the catalinas. RIP big guy. you will be missed.

saw BadBern and Floridasunshine on the way back, stopped and chatted for a minute. that was a nice surprise
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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big one today. up bigelow to the summit. then bigelow/bear wallow FSRs to sunset. took that to marshall gulch and then aspen up to summit of radio ridge then came back the same way and hit bigelow again. great weather. one storm looked ugly towards the end but luckily blew through. the wildflowers on the upper aspen trail are insane!

did better with nutrition and hydration this time :)

the last descent off the summit of bigelow was crazy painful :lol:
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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My second day on the mountain and "I'm felling much better now" ;) . I had a great recovery nap last night, and had no plan as of 08:00, so I grabbed the laptop, headed to Ski Valley and used my phone to pipe in a track. I knew I was limited in several ways, but picked the best route for my general needs. Great Choice! I'm not gonna go into detail here, but this trek was the conception of a "Peak of Summer", Mega-Loop, in the the upper-front range of the Cat's. The high elevation diversity along this route cannot be matched. I plan to refine this into a Description, where I'll be much more specific in the transitions (soon to come)...
Incredible day in the high of the low country. :y:
Sunset Trail #90 - Catalina
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went for a great run up high this morning. figure 8 lasso loop using sunset/marshall gluch/aspen/radio ridge/meadow/mt lemmon/aspen and back home on sunset.

great temps. lot of shade and clouds. very very humid. tons of flowers. the meadow is looking wonderful right now.

felt good on this one :)

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
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.
3 pack - loud whistle
go prepared
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