Cactus canyon is simply one of many trails in the northern region of the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park West. There is a whole network of short trails off Picture Rocks Road that can be combined in any number of routes and loops. I'll call this route Cactus Canyon becuase that is the destination leg of the route we did, and it is very scenic and typifies the Saguaro West region.
Start off by crossing Picture Rocks Road and taking off down the wide sandy wash across from the parking area. Cross through a gate and see a sign that announces you are on the Ringtail trail. This quickly narrows out to an easy to follow trail. A sign for Cam-Boh breaks off to your right, soon after by Mule Deer trail. Keep to your left and travel away from the road. The surrouding area quickly becomes very scenic with close and distant peaks and smaller canyons all around you. The trail winds around, mildly up and down. After a mile the trail ends up in a cross-cutting wash, the Picture Rocks Wash. Hang a right here and follow the wide sany wash for 0.4 miles.
Abruptly on your left is the signed Coyote Pass. Though it is signed, this could be easy to miss since it climbs abruptly out of the wash so heads up. A quick 0.2 mile mild climb on this trail brings you to the signed intersection for Cactus Canyon. Take right here onto Cactus Canyon trail. This is really the best part of the hike I think. Cactus Canyon has a nice secluded feel, is surrounded by low hills and mountains, and has a spectacular stand of large saguaros concentrated in it. A very picturesque area, unfortunately my camera batteries died so I can't prove it. We followed this trail for about 0.7 miles where a small sign marks the trail coming from the other direction. This is the park boundary with some state trust land, though you couldn't tell it. The trail continues onward for quite a ways. We didn't follow it today but I have in the past and it just continues gradually down into a wash and keeps going, staying very pleasant all along. Anyhow, turn around here at the park boundary and go back the way you came to the Picture Rocks Wash.
At the Wash hang a left and continue southwest down it. The wash actually narrows down and becomes much more interesting. After 0.3 miles the signed takeoff for Ironwood Forest trail breaks out of the was to your right. Follow this for 1.4 miles thorugh the desert as it winds and climbs in and out of little washes and ravines. After 1.4 miles a signed Mule Deer trail takes off to your right. Follow this through similar country as you angle your way back to the road. In 0.3 miles you are back at the Ringtail trail. Hang a left and quickly you arrive back at the road and your car.
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.
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.