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Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411, AZ

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Guide 128 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson NW
3.4 of 5 by 19
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Difficulty 3.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 4.65 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,120 feet
Elevation Gain 1,935 feet
Accumulated Gain 2,240 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.85
Interest Peak
Backpack TBD
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
4  2018-11-28 Merianne
1  2018-11-04 fricknaley
1  2018-09-28 Pivo
2  2018-05-09 Pivo
5  2018-02-11 azbackpackr
3  2016-11-12 fricknaley
16  2014-01-10
Pontotock Ridge Trail
27  2013-11-02
Pontatoc Ridge to Finger Rock trail
Page 1,  2,  3
Author brianb
author avatar Guides 9
Routes 0
Photos 164
Trips 3 map ( 0 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Oct, Nov → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:12am - 6:19pm
Official Route
2 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Short but Sweet!
by brianb

Note: Page data is to popular high point past the end of the official trail.

This hike to the top of a prominent ridge is a nice introduction to hiking the Catalinas. Part of what makes the Catalina range special is that there are many trails that take you from the desert floor (about 2500 feet) all the way up to lofty peaks (6-9000 feet). But these routes range from 10-18 miles round-trip (Mt. Kimball, The Window, Cathedral Rock, etc.) If you're not up for a 16 mile hike, this is a nice route that will give you much of the flavor of the Catalinas, and a nice view at the top like other Catalina trails, but without busting your butt too much. It's a characteristically steep ascent from the desert floor to a 'mini-summit' at the top of the ridge a couple thousand feet up, which surrounds you with typical Sonoran desert flora - including a lot of nice "teddy bear cholla' - and an opportunity for a little 'bouldering' typical of the Catalinas. The trail is relatively easy to follow all the way to the top.

The route begins at the joint trailheads of both the Finger Rock Trail and the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. Head out on the Pontatoc Canyon Trail. You will see the distinct Pontatoc Ridge rising above you to the north-east. Your destination is at the top of the peak where the ridge tops-out. You'll meander through the valley along the Pontatoc Canyon Trail for 0.8 miles to the signed intersection of the Pontatoc Canyon Trail and the Pontatoc Ridge Trail. Take a right at the Pontatoc Ridge Trail. (You could follow the Pontatoc Canyon Trail for another 3.1 miles, but it's much lower in elevation and un-characteristically dead-ends in the middle of nowhere - seemingly no reward for reaching your destination.) It is here that you begin to follow the crest of the ridgeline up to the top.

Follow the trail along the ridge for another 1.8 miles to the top. The actual top of the ridge is approximately 0.4 miles or so beyond the end of the official Pontatoc Ridge Trail. If you follow the official trail to it's conclusion (just beyond a sign indicating such), you end up at an old abandoned mineshaft. You can explore the mineshaft (requires a flashlight!), but it's really nothing special. A few hundred yards before the official end of the trail (and the mineshaft), the trail splits off going uphill and continues to the top of the ridge. If you missed it and ended up at the mineshaft, head back down and watch for it (it should be marked with a cairn). The trail, from where it splits-off to the top, is a little hard to follow, but stay generally towards the west (or the very top of the ridge) and you'll find it.

You'll know when you're at the top because there's nowhere else to go! You'll be treated to nice views of the north range of the Catalinas and Tucson over 2000 feet below. If you look straight down to the west, you can see the hapless Pontatoc Canyon tail (and be glad you went this way instead.)

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2001-04-13 brianb
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Coronado FS Details
There are good views along both of these trails and plenty of evidence of mining activity left over from the days when the Santa Catalinas were the focus of extensive mineral exploration. At one time the Pontatoc Ridge Trail was even called the Old Spanish Mine Trail, but don't look for lost mines here. The reason these mines were abandoned is because they didn't pan out. Be careful around these dangerous old digs which can present a number of hazards for unsuspecting travelers or those too willing to take a dumb risk.

Of the two trails, the Pontatoc Trail goes up the canyon of the same name, climbing in and out of the canyon bottom as it becomes more rocky and narrow. This trail presents good views of the Pontatoc Cliffs that form a deeply weathered and pockmarked face on the northeastern horizon. Extensive trampling of the area between the trailhead and Pontatoc Canyon has made it difficult to pick out the trail from all the incidental paths that have developed here, but once the trail enters the canyon it becomes easier to follow, at least for a while. Farther up in the canyon, it again becomes difficult to follow before disappearing entirely just beyond a point where it leaves the canyon floor.

The Pontatoc Ridge Trail branches south off the canyon trail about 0.8 mile from the trailhead. It then climbs to the ridge top and changes direction to follow the ridge north to Pontatoc Saddle. At the saddle you'll be rewarded with excellent views of Tucson lying at the foot of the Catalinas and stretching toward other mountain ranges across the basin. You'll also get a closer look at the Pontatoc Cliffs and see a trail that leads to the base of those cliffs. Take care if you follow this trail; or better yet, don't follow it at all. It takes a steep and rocky course above a precipitous cliff. Better to enjoy the views from the more solid footing of the saddle.

Views of tall cliffs and Tucson
Canyon or ridge top route
Historic area
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 21 deeper Triplog Reviews
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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Morning hike with friends hoping to see Desert Big Horn Sheep after reports and video of DBHS in the area 2 days in a row. We didn't see any sheep, perhaps too many people on trail. The kicker was we saw two standard poodles walking around without their people. One of them joined us on our hike for awhile utile it cliffed out. We decided due to all of the people and now dogs in the area the chances of seeing DBHS was slim to none.
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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I hadn't hiked Pontatoc in close to 20 years, not since I lived here in Tucson. It used to be the trail just went to the mine, and if you wanted to do anything else up there it was a bushwhack. But now there is this trail to the high point near the mine.

Tucson just keeps growing, but in a lot of areas it still has the same feel to it. I was told by friends there is a movement called "Keep Tucson Sh***ty," which is, of course a rebellion against the gentrification and white breadification that has been happening over the years.

Since another family member is moving back here, I expect to be spending a lot more time down here, and maybe even half or more of next winter. We'll see. I do love it here, even though the kayaking is pretty non-existent.

On the trail the bushes are so very dry, and there are no flowers at all. They are hoping for a little rain later this week.

Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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daily double hike 2

i don't really know why i haven't done this in years. it's short, very steep and offers fantastic views from the top.

the spur route to the summit was in surprisingly decent shape. little faint here and there but always has been.

met a nice dude up top. first time i've ever seen anyone up there i think
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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Did a few warmup miles on the Pontatoc trails, then headed up Finger Rock for the main event. Relentless climb to great views on Kimball. Trails are in good condition with the exception of Pima Canyon between about the 6200' and 5200' elevations where the route drops into a very steep, loose narrow gully with minimal cairns.

Only a few thin patches of snow up high in shaded areas. Finger Rock Canyon is essentially dry. Surprising how much greener Pima Canyon is - seeps in the upper elevations increasing to good flow in the lower canyon.

Bike shuttled between the trailheads.
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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After work special, I pulled into the Finger Rock TH at about 2:45. Only had time for a quick hike today, so this one fit the bill, I have not been up here in over 2 years. Good steady gainer all the way. The wind was absolutely howling in the canyon, making for some cold going. I made it to the end of trail sign, I did not have time to scramble up to the top, and the wind was not making that seem particularly attractive anyway. Turpentine bush is blooming away, a few spotty Verbena and Globe Mallow in color out there too.
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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I'm not a big fan a the Catalina's front range with it's full exposure and endless views of the civilization that I'm working to escape, but with the restrictions in place, it's kinda hard for one to find something new to try. With a few half days of work leaving a little room for play, I decided to check out the Pontatoc scene. Though I met and talked with some great people on this hike, again, civilization found it's way into my wilderness escape :/ I ran into exactly 12 people, all in pairs, within a 4 mile rounder. That's twice the people that I've seen in 6 trips to Pusch Peak. This one seems to me to be more a social trail than a getaway. The trail is VERY well groomed and navigable. I don't think that the good doctor Frick, himself could sustain injury here (though I would not bet money on that :D). All in all, not my cup of tea. Perhaps Finger Rock tomorrow...
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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Hardly feels like winter, but I can't complain. Some dark clouds moved in and blocked the sun, and I watched a hummingbird do a repetitive territorial display. I heard a few others but only saw the one. He would make a few notes, fly nearly straight up but slightly north, and then descend in the shape of a large J, letting out a loud chirp at the bottom before starting over. He was doing it for quite a while, too. Really nice mid-afternoon hike.
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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Late day hike to a saddle on the upper part just before the junction with the unofficial trail. I was surprised that Pontatoc Canyon was still flowing nicely, and there was a large blacktail rattler across the trail when I passed through an area infested with buffel grass, both times. The erosion here wasn't as severe as it was on Pusch, and I believe I will start to hike to the peak on this trail often, this fall. I really thought I did more AEG on this hike, but the route manager said that was it, when I played with an existing track. Oh, well. Guess I am tired.
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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I guess the AEG and miles are accurate, given that the GPS tracks and stats differ. Anyway, I went to the top of peak and had a nice hike. Spotted a Gila Monster on the trail, and could have had some close up shots, but I didn't bring my camera as I thought I was flooding the site with over done images of Tucson area hike. Well, whatever.
Pontatoc Ridge Trail #411
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Chores finished and a wrong turn corrected, I finally hit the trail at 4:50 pm. I had the area all to myself by the time I turned onto Pontatoc Ridge Trail, which I ascended quickly, breathing hard and dripping sweat in the stiff breeze. Calliandra Fairy Dusters were blooming and Canyon Ragweed lent its fragrance to the late afternoon's amber glow. I arrived at the official end of the trail at sunset, and considered exploring the apparent caves above. The caves would wait for a future trip I decided, and I continued on to the Pontatoc peak via the social trail. The peak was well worth the extra effort, as the view and setting above a massive cliff was incredible. All of Tucson was lit up in the faint light of dusk. Night time hiking always seems unusually long to me, and this night was no exception. Tonight's lone wildlife sighting was a startled bat, which narrowly missed my face. Cute little thing. I like the Pontatoc area. I shall return.

Permit $$

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
The Finger Rock Trail and the Pontatoc Canyon Trail begin at the same point. Head to Skyline Drive (between Oracle Rd. and Swan Rd. in Northwest Tucson). From Skyline Dr. head north on Alvernon. Alvernon will dead-end at the junction of a private drive and a parking lot (designated for trail access) on the west side of the street. Park in the lot and head up the street towards the mountains a few hundred feet to the trailhead(s).
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