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Aspen Draw Trail #423, AZ

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Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2.4 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,335 feet
Elevation Gain 700 feet
Accumulated Gain 850 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 hour
Kokopelli Seeds 6.65
Interest Seasonal Creek & Peak
Backpack Connecting Only
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22  2019-06-29
WOR - Lemmon - Mint Loop
14  2019-06-29
WOR - Lemmon - Mint Loop
4  2019-06-29
Catalina Camp Trail
15  2015-07-25
Red Ridge and Canada del Oro Loop
18  2015-07-25
Red Ridge and Canada del Oro Loop
17  2015-06-19
Shady Lemmon Loop
26  2013-09-23
Mint Spring WOR Mount Lemmon Loop
15  2012-03-31
Oracle Ridge - AZT #12
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author JimmyLyding
author avatar Guides 109
Routes 335
Photos 4,221
Trips 568 map ( 3,575 miles )
Age 45 Male Gender
Location Walnut Creek, CA
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Jun, Oct → 10 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
10 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Ski Valley to Radio Ridge
by JimmyLyding

This is a fun and fairly easy hike that allows the hiker to experience a lush mixed-conifer forest in the upper reaches of the Santa Catalinas, and still lets one get a little bit of exercise. Upon reaching the start of the trail (which is the same as another trail that runs along the upper portion of Sabino Creek to Summerhaven), one is immediately struck by how large the trees are. As the hike begins, it basically follows the contours of the northeast side of Mount Lemmon underneath towering Douglas firs, quaking aspens, ponderosa pines, and the occasional Englemann blue spruce. The trail is extremely easy to follow, and gradually gains elevation for the first mile. Almost the entire trail is shaded, and it is one of the moister areas in the Santa Catalinas. There are probably half-a-dozen springs that occur right off of the trail. Numerous mushroom and fungus species can be seen if there has been rain anytime recently. Many of the trees were burned in the 2003 Aspen Fire, but relatively few were completely torched. There are a few switchbacks in the last - of a mile, but nothing as tough as Finger Rock Canyon, for example. About - of a mile from the top one encounters some blaze orange fencing that marks the boundary of the ski area. The trail gets a little tougher from here on out as it's primarily steep-ish switchbacks. The forest opens up near the top with long grass very noticeable.

At the top, which is sometimes called Radio Ridge, one encounters the top of the ski lift, and numerous tall towers. Some of the towers are used to communicate radio & television signals, and some are evidently used for research. The top of Radio Ridge is open w/ virtually no tree cover. It is frequently quite windy, and the wind whipping around the towers frequently produces a loud noise In fact, the south side of Radio Ridge consists of "black toothpicks" left over from the 2003 Aspen Fire, with rapidly-recovering undergrowth. From this area one can connect w/ numerous other trails. A favorite of mine is to continue west along the top of the ridge towards the parking lot near the true top of Mount Lemmon towards the Meadow/Mount Lemmon Trail. If one does the entire loop it adds about 2 miles to the Aspen Draw hike. As an added perk one can take the ski lift back down to the Ski Valley parking lot if one's knees are sore. One can also connect to the Aspen trail to go down to Marshall Saddle and Marshall Gulch. There are a number of other connecting hikes that one may be interested in.

Some things that hikers need to remember:
*When referring to "Mount Lemmon" I refer to the actual highest portion of the Santa Catalinas rather than the entire Santa Catalinas range as some people do. Geographic Mount Lemmon is west of Summerhaven.
*Weather on Mount Lemmon can be quite unpredictable. One can be basking in the sun @ the bottom in the ski area parking lot, and then enveloped in a violent thunderstorm an hour later at the top (especially during monsoon season). Even when it is comparatively warm & sunny, the trail may be quite cool as it is usually in the shade. Wear layers, and plan accordingly.
*Many residents of Summerhaven hike this trail, and let their dogs run loose. I recommend carrying a stout hiking staff as some of the unleashed dogs I've encountered have been less-than-friendly.
*Many mountain bikers have cut around erosion control barriers, thus increasing erosion. Please use proper hiking etiquette, and do not follow their lead.
*Bring your camera!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2007-02-16 JimmyLyding
  • 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 of 28 deeper Triplog Reviews
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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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.
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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Shauna and I decided to escape the hellish heatwave and enjoy the Lemmon high country for a hike around the summit. Climbing out of my truck at Ski Valley, I promptly hugged an aspen tree, thankful to be in the forest and not suffering under oppressive desert heat. A climb on the Aspen Draw Trail was up first. Growing thunderstorms moved east without unleashing any lightning, thankfully, as the Catalina forests looked very, very dry. Hazy views, blooming sneezeflowers and a mountainside of bracken ferns greeted us on Radio Ridge. Continuing on to the true summit of Mount Lemmon, we added our names to the previous HAZ lineup, and then did an out-and-back on the Meadow Trail. We descended to the Ski Valley parking lot along the summit road, where a corkbark fir was begging for a hug. A fiery orange and red sunset demanded a photo stop on the old Mount Lemmon road before driving home with half the population of Tucson. An afternoon well spent.
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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spent the weekend up on lemmon with some good friends. did a nice hike saturday. up aspen draw, then meadow/lemmon loop and back down aspen draw. everyone was impressed by the big trees and great views. perfect weather. sierra did this high elevation hike no problem :y:
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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Mt Lemmon Torture Fest
big day up on lemmon. i parked at the mt lemmon trailhead. went down aspen draw, upper sabino riparian to summerhaven and back. loaded up the pack then hit mt lemmon, wilderness of rocks, marshall gulch to TH and back, then died up radio ridge on the aspen trail back to my car.

i've recently highlited the post winter conditions of some of these trails. new reports:

Aspen Draw: from the top of radio ridge to the upper sabino riparian juntion is clear. there is a nuisance tree down on the spur to ski valley parking lot

upper sabino riparian: a couple of big down trees that are surprisingly tough to get over/around depending on the route you take (these are on the singletrack, not the nearby wider roadbed.

Mt lemmon: totally clear to WOR from my recollection. awesome of course

Wilderness of Rocks: clear from my recollection. love love love this trail. not much water in upper lemmon creek but definitely some

heading into the beastly final climb up aspen trail to radio ridge nearly killed me today. Wow

cold at the start (upper 30's at 9000 feet)

killer route
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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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.
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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Oracle Ridge/Canada del Oro Loop
I wanted to hike CDO again, but with a few changes from the Red Ridge loop we did last year. We travelled down Oracle Ridge and also started from the top of Lemmon, taking care of Aspen Draw and the road at the beginning.

Oracle Ridge was great in the cool morning weather. Catalina Camp is just as amusing a trip as I remember it being last year. There was water near the trail from the CC/RR junction all the way to the homestretch of the CDO trail. Since I finally remembered to bring a filter, we were able to refill our water a few times (I easily finished 4 liters and a big gatorade). Cooling down in the water made a big difference too.

Now for the whining: wear long pants. The trails are easy enough to follow, but my shins and knees got pretty torn up in the overgrowth - especially above 6k on CDO and in the burnt-out portions of Sutherland. That being said, CDO is gorgeous from all the recent rains and it was still worth the annoyance. There's a lot of climbing to do in the final miles of this hike, but my CO trip left my legs in good shape, so nearly all of my ranting was at the overgrown trails.
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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upper sabino riparian out and back, then up aspen draw, down aspen, back on marshall gulch, mint springs, up radio ridge via the powerline road and back down aspen draw

i was post call and figured this would be rough since i wouldn't be starting very early, plus the record heat forecast. i ran the first half, shuffled marshall gulch and mint spring and took a savage beating on the powerline road. too hot and exposed. it was over 90 degrees above 8000 feet still :o

it's a beautiful high country route on mt lemmon
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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Started a little before noon down the Red Ridge Trail. We took a little detour to the Catalina Camp, which I'd never visited (I took the liberty of tinkering with the mileage and AEG; hopefully that's kosher...). The lower sections of the loop were pretty warm, but since you don't have to climb much, it wasn't too bad.

The CDO trail is terrific. If it was more easily accessible, it would be as popular as any trail in southern AZ. It must be amazing to hike this in autumn. The route finding is easy for the most part. It disappeared a few times around 3-5 miles up the canyon, but the path-of-least-resistance put us back on the trail each of those times. A couple places before the switchbacks are pretty overgrown. The final climb out of the canyon to the Samaniego Ridge trail is really fun ;)

Aspen Draw Trail at sunset (with no mountain bikers) was a great way to end this hike.

This is a tough hike for July. I brought over a gallon and a half of water and Gatorade, and that wound up being just enough. 2 gallons and/or a purification system would probably be smart in this heat.
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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An afternoon atop the Lemmon:

Hiked from Radio Ridge toward the summit of Mount Lemmon, and almost made it before a threatening thunderstorm rolled in, causing us to retreat to the car. Waited out the storm, and then drove down to Summerhaven. Hiked up upper Sabino Canyon to Ski Valley before continuing up Aspen Draw Trail for awhile. Another storm was approaching from the east, and it looked particularly nasty. We headed down and made it back to the car before the dark wall of clouds released their fury. The monsoons have been generous to the top of the Catalinas so far. Sabino Creek is flowing and fresh, summer greenery abounds.
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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Shady Lemmon Loop
First, it's my generic hike, so I can name it whatever I want. It was shady for most of the hike, as I started late enough that mountain shadows cover much of the upper elevation burn areas. Trees did much of the rest, and I tolerated the sun crossing the Mint Springs burned area.

I headed up the mountain in cross town traffic (foothills) with out the A/C on becuase I don't really like it. That, the continued 90s for most of the Catalina HWY, and the altitude probably made me tired for a lot of the hike, but I opted to avoid the sun exposed slopes (done that, it's stupid) in the WOR, the Lemmon Rock Trail, and so on, and stuck with cooler, and shady trails. Actually, it wasn't that cool when I started at 2:30, but it was really nice after 6 PM on top and coming down. Up Marshall Gulch, over on the Mint, through the village, and to the Aspen Draw, which is very nice, with lots of big old doug-firs in the draw and on the slopes. Packs of the same thrill seeking MT Bikers were coming down, but they stopped when they could. I didn't care, since I could hear them and get off trail faster than they could, and I was going slow and stopping to look at the big trees. Sierra Nevada big.

Tagged Mount Lemmon for the first time since 2011 and hiked slowly down the Radio Ridge and Aspen trail back to Marshall Gulch. Heard a few, but not very many, whippoorwills in the gulch and arrived back at my car a little after 830. A woman was in the bed of a pickup with a dog asking about her male friend who went for a 15 mile run at 5 PM and had not returned when I pulled out at 845. Maybe we'll hear about that as another SARS operation? Good hike.

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 Catalina Highway from Tucson to the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley. Park either to the right (ungated) or to the left closer to the ski area facilities (gated, but open until 5 p.m.). Walk along the ski area-side of the highway back the way you came, and duck inside the guardrail as soon as you can, which is about 5-feet from the eastern edge of the ski area-side parking lot. Walk along the trail, which runs just outside of the guardrail on the ski area-side of the road. This section lasts less than 1/10 of a mile, and then dips down into the drainage to the right. The trail goes through a short section of large trees, and then crosses the frequently-running creek just below the lower- and eastern edge of the ski area. There the trail forks: the left fork follows the headwaters of Sabino Creek down to Summerhaven; and the right fork is the Aspen Draw trail. There is a sign at this junction.
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