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Vault Mine - Josephine Saddle Loop, AZ

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191 21 0
Guide 21 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson S
Rated
3.7
3.7 of 5 by 6
 
2
Statistics
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 8 miles
Trailhead Elevation 5,400 feet
Elevation Gain 1,600 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 16
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
15  2019-05-08 Yoder
11  2018-04-24
Carrie Nation-Super Trail Loop
rwstorm
20  2018-03-10
Mount Wrightson Hopkins Loop
BiFrost
3  2017-05-19
Jack Mountain Loop
fricknaley
30  2016-06-26
Amphitheater to Carrie Nation
rwstorm
24  2016-05-17
Jill & Jack Mountain Loop
AZHiker456
25  2014-09-11
Vault-Caliente-Super-Pipeline
rwstorm
19  2014-08-01
Vault Mine to Josephine Saddle Loop
markthurman53
Page 1,  2
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,746 map ( 18,187 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
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Preferred   Apr, Mar, Nov, Oct → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:11am - 6:22pm
Route
 
10 Alternative
 
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Sweet Alternative
by fricknaley

This is a very nice loop hike in the Santa Ritas - a favorite range of mine. Short drive south of Tucson and you're in pine forests. The trail is a great loop, with a very tough beginning then just excellent scenery the rest of the way. When you start you may think that this is going to be too much, but after about two miles it becomes pretty easy and the rest of the way is just about great southern arizona mountain scenery. The whole trail is well signed, well maintaned and very easy to follow.


Start on Old Baldy trail out of parking lot and very quickly come to the formal signed break off point for the old baldy trail (to your left). Continue on the signed Vault Mine trail and immediately start climbing. Climb along the canyon floor and creek for a while then the trail gradually breaks off left and starts climbing through low forest. Shortly you come to another signed intersection about 0.8 miles in or so. The new Carrie Nation trail goes ahead and the Vault mine trail breaks off slightly to your right. Just follow the signs to vault mine. Now comes the true hard part of this hike - the next mile or so is pretty darn steep but perservere, take breaks and enjoy the ever improving scenery and before too long you come to another intersection, where the vault mine intersects/dead ends into the Agua Caliente trail.

Hang a left here and just follow the easy trail. Before long this becomes the best part of the hike. There is almost constant canyon immediately to your left with huge views down Madera Canyon and Tucson in the far far distance. The trail soon enters beautiful pine forest and is a treat. Periodic breaks in the canopy remind you that Mt. Wrightson is always keeping an eye on your progress as you continue to head east towards it.

After about 2.2 miles or so you come upon the signed Josephine Saddle - a major intersection in this area. Your choices back include Old Baldy at about 2-2.5 miles or the Super Trail at about 4. I took the Super trail for the easy trip back down. There are great views of Mt. Hopkins on the way down with it's telescope occasionally visible. Shortly enough you are back in the parking lot where you started.

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2005-04-06 fricknaley

    Coronado FS Details
    Agua Caliente Trail #140 and Very Steep/Vault Mine Trail #77

    These two trails provide access to the upper slopes of Mt. Hopkins, the second most prominent peak in the Santa Ritas. The Agua Caliente Trail winds along Hopkins' north slopes through a cool forest of conifers, oaks and aspens, providing good views of the Multiple Mirror Telescope on the mountain's summit as well as the upper reaches of Madera Canyon and Mt. Wrightson's rocky prominence across the canyon. Off in the distance, the Santa Cruz Valley and the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountains stretch toward the horizon.

    There are three main ways to approach this scenic area, the most direct and most demanding of which is via the Very Steep/Vault Mine Trail out of Roundup Picnic Area at the end of Madera Canyon Road. This trail earned its descriptive name from the fact that it climbs 1,400 feet in a distance of a little over one half mile. This heart thumping climb leads from upper Madera Canyon to the vicinity of Agua Caliente Saddle, where that trail branches off toward Josephine Saddle and a number of other trails that crisscross the upper slopes of the Santa Ritas.

    Agua Caliente's trailhead is located in a canyon of the same name on Mt. Hopkins' western flank. From that point, accessible via the Mt. Hopkins Road, the trail proceeds up a remote desert canyon toward the mountain's forested upper slopes. If you arrange a shuttle in advance, a trip that stretches between this trailhead and the VS/VM trailhead in Madera Canyon makes a good long day. A loop that doesn't require a shuttle takes you up the VS/VM trail to Agua Caliente Saddle, then northeast to Josephine Saddle and back to the Roundup parking area via the lower end of either Old Baldy or Super Trail. Attractions: Access to Mt. Hopkins, Great views, Stream side to desert diversity & Physically challenging

    Access: Very Steep/Vault Mine: Leave Interstate 19 at the Continental Exit/Madera Canyon Road. Turn east and follow the Madera Canyon road (FR 62) about 13.5 miles to the Roundup Picnic Area entrance then turn left into the trailhead parking lot.

    Agua Caliente: Leave Interstate 19 at the Canoa Road Exit. Take the east frontage road 3 miles south to Elephant Head Road and turn east 1.6 miles to the Mt. Hopkins Road. Drive 4.5 miles to FR 183. Turn north on this dirt road about 2.4 miles to the trailhead at the canyon.

    Notes:1.5 miles of the Very Steep/Vault Mine Trail and 4.7 miles of the Agua Caliente Trail are within the Mt. Wrightson Wilderness. Motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment, including mountain bikes, are not permitted in Wilderness.
    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
    Vault Mine - Josephine Saddle Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    perfect day for this hike. got out of my car at relatively deserted roundup TH to the gobbles of the turkeys somewhere in the canyon. decided to go up carrie nation to the agua caliente trail (perhaps my 2 favorite santa rita trails?). found and watched a silent and beautiful trogon near the mine. this is probably now my 15th sighting or so, and i have gotten pretty good at figuring out a couple specific spots they like in particular over the years. hit up good old Jack mountain for my yearly visit (at a minimum). the route up there is getting more and more faint. enjoyed the fabulous agua caliente trail over to vault mine. had the pleasure of spotting and getting buzzed by a twin spotted rattlesnake on one of the rockfalls. i believe that is the third one of those i have seen in the santa ritas. quick and steep trip down the vault mine trail sealed the deal.

    as always this is a VERY high yield short hike in the santa ritas.
    Vault Mine - Josephine Saddle Loop
    rating optionrated 4rated 4rated 4rated 4
    Mount Wrightson with Hopkins
    we lucked into a perfect day to hit both wrightson and Hopkins. humid but otherwise great.

    nice to check out Hopkins again. it's been a long time and last I was up here, it snowed on me.

    saw a couple of interesting rattlesnakes and a bunch of horned lizards :)

    and with this i'm bowing out of the elevation game. good luck boys, go for a million :y:
    Vault Mine - Josephine Saddle Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    So... I *think* we did part of this trail today? We set out to hike the Carrie Nation trail, but never did come across the turnoff (unless of course we hiked right past it in complete oblivion, which is definitely possible). At the creek crossing where the map shows the Carrie Nation and Vault Mine trails forking, there was only one clear trail that I can recall and definitely no signage. Anyway, after the Baldy junction we just followed the signs toward Aqua Caliente saddle and went until we had to turn around due to fading light. We never did find any mines, but the trail, while definitely uphill, didn't seem "very steep" to me (and trust me we are wimps) so maybe we were on the Carrie Nation trail after all.

    In any case, it didn't matter as we had a lovely woodland afternoon hike - and best part, once past the Baldy junction we had the trail to ourselves, despite it being a Saturday in Madera Canyon. The overcast day, chilly mountain air, and autummal mixed forest almost made me feel like I was back home in the Midwest - that is until we came upon a clump of yucca growing in the middle of the forest! Never will get over the environmental diversity of this state! Saw a mother-and-baby pair of white tailed deer right near the trailhead, and even a tiny trickle of water high up in the creek. Wish we'd had time to make the saddle as the views sound amazing. But the woods were magical in the fading light on the way down.
    Vault Mine - Josephine Saddle Loop
    rating optionrating optionrated 3rated 3rated 3
    Nobody there on a Thurday. Vault Mine Trail has some serious elevation gain. Thank God I had Rosie the Mule to carry my fat but up. Once the trail intersected the Aqua Calliente trail it flattened out with amazing views. Took the Super Trail down and really enjoyed the gradual elevation change on the way down. I personally would hike it with the gradual up and serious down last. Great loop hike

    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)


    Directions
    Map Drive
    or
    Road
    Paved - Car Okay

    To Madera Canyon Trailhead
    From Tucson: I-19 south to exit 63 Continental. At the end of the exit take a left and follow brown signs to Madera Canyon. You'll be taking White House Canyon Road 13.2 miles to Madera Canyon.

    From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 152 mi - about 2 hours 31 mins
    From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 42.3 mi - about 55 mins
    From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 295 mi - about 4 hours 37 mins
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