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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.

Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle, AZ

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Guide 16 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.2 of 5 by 6
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.9 miles
Trailhead Elevation 7,787 feet
Elevation Gain -900 feet
Accumulated Gain 127 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.54
Backpack Yes & Connecting
varies or not certain dogs are allowed
editedit > ops > dogs to adjust
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
4  2019-06-29
Catalina Camp Trail
22  2018-06-09
Oracle Ridge to Catalina Camp
1  2018-06-03
Oracle Ridge - Red Ridge Loop
7  2018-03-21
Oracle Ridge - Red Ridge Loop
4  2018-03-10
Rice Peak
5  2017-08-06 fricknaley
3  2017-03-22 zephyr2u
5  2016-03-19
Oracle Ridge - AZT #12
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
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Sep, Aug, May, Jun → 8 AM
Seasons   Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
7 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Ridge with a view
by fricknaley

Likely In-Season!
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.

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2005-07-04 fricknaley
  • sub-region related
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
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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I few months ago I came up with idea of doing a "circumnavigation of Mount Lemmon". I needed some miles, so decided to make an attempt on a late June weekend. Maybe it was a bit brash to try such a route during the summer months.

The goal was to start at Butterfly TH, go down to Crystal Springs trail, up the Oracle Control Road, down Oracle Ridge to Dan Saddle and then down to Catalina Camp, then down to CDO, up to Samaniego Ridge and then Lemmon Trail, then head down to WoR, back across Marshall Saddle, and connect with Sunset to finish the loop. A solid loop if I do say so myself, probably pretty close to a marathon with 6000+ feet of ascent.

The plan held up until Catalina Camp, where it started to get warm, and I really started to question whether I had it in me. This was the last bail-out point, and I took it. Luckily there was a trickle in the creek, so I was able to fill up before heading up Red Ridge (the first time I've had the, let's call it a privilege, of seeing this trail in the uphill direction). Surprisingly, I saw three other people on Catalina Camp and Red Ridge trails. Thought I was the only one stupid enough to be down there in late June.

When I got to Red Ridge, clouds had rolled in, and I was feeling much more alive. So I added a few miles back on by heading up the road to the ski resort, and heading down Aspen Draw (where it even sprinkled a little bit!), before taking a Mint Springs to Marshall Saddle detour.

Ended up a pretty good outing still, even if the whole circumnavigation has to wait until another (possibly cooler) day.
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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We started at 6:30 thinking we would beat the heat, but it was already scorching on Oracle Ridge by seven. Luckily there was some intermittent spots of shade and some lightly flowing water at the creek crossing. However, overall the hike was much warmer than what we wanted for the pups. I guess you need to start at 4:30 in the morning to beat the heat on this one. Heat aside, we still enjoyed the hike and the dogs did fine, just a few extra breaks in the shade and a lot of water consumed. We didn’t feel like walking the dogs back on the paved road, so CJ put on her running shoes and got the car while I waited with the pack.

No rain or snow in the winter, locked out of the woods a week before Memorial Day and too hot to hike dogs at 8k, Arizona sure is a lovely state to live in lately. Thankful to be completing my annual summer exodus from here soon.
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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I found myself in Tucson to pick up a couple of dogs, so I figured why not hang out a day and hike Lemmon? After all, it is spring break.

I got this hike idea from @carriejane a couple weekends ago, when she pondered (after seeing a trail heading down from Oracle) if there was a way to loop Red Ridge Trail with Oracle Ridge during our hike to Rice Peak. When we got back we looked on HAZ and found a description for the exact loop she was thinking of, so I decided to try it out today.

Overall, I thought this was an excellent little loop. The cabin is a fun stop and the creek was flowing nicely. Red Ridge Trail is a stout little climb, but the trail offers some excellent views and the few remaining trees from the past forest fire add a little charm to some of the sections along the trail. I would not want to do the road walk on a busy weekend, but it was not too bad today. There were a lot of cows in the lower section of the loop.
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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@friendofthundergod might not have technically bagged the county high point, but I totally peed on it accidentally. 🤷‍♀️
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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I finally got this county high point out of the way and it really was not by design. Carrie and I had chosen Oracle Ridge as a hike to beat the 80 degree temps they were calling for in the lower elevations and it was not until I looked at the route when we got to the trailhead that I reallized Rice was along the way and at about five miles from the trailhead, it seems like the perfect turn around point.

This was my first time on this portion of the AZT and I was generally impressed. The trail was in pretty good shape and the views were nice. In particular, there are some nice views of the Pinalenos and Graham of course, eye sore telescope and all. Rice is not the most spectacular peak and the final approach is a road walk, but it was still a pleasant little spot to take a quick break. We returned the way we came, but did discuss a possible loop with Red Ridge and then were pleased to see there is a description for that in HAZ, so maybe another time for sure. We finished to some very rain.

**Edit. Well the lord giveth and the lord taketh. A pleasant hike to Rice Peak, but apparently not the Pinal County High Point.
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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good to be back in the mountains. as expected there were a ton of flowers along upper oracle ridge.

catalina camp trail is a little overgrown but fine. the camp is in pretty good shape.

red ridge is a great trail, even provides some shade for the sharp ascent.

great loop as always.
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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Started the day on top of Lemmon. Friend of mine, Fred, graciously gave us a ride to the top. Only made it as far as the gate next to the Iron Door Restaurant. The gate wasn't open, which meant our trip got an extra mile and a half in length. We hiked to the outhouse by the electrical substation, where we needed to start, and the guys needed all needed a potty break, so I took a quick jog to the top of Lemmon and back...then after these two little hikes, the hike REALLY began!

On the way up in doing segment 11 we took trail #5, so this time we took trail #5A back down to the Lemmon Trail. First time on the Wilderness of Rocks trail, really nice. Then to Marshall Gulch and up the road to Summerhaven for lunch. Denny and I decided to cheat and get a soda and candy bar before heading out ... nice!

After lunch in town we headed to the Oracle Ridge Trail, where things turned pretty scarred and ugly. Amazing after all this time, it is not bouncing back...not even grass coverage or anything on the ground, just all dead. Nice views on the ridge though, incredible views! The further down the trail we went, the better things looked though.

One nice thing about today is that I started the day climbing the highest peak in Pima County and that afternoon we all scaled the highest point in Pinal County, Rice Peak. The peak itself is still in Pima County, but the edge of the mountain is still higher than any other place in the day was a two-fer!

Denny was a little nervous about us hiking out in the dark, but we didn't need lamps until we turned onto the Cody Trail, and all went well.

And the most exciting thing about the day is that when we arrived at American Flag Trailhead, the 3 of us had the Arizona Trail finished from Mexico to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon completed!!! Awesome.

Surprised by seeing virtually no wildflowers all day. The only place we really started to hit even a few was on the Cody Trail...we saw them in our headlamps.

We're nearing the end boys...just 5 segments to go!
Oracle Ridge: Upper TH to Dan Saddle
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This was the Passage needed to fill in the missing gap. With the completion of this passage, we've completed 732 contiguous miles, stretching from The Mexican border to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We started this passage with mixed feelings. Our hiking partner, Joe, for the entire AZT to this point, at the last minute had to back out with an injury . :stretch:
Dave had already arranged for us to be delivered to the top of Lemmon by one of the members of his church, (Thanks Dave and Fred), so we were locked.

We already knew this was going to be a pretty long day @ around 24-25 miles with a sizable AEG (Even though we were starting at 9,100' and going down to 4,400'). To our surprise, the gate to the top, was closed at the restaurant, so we added another 1.5 miles and 700' of AEG.

The weather was perfect most of the day. There were small patches of snow remaining at the top, but nothing on the trail. It did get a little warm in Wilderness of Rocks, but nothing too bad.

We all tried doing our best Joe imitations and jokes to mimic him being there, but when Denny busted into the classic "Cinder a Letter", we knew it was a lost cause.

Highlights for me on this hike was the Wilderness of Rocks trail. I'll never tire of all the unique bolder formations and running water. The Marshall Gulch Trail was sweet, as well as the views from Oracle Ridge are nothing to sneeze at.

Low lights included the 70 plus trees we had to hop over or go around on the way to lunch at Summerhaven, and the 40 more from there to the North TH at FR38. Also the Oracle Ridge trail can be loose, Rocky, and steep in places. No place for someone with a bum ankle.

We took a short (Steep) side trip to Rice Peak to enjoy the views for a moment.

Turning off the Oracle Ridge Trail and on Cody for the final push we donned our headlamps. A little over an out in the dark later and we were to our ride home. Dave had placed a car the previous day. :)

A huge thanks to Dave for getting the whole shuttle thing set up : app : and to his friend Fred for taking us to the top :y:

Get that ankle healed Joe Joe

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
Take the Catalina highway from Tucson up into the mountains. Just before Summerhaven, near the very top, is Oracle Control Road to your right. Turn here, there are signs for a small firestation as another marker. Drive past the firestation, and about 200 yards down a gravel road to the marked trailhead.
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