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Heliograph Peak from Shannon GC
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mini location map2007-06-23
19 by photographer avatarchumley
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Heliograph Peak from Shannon GCTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jun 23 2007
chumley
Hiking4.20 Miles 1,024 AEG
Hiking4.20 Miles   1 Hour   45 Mns   2.40 mph
1,024 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
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Started my hike at 11am. The campground host warned me of resident bear just above switchbacks before trail junction. He said my dog would likely be aware of it before me.

The hike started off very easy in thick forest for about 10 minutes, and then 10 minutes of some good switchbacks gaining elevation. Very mature conifers provide nearly complete shade in this section.

Reach saddle at top of switchbacks with no sign of the bear. GPS indicated 9/10ths of a mile to here.

Just across the saddle, the trail forks. The right/upper trail leads to heliograph peak. The left/lower trail leads to Arcadia CG. Proceeding upwards, the trail traverses a steep section on an exposed east-facing rocky slope cresting at the the top of a ridge and then levels out and climbs along the west side of the ridge heading south directly toward the peak. This area was burned in the 04 Gibson Fire, and the subsequent openness allows for first view of the fire tower.

The trail however turns west and traverses a rough hillside of boulders and small aspen that have grown since the fire. It eventually begins to switchback before coming to a false peak, where there is a slight view of the towers on heliograph peak to the north.

This part of the trail is very rocky/bouldery and often difficult to follow given the loss of trees in the fire.

Just before reaching the peak, the trail enters a beautiful grassy meadow with young aspens and then exits on the closed access road a few hundred yards west of the peak.

GPS read 1.9 miles, and it took me 25 minutes more to hike the top half of the trail. My actual trip was an hour long, but that included a couple of short stops to catch my breath and a 10 minute break to give my dog a chance to drink and cool off a bit. The exposed upper half of the trail offers very little shade if you are hiking on a sunny day, though the breeze was steady and cool.

Up top, there was the buzzing sound of power generators, presumably for some of the numerous communications towers located on the peak.

The cabin was padlocked closed and the fire tower showed no signs of life. So, despite the sign indicating not to do so, I climbed the tower for a better view and some pictures. About 1/2 way up, I noticed the watchman leaning out the window above me scolding me for climbing the tower.

The campground host at Shannon said that most of the watch staff have no problem with visitors, but that there are a couple who don't tolerate them. If you don't have prior permission, stick with the sign and don't climb the tower.

I'm always interested in a loop hike over returning the same way I came, so I decided to take the closed service road back to Shannon. I'm glad I didn't hike up this way. It was an easy hike down, but the grade would have been steady and grinding going up, and the road doesn't offer much in the way of scenery or shade. Though this side of the peak was spared from the fire, so the sides of the road are often shaded and there are some amazing old growth trees.

About 1/2 mile from the bottom, water comes bubbling out of a spring and crosses beneath the road. You will find this little creek trickling through Shannon campground as you get to the bottom.

The trip via the road was marked at 2.3 miles, so it was a bit longer than the trail.
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