Ridge with a view
NOTE: This particular trail lies within a region that was heavily burned in the Aspen Fire. If this bothers you, as I know it does some, you may want to consider other options for now. I still found it to be quite worthwhile for other reasons I'll describe below.
Oracle Ridge is a long north running trail that basically descends all the way from Mt. Lemmon to the town of Oracle below (ends in state park). It was an old mining route. There are numerous saddles and campsites along the way, and I choose to hike out to Dan Saddle and back for a shorter trip. This trail is interesting because it is mostly exposed, but running along at 7000+ feet, the heat is not overbearing at all. Large views of the northern Catalinas can be seen at all times as well as to the west (including impressive views of the Reef of Rocks) and east.
The trail immediately takes around a ridge from the trailhead, through the only forested part of the hike. Again, burn is very evident here. Ground cover is abundant, and there was actually a large amount of wildflowers all around here. As you wind your way around the ridge and through the forest, it becomes evident that you are heading for the ridge and once you arive on it large expansive views open up all around and the route is mostly exposed from here on out.
Most of the way from here is a gradual descent, though it is occasionally steep. You crest or skirt a couple of minor peaks along the way down. Frequently to the east you see evidence of the old mining routes far below, as well as the jeep track that appears to ultimately make it's way down to Oracle far, far below.
At about 2 miles in or so, you intersect an old jeep track. Merge with this and keep following it down. Soon a signed side trail breaks off to your left. This trail weaves and switchbacks its way down and dumps you back on the jeep track again. This happens one more time as well. This time when you are dropped back on the jeep track, a couple more yards down the track places you at Dan Saddle. The trail continues on from here, and another route breaks off to the west (Catalina Camp) as a connector to the Red Ridge trail. I turned around here and made the climb back up. Nice views of the Reef of Rocks and Mount Lemmon lie ahead the whole way back.
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.