Flatiron of Tucson
I've been waiting for my dumb hamstring to heal well enough to finally climb Pusch Peak. I finally decided I no longer cared today and went for it. This hike is a blast. While it remains one of the most distinctive peaks in Tucson (it is the western-most peak of Pusch Ridge jutting into Oro Valley) it seems to be a relatively well kept secret. That or an unknown gem. Either way this hike may be Tucson's answer to the Flatiron. A short, nasty screamer of a climb to a fabulous vista with views everywhere. Sounds cool huh?
At the trailhead the trail splits, go left and begin an easy climb up the foothills of Pusch Ridge. You climb up typical Catalina Foothills desert here, all the while mocked by the peak. After about 10 minutes or so the trail forks, go right and continue your easy climb. Now you come upon a drainange to your left, which you basically follow along for about 10-15 more minutes. As you can now see, there is a huge canyon feeding up into the northwest side of the peak and this will be your route of attack. After about 1/2 to 3/4 mile the trail will switchback to your right, while a clear trail also takes off to your left. Take this left. Immediately you see a rusted sign on your right marking the break off for the informal climb to Pusch Peak. Here we go.
The trail almost immediately starts climbing for real. This is not a maintaned trail, but I must say it is surprisingly easy to follow nonetheless. As you climb up the right side of the canyon, the trail at times becomes comically steep. Keep at it. Little side trails split off here and there but they seem to always join back up with the main climb. I just always stayed left for simplicity sake. After about 15 minutes of serious climbing you come to a gray granite chute that is basically vertical for about 12-15 feet. Climb up this and keep going. Soon you come to a clearing and there is a nice saddle and campsite to your right, overlooking all of northern Tucson. Nice place for a break. I surprisingly got caught by two older gentlemen at this saddle (looked to be in their late 50's or very early 60's). They asked to climb with me, so together we went. As a side note these guys were just incredible company, and it was all I could do to keep up with them...they were bad dudes to be sure.
There are two distinct trails east from this saddle. Take the lower one. The one at the saddle clearly heads up to the summit of the adjacent peak (avoid this one). The trail continues up from here always climbing at a nearly ridiculous incline. Three strong we laughed at the audacity of the trail as we climbed on a more easterly track towards the peak.
Quite quickly tou cross the canyon wash and walk over to the east or left side of the prominent gulley you have been climbing. Now you actually hike away from this canyon as you can start to see where this trail is taking you. I must say all along I was waiting for the trail to basically fade away to nothing, but it never really does. It climbs impossibly steep at times (many times actually) but it is always distinct. I should mention that all along the views in front of, and behind, you are always wicked. As you keep going a false summit ahead and slightly to your left is the goal.
As you finally reach the false summit you can finally see that the true peak is actuaaly not that far away. Puff those last crazy switchbacks and you are there. A stunning 360 panorama awaits you at the top. There is a register for those who like. Take a breather and savor the climb, looking off to the east at Mt. Kimball and Mt. Lemmon. You have a knee breaking descent ahead of you on the way down, but it is so steep it really goes by fast.
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.