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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.

Florida Canyon / Crest Trail, AZ

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Guide 28 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson S
4.1 of 5 by 7
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 15.7 miles
Trailhead Elevation 4,328 feet
Elevation Gain 5,135 feet
Accumulated Gain 5,990 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 9 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 45.65
Interest Peak
Backpack Yes & Connecting
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
6  2017-06-11 JuanJaimeiii
11  2017-04-22 friendofThunderg
7  2016-11-03 Mountain_Rat
55  2016-05-25
Florida Peak
19  2015-10-13
Old Baldy and Florida Crest Trail
12  2015-09-26
Florida Canyon to McCleary and Wrightson
11  2015-09-26 friendofThunderg
8  2015-04-17
Wrightson via Florida Cyn
Page 1,  2,  3
Author whereveriroam
author avatar Guides 8
Routes 0
Photos 48
Trips 57 map ( 501 miles )
Age 49 Male Gender
Location Apache Junction, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring to Early Winter
Sun  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
6 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
by whereveriroam

Likely In-Season!
2005 Update Since the Florida Fire in 2005, the trees are a lot less lush and the views more expansive.

For those unfamiliar with Mt. Wrightson it is the highpoint of the Santa Rita range standing at 9453'. It's located just south of Tucson and is one of SE Arizona's "sky islands". It is named after a mining superintendent who while surveying claims was killed by Apaches way back in 1865. Since there are a number of ways for hikers to reach the summit (via a network of trails) and I was going to do this trip with fellow HAZ hikers terricita10 and JW63 who like challenges, I did a little research to find the hardest route to the top. The hike I'm going to describe is definitely for sadistic hikers and I think one of the most strenuous non Grand Canyon trail hikes in the state. What makes this near 16 mile R/T so difficult is the 5100'+ elevation gain with a total accumulated gain of 5500'+!

The route we used on this trip was to hike up the lightly used Florida Canyon trail 4.7 miles to Florida Saddle, and then from the saddle we continued on the lightly used Santa Rita Crest trail 2.3 miles to the Baldy Saddle intersection, from there we continued 0.9 mile on up to the heavily visited summit. On a beautiful spring Sunday we encountered only 6 people and 2 dogs on the Florida Canyon trail, 2 people on the Crest and at least 20 on the Summit trail. Even though this is a difficult trip I do say that this entire route was in excellent shape, easy to follow and offers a good deal of shade after the first 2 or 3 miles. Since Florida Canyon is north facing then its possible if you get an early start in the morning during the summer you can beat the heat. Of course the last 2 to 3 miles will be hot on the return but they are downhill. For those of you who like wildflower hikes the word Florida in Spanish means flowered and this trail is supposed to have lots of flowers after a wet winter, we hiked this at the end of April and saw a good amount in the 1st mile or 2 but few after.

A neat thing about this hike, and is typical of these sky islands, is that you'll pass thru most of the Arizona life zones starting with the Lower Sonoran desert on the drive to the TH. To reach the signed Florida Canyon TH you'll have to drive to the Florida Work Station (a.k.a. Santa Rita Experimental Station) which is actually a research station operated by the University of Arizona, it's located in a riparian area at the base of the northern end of the Santa Rita's. This research station lays claim to being the oldest continuously run research area, dating back to 1903! The TH is located in a parking lot on your left at the end of the road and just in front of the gate to the research station.

Florida Canyon Trail

Shortly after departing from the trailhead you will come to some ruins (or junk) located along a fence line to your right, these could be from the mining days. I'm surprised that since these are next to the research station they haven't been cleaned up. This range had a lot of mining activity and according to my map there are many old mines scattered about this range that I'd like to check out someday. After passing the ruins you'll head in a southerly direction just on the east side of the main Florida Canyon drainage, passing the research station buildings that are on the opposite side of the drainage. You'll then go into the drainage for a very short time briefly crossing it twice before reaching the wilderness gate. Once thru the gate you'll gradually climb away from the main drainage up thru feeder drainage. As it turned out, to my surprise the start of this hike was the only time this hike would be IN the Florida Canyon drainage until we crossed the head of it much later on.

You'll hike up this tree lined riparian feeder until it's time to climb out and into Upper Sonoran Desert Grassland. You'll be climbing out on the eastern side of the ridge that separates the feeder from Florida Canyon. At this point the trail will get loose and gravelly and will be so for the next 2 miles. You'll encounter some switchbacks on this part, the 1st of many on this trip as you make your way up. This 2-mile stretch proved to be very painful to our knees on the long return back, bring the ibuprofen! You'll pass by an old water tank along the way that is not in operation but a short time later at 1.7 miles into the hike you'll come to another which appears to still be working. It is feed from a water pipeline that you will follow for the next 1-2 miles. There will be the 1st of many good camping spots after the 2nd water tank and from this area you'll get a great view up canyon to McCleary Peak, the headwall of Florida Canyon and the dense, healthy forest that awaits you at higher elevations. When you turn around and look you'll be able to see the Santa Catalina's (a.k.a. Mt. Lemmon) that are north of Tucson along with the town of Green Valley and the Santa Cruz Valley. A minor drawback to this hike turned out being the lack of prolonged panoramic mountain top views until you get to the Baldy Saddle area.

From the water tank you will continue hiking up in a southerly direction (which is the general direction this entire trip heads) passing an old mine site. Not much is left besides a cabin foundation and a piece of plate steel that probably covers a hole. If you look carefully in this area an overgrown trail goes off on your left and that leads to the old mine. Up to about the mine site you had been hiking in heavily vegetated desert grassland which consisted of a mixture of; mesquite, manzanita, oaks, pinyon, junipers, catclaw as well as prickly pear, ocotillo, soap tree yucca, agave, staghorn and hedgehog cactus plus many others I don't know the names of yet. Around the mine you'll have passed into the cooler Evergreen Woodland life zone that is also considered to be part of the Upper Sonoran zone. This level of the Upper Sonoran zone consists mainly of larger oaks, pinyon, junipers, and manzanita. Interestingly the Upper Sonoran zone classification consists of 5 levels of vegetation mix found around the state, not all will be found together. After the mine, the trail heads west briefly and switchbacks up onto another ridge, then it'll gradually ascend this ridge offering a closer view of McCleary Peak. This will last maybe a mile and will level off as you enter the Transition life zone that will consist mostly of Ponderosa pine but some Douglas Firs, Arizona and Apache Pines will be mixed in. Shortly after entering the pines the trail will soften up into dirt and pine needles and you'll then descend briefly to Florida Spring. The spring is dry and is the head of Florida Canyon, believe it or not. It doesn't appear what the head of a canyon should look like; more like a small drainage. There's a real nice campsite in this area and the pipe that you've been following on and off after 1st seeing it at the 2nd water tank disappears here. From here it's UP! You'll climb a bunch of big switchbacks over the course of a mile to Florida Saddle gaining about 1000' for a total of 3500' from the TH. It's not as bad as it sounds since this whole part is under a thick canopy of pines and some trees are REALLY old. If I recall correctly it was during this part of the hike that we entered the Canadian (Lower Boreal) life zone as Douglas Firs and Arizona Pines become more numerous. The forest at least to my eyes looks pretty healthy here with not much downfall except in a few small areas and the trees aren't growing to close to one another.

Santa Rita Crest

Once at the saddle you come to a major JCT. You'll want to head SW toward Armour Spring here. This saddle is another excellent campsite and would be pretty protected during a lightning storm. It's a short but aggressive climb after the saddle of maybe 400' in .3 miles to the signed Armour spring turnoff and another great campsite. We didn't check out the spring but supposedly it's your best chance of getting water prior to the springs beneath Baldy Saddle, but it is unreliable. From the signed turnoff it's .4 miles one way to the spring.

During the 2 mile hike to Baldy Saddle from the spring turnoff, you'll basically hike along the eastern sloped side of the backbone of the Santa Rita's gaining 1000'+. There will be no exposure along this stretch. Besides the pines there will be a good amount of some kind of shrubby bush I don't know the name of. You'll get occasional views of the ranges to the north and east that there will be a much better view of later from the top of Wrightson. The nearest ranges are: Whetstone, Rincon, Patagonia and Mustang, with a handful more in the distance. You'll pass thru a saddle about 1/2 way thru this leg that got burned in 1993 by a lightning caused fire with a bit of downfall to crawl over here. Rocky Mt. Ian at 9188' will be just above you to your south. This saddle must have been a good place to camp before the fire but I'd be reluctant to use it now since it's exposed. Here there will be a good view to the west and you can see Baboquivara Peak. After you pass thru the burn area you'll again be on the eastern side of the range and come to a point where you'll drop down 100'-150' and have to regain it back in no time but that is minor compared to the 375' drop down to 9040' Baldy Saddle which you'll come to shortly. Once you see Mt. Wrightson you'll begin the drop along a real rocky and bushy portion of trail to the saddle.

Baldy Saddle to Peak

Once in the saddle your almost there! It's less than a mile to the top with only 400'+ to climb back up. You'll run into people here who did it the "easy way" which still requires climbing 4000' from Madera Canyon. For info on the rest of the trip read other HAZ member trip reports on Wrightson via Old Baldy Trail. I'd personally like to ask if anyone finds any errors in my identification of plants/trees and/or life zones please send me a message, I'd like to know.

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.

Gate Policy: If a gate is closed upon arrival, leave it closed after you go through. If it is open, leave it open. Leaving a closed gate open may put cattle in danger. Closing an open gate may cut them off from water. Please be respectful, leave gates as found.

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2004-05-07 whereveriroam
    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
    Florida Canyon / Crest Trail
    rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
    Mount Wrightson via Florida Canyon
    Knocking another one off the wishlist. Seriously great hike. I gotta' come back to the Santa Ritas soon.

    I started just after 6am. Really enjoyed the second half of Florida Canyon. The singing birds, greenery, and what's left of the canopy were really serene in the morning - all somewhat conflicting during that last, unrelenting mile before the saddle. Right around this time I started to feel some discomfort in one of my adductors. I didn't stretch very well before the hike. oops.

    At Florida Saddle, I took a break and considered turning back. That's when my stubbornness assured me it was only 3 more miles to the peak. Trying to ease the pain kept me pretty distracted along Crest Trail. Very cool to turn that last corner and see Wrightson in all its glory. It took me about 5 hours to reach the top. I headed down after 30 minutes of views, food, and expired aspirin from 2012.

    Walking downhill wasn't too bad at first, then came the uphills on Crest. By the time I returned to Florida Saddle, the pain had begun harassing my knee. I dropped back into Florida Canyon to finish off the remaining 4 miles. I was happy to have trekking poles during the last one.

    For those of you that are aware of the dead horse, it's a rough 200ft. The wind blew the stench at me on the way up and down. :sk: The only solace is that it's signed ahead of time regardless of your direction.
    Florida Canyon / Crest Trail
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Yesterday, I suffered a very mild heat stress, so today I would take no chances and would re-gear for the heat; big ol' hat, 3 liter Camel, spare 3 liter Camel, 1+ liters in bottles, tossed the survival kit out of my pack and was ready to rip.

    I met up with Roy at 7:45 and we departed. We hit the trail at around 9:00 as I recall and began our upward march. Only a short way in, a mist began to fall, then subside, then repeat... The atmosphere was extremely pleasant and the lighting was perfect for enjoying the views. And what views they are. We had the perfect conditions all the way to the top, or I should say almost to the top :/ Just after Armour Spring, we were so focused on the ground and finding the trail, that we failed to notice the squall that had developed over head. Then with only a few seconds notice, it hit! We quickly dropped pack and geared up for rain, and with the peak only a few hundred yards ahead of us, we stupidly trudged on :? At the peak, it was more wind than rain, so we took a quick photo-op and signed the register before making a hasty retreat. Upon our departure, the rain:wind ratio inverted, then the whole thing just went ^2. I can't speak for Roy, but as for my self, fear was keeping me warm and vertical(or seemingly so). It wasn't until Armour Spring, that the weather gave in and we could assess our situation and it was far less than we had hoped or planned for. ...But aside from that; soaked, cold, numb, hungry, tired and giggling like a couple of drunk teenagers, we made our way back to the TH.

    That was one wild ride!!!

    Thanks Roy for the adventure and for driving down. I'll see you on Friday...
    Florida Canyon / Crest Trail
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    I headed back to Wrightson with JJ for the second time this month. We decided on another approach this time. I was not as spry as usual today and was beat several times by the climb.

    McCleary was fun. I got a little off-trail on the way back and regretted it a bit, but the route is generally easy to follow with careful attention. There was water everywhere and nearly perfect temps. Blanco tore it up as usual and we got tacos on the way home.

    I like that Wrightson area. I already have a few more hikes on the mind for that area.
    Florida Canyon / Crest Trail
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Mt Wrightson via Florida Canyon
    Mount Wrightson was calling and I have some vacation to burn. I decided to take Friday off and I easily convinced Kyle to join me. The plan was to hike up Florida Canyon and then over the Crest Trail and on to the summit. We’re doing this as an out and back. We were looking at a big AEG day of roughly 6,000ft.

    Kyle and I met at Ray Road and the I-10 around 6:45am and made the drive down and started hiking around 9am. The first mile is fairly mild as you steadily gain elevation. The grade is consistent and rarely lets up all the way to the summit. We put our heads down as we proceeded up the trail and took breaks when needed. There were a few patches of water but it wasn’t consistent. The Florida Canyon Trail is in really good condition with some dead fall starting a couple of miles in.

    With much effort we hit the Florida Saddle where we took an extended break and then continued the hike to the summit. Our pace slowed as we neared the Baldy Saddle and my pace slowed even more on the final climb to the summit. Once up top we took a long break and enjoyed lunch. The hike up took a lot of energy! After lunch we dropped back to the Baldy Saddle and then returned on the Crest Trail. There were two small climbs on the return and both took a lot of effort on account of all the climbing we’ve already done. It wasn’t a big deal though and before long it was all downhill back to the jeep at the trailhead.

    The Florida Canyon Trail is another wonderful option for Mount Wrightson. We saw a dozen bird watchers at the bottom and then roughly a half dozen people near the summit trail. The rest of the trail was vacant. I really enjoy Mount Wrightson and I’m glad I’ve hiked it from the west (Madera Canyon), east (Gardner Canyon) and north (Florida Canyon).
    Florida Canyon / Crest Trail
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Well I did my second trip on this trail, this time going to Mt. Wrightson and then on the trek back I decided to go up a peak I did not know the name of and when I reached the summit, the register said "Burnt Peak" logs of hotshot fire fighters from 1993 in there with the last post coming from November of 2007. While up here I saw a good route up the peak to the south of it so I went up that peak as well and it was Rice Peak. The jar the log book is in was broken, so I put extra rocks over it to protect it from the elements. Wanted to go up McCleary Peak again on the way back, but decided to head back down as I knew it was a long way back. This trail will really take it out of you, but it is in great shape. Several trees downed along the way on the trail, but nothing you cannot go around, under, or over to get by. Some spots the trail is loose and footing gets sloppy, but still in great shape after the work that was done to it. Very windy up there today, ice still on the trees at the top of Wrightson and struck me at will while being blown off. Love these mountains.

    Permit $$

    Coronado Forest
    MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
    Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

    Map Drive
    FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

    To hike
    From Tucson take 1-19 south, get off exit 63 (Continental). Head east and then take right onto White House Road. Follow this paved road 5-6 miles to a junction with a large dirt road (Box Canyon Road, FR 62), it'll be on your left. Head on this road about 1/4 mile and look for the signed turn off to Florida Work Center (a.k.a. Santa Rita Experimental Range), this will be FR 62A. Proceed till gate at end of road, parking will be to your left just in front of gate.
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