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Sutherland Trail #6, AZ

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Guide 115 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson NW
3.1 of 5 by 17
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Difficulty 5 of 5
Route Finding 5 of 5
Distance Shuttle 12 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,500 feet
Elevation Gain 6,370 feet
Accumulated Gain 7,000 feet
Avg Time Hiking 6.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 35.33
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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2  2018-07-14 SpiderLegs
13  2017-12-21
50 Year - Baby Jesus Loop
12  2017-10-20
Samaniego Peak
10  2017-10-12
Sutherland Trail
3  2017-08-25 fricknaley
14  2017-03-02
Catalina State Park
3  2016-10-19 Mountain_Rat
14  2016-10-19 rvcarter
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5
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   Feb, Mar, Oct, Nov → 7 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:12am - 6:21pm
Official Route
23 Alternative
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Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
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Tucson to the Extreme
by fricknaley

Note: The actual Sutherland Trail #6 segment is 8.7mi +5860ft. Page data reflects continuing on Mount Lemmon Trail #5 to the top of Mount Lemmon.

After finding a companion as crazy as I am (my buddy Phil), I finally realized my ultimate local hiking goal today...Hiking from the floor of Tucson to the peak of Mt. Lemmon. I've been ramping up for this for a while, but I have never been sure that I could do it, or that an accessible route even exists. Well, there is a route but it is extremely difficult to follow, especially in the midportion and requires serious route finding skills, patience and a reliable partner.

From the corner of the parking lot, take off on the unmarked route, which quickly shows a signed Sutherland Trail pole. Follow the signs for the Sutherland trail as it winds away from Romero Canyon and starts leisurely climbing up into the high desert of the State Park. This section is pleasant, easy to follow and can be hiked quickly.

In about 0.8 miles a well-formed path breaks off to the right. This unmarked route actually cuts across the canyon to link up with the Romero Canyon Trail. Keep on moving and in another 1.8 miles or so, pass through a hinged hikers gate and soon thereafter join a wide jeep track at a signed intersection. This is a junction with the 50-Year Trail. Hang a right here and follow this wide, rocky trail as it continues to climb.

Continue along this path between 2.5 to 3 miles until it ends at a rusted sign. Surprisingly,at two points along the way we saw running water. After crossing the wash at the second spring the trail starts wildly climbing very steeply for a while before reaching the rusty sign. As a side note, this portion of the trail parallels some power lines that head up into the Catalina highcountry, more about these later.

The sign announces that the Sutherland Trail, Samaniego Trail and Mt. Lemmon all break off to the right. The trail is just ahead and right of the sign. Beware, for the next several miles the trail is at times very faint, at times OK and at times virtually nonexistant. Immediately it is much tougher to follow, and concentration and route finding becomes a must. There is a fairly nice cairn network that you will have to rely upon. Also bring a map and know where you want to go. You will also need to rely heavily on your partner. The faint path falls slightly down the ridge and soon breaks off to the right heading down towards the gully on the right. Cross the gully and look for a cairn that marks where the trail starts to switchback up the other side of the gully. The trail now starts climbing up along the canyon and is at times overgrown. Start to look for cairns that tend to bail you out when you think you have gotten lost. Continue climbing up intermittent switchbacks with the canyon falling away to your left into a larger canyon. This canyon is not always visible to you. After about one mile you will come to the most difficult area of the trail to follow, we were lost here for several minutes. Get a good idea of the last portion of the trail you can follow and fan out to look for cairnes, be patient, continue to climb and keep your eyes open for a small drainage that continues to climb up, you can follow this up into the train again. After about 1/2 to 1 very tough mile you start to enter the lowest reaches of pine and the trail becomes much easier to follow, though still faint. Now there is a nice network of cairns to follow. As you climb you will realize that your ultimate goal is to reach a saddle up and slightly to your left, and then up and over the top of the canyon to rejoin the power lines on the other side of the canyon. (Cargodera Canyon)

At the saddle (roughly 6800 feet) jaw-dropping scenery opens up in front of you, and follows you for the next several miles. This is the best part of the hike and the most fantastic scenery I have seen in the Catalinas. Cathedral Rock and the Window follow you the rest of the way. I will submit pictures, however they do not represent the true beauty of the hike at all. Partly because this route heads into the sun most of the way, good photos were hard to capture. This is one of those hikes that you have to just see to really appreciate.

From the saddle, the trail breaks off to your left and for the next 1/2 mile becomes very difficult to follow again. It is going to climb up the ridge at times very steeply. We got lost again in this portion. Again use your route finding skills and tricks and look for cairns. Shortly thereafter, the trail will again become easier to follow. As you climb, at times you will go through burned areas watch your footing and look for cairnes. A couple of disappointing times you actually loose evelation, disappointing only because you immediately regain what you have lost. Shortly after this the trail become very faint again for a short distance. The cairn network is not as good here. The trail stays to the right of the ridge you are climbing. After a total of 4.3 miles after breaking off from the jeep track you finally summit another saddle and meet the power lines again. This is at roughly 7750 feet.

Your path now follows where the lines run, though they ultimately become buried. Occassionaly you will even notice signs noting high voltage underground. Throughout this section of trail we saw more bear scat that I have ever seen adding a nice edge to the hike as we waited to get trampled by something. This is probably the steepest part of the climb and after all the elevation you have already gained it gets pretty painful. After climbing what feels like forever you suddenly find yourself on a well-worn path going left and right. To the left is the unmarked Samaniego Ridge Trail. Turn right and congratulate yourself because the route finding difficulties are over. If you have made it this far, you will make it to the top. It is about 0.8 miles and probably 700 feet of switchbaking to the junction with the Mt. Lemmon trail.

Hang a left and climb more gently (but by now equally painfully) and follow the Mt. Lemmon trail up to the trailhead. There will be 2 junctions for the Meadows trail breaking off to the left so keep right. From the junction of the Mt. Lemmon trail it is a total of 1.5 miles to the trailhead. Congratulations, you have just pulled off the toughest hike around! Now look for your pre-arranged ride or you have a blistering 12 mile, 6600+ descent to make.

This trail is not for the faint of heart and favors those who enjoy monumental leg-burning climbs. That being said it is nothing short of spectacular and I am thrilled to have finally done it. This trail demands a formidable partner with endurance and route finding skills. I cannot recommend trying this solo. Serious experience in the Catalinas is helpful for at least one of you as well. Map and compass are requisites as is a lot of water. I would also not wear shorts as you are gonna get torn up on sections.

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.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2006-02-12 fricknaley
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 of 39 deeper Triplog Reviews
Sutherland Trail #6
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Sutherland foothills-Romero Canyon mini-loop:

Followed Sutherland and Romero Canyon Loop trail to the wilderness boundary, then turned off on the Breccia Hill* route. Dropped down the rock ramp to the base of Breccia Hill, then followed the creek up into lower Romero Canyon’s box. Found some small, stagnant pools among the massive boulders in the canyon, and some ash trees turning gold. Big excitement for me was my second Coatimundi sighting ever. It was mummified, skeletal, and it’s head had come off (a Dumb and Dumber line came to mind), but I’m still counting it as a sighting. I’m looking forward to seeing water flowing through this area for some long awaited wallowing opportunities. Took the Romero Gateway* route across the flats back to Sutherland at the wilderness boundary, and followed Sutherland back to the trailhead. Fun afternoon mini-adventure.

*my names for unnamed routes

Isolated ash trees turning yellow. Some minor sycamore color, too.
Sutherland Trail #6
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Evening hike up Sutherland to the social trail spur that accesses the lower end of Romero Canyon gorge, then a side trip to the seasonal waterfall. Romero Canyon still had a few shallow, scuzzy pools of water below the cliffs. Mr. Owl hooted hello from the cliffs, and Mr. Diamondback, rather camera shy, scooted across the pavement in the dark on the drive out of the park.
Sutherland Trail #6
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Evening hike up Sutherland along the creek to Breccia Hill, then across the flats to seasonal waterfall spur trail. Romero Creek is dry in most places in the foothills, with only a trickle in the small pools. Came across a number of pottery sherds and a metate in a boulder. Pleasant loop hike.
Sutherland Trail #6
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After work hike with Niko and Jesse to some swimming holes on a pleasant, overcast afternoon. Recent flooding had scoured the sand from the bottom of the first swimming hole, doubling its depth. Water felt great! Catalina State Park looks like Hawaii right now, with the desert floor carpeted in brilliant green vegetation, morning glory vines, and every drainage flowing. Arizona poppies/caltrops are out, as are thousands of voracious caterpillars. It is amazing what a few weeks of monsoon rain can do.
Sutherland Trail #6
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Set out to do some testing, training and assessment.

* Altra, Lone Peak 3.0 w/sof-soles. Nice on the feet, great grip, extremely stable, but wearing fast in the tread (I give them less than 100 miles). Great for long hauls, but not every day trails.
* Fenix 3. 12 hours of Nav while Tracking took me down to 10% battery. Stats were unbelievably on the dot.
* Packing. Camel ultra-10 weighing 10lbs, front-belt pack at 5lbs. Used 60 oz before Quartzite Spring, drank ~20 while there and loaded up with 80. Drank another 60 the rest of the trip. Could have easily gone with half the weight, but wanted to keep it a bit heavy today.

As for training, this was time well spent. A 295 FPM average, sustained for 12 hours is a productive day.

On to the assessment. According to the spreadsheet, this came in at 74% of my ability. As of 20 hours later, I feel more like it was 100% of my ability. I'm not impressed with the results. Gotta beef it up.
Sutherland Trail #6
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Canyon Loop Trail-Sutherland Trail loop

Up the Canyon Loop Trail to the base of Breccia Hill, a quick and cold swim, and then up creek to the mouth of Romero Canyon. The creek was flowing strong and clear. Took the social trail north to Sutherland proper, and then followed it back to the Catalina State Park trailhead. Sutherland is loaded with poppies that are probably a week or two away from flowering. Beautiful evening, and Mr. and Mrs. Owl were enjoying it, too.
Sutherland Trail #6
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After work hike to Breccia Hill, the slot canyon, and other fun spots I gravitate to. Plenty of cool water in the creek, which was extremely tempting to soak in, but I knew better as night was approaching. Did a fun little canyon-side scramble to the top of a ridge, enjoyed an incredible sunset, good photography session, and witnessed a hooting Great Horned Owl silhouetted atop a saguaro. Fun times!
Sutherland Trail #6
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Sutherland Trail-off trail-Romero Canyon-Foothills Loop hike.
Saw a few new grinding holes in the rocks, some petroglyphs that may or may not be prehistoric, and quite a few pools of water in Romero Creek at the entrance to the box canyon portion. I want to hike all the way up Romero Canyon to Romero Pools some day when I have time.

Ash trees turning gold
Sutherland Trail #6
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I've been eying this one for a while, but I always seemed to find an excuse for not scheduling it; i.e., not in shape, nobody will go with me, I need take out the trash, etc. But, four hiking buddies (unfortunately not HAZ people, so their track and pics won't show up here), decided to take it on a couple of weeks back, purportedly to "train" for doing a moonlight R2R2R at the Grand Canyon, despite there being absolutely NO similarities between the two hikes. I had just returned from a trip where I got horribly out of shape, so I didn't go with them. So, after hiking Pusch Peak (almost never reaching the top) every other day for two weeks, I felt a little stronger and convinced Niel and Matt to go with me.

Our route differs from the official (Sirena started at Catalina St. Park) in that it started from the trailhead at the terminus of Rt 643, which is reached (2WD okay) off Golder Ranch Rd. You intersect the Trail Link Trail at the Sutherland Wash, proceed east past the junction trail coming out of Catalina St. Park and up Cargodera Canyon. This portion of Sutherland #6 to where the ATV road ends, parallels the power line but has to be the angriest, most ankle-killing trail hike on the planet. The actual trail doesn't start til you reach the sign in my pix, but then you're in for a relentless climb on endless switchbacks up to a ridge at about 6700 feet.

If you make it this far, you only have another 2100 feet to climb (and I would say, past the point of return), but the trail gets much harder to follow. However, there is evidence of some use, and the cairns are well spaced. If you take your time and stay on the trail, the hike across the ridge to intersect Samaniego Trail #7 is scenic and not extremely difficult. No. 7 and up to Radio Ridge is well used and in good shape.

Thanks to Matt and Niel for an outstanding day. Excellent views of Pusch Ridge with Cathedral, Window Peak (the window is visible for a long time), Table and on down. It took us over 8 hours, but my body has no permanent damage. I may never do it again, but it was not as horrible as I expected. I'll stop short of recommending it, but it is sort of a quest for serious hikers in southern AZ.
Sutherland Trail #6
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Rough day on the mountain. I met up with Roy and Niel to make this crazy march up the Sutherland Ridge. For those who aren't familiar with it, the trail starts out on an old jeep road, which looks more like an 1800s wagon route, then worsens into one of the most relentless climbs ever, turning into a trailless crash through a bunch of brushy stuff and finally, relaxing into an agonizing, uphill home stretch - with outstanding views of Pusch Ridge, The Window, Window Peak, Cathedral Peak, Romero Pass and more.

We had a good day though, doing what most people (more sensible people) wouldn't even think of doing. As with any hike, big or small, easy or brutal, I couldn't imagine a better way to waste my time :)

Thanks guys for the trek. Until next time...

Permit $$
AZ State Parks more info
2018 Day Use Fees range from $2–$30

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

Catalina State Park State Park

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To Catalina State Park Trailhead
From Phoenix take 1-10 south to the 241 exit (Tangerine). Follow east to AZ 77 (Oracle Road). Turn right (South) on AZ77 and signs for Catalina State Park lead the way.

From anywhere in Tucson, connect to Oracle Rd (Highway 77) and head north past Pusch Ridge. After you have gone about 15-20 miles you will see the sign for Catalina State Park on the right. There is an entrance fee to get into the park. To get to the trails, just drive in and follow the signs to a large parking area marked "trailhead".

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 107 mi - about 1 hour 44 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 14.0 mi - about 23 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 251 mi - about 3 hours 50 mins
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