Pleasant Trail Along a Canyon
by Red Rover
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.
2005-10-13 Red Rover