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Aspen / Marshall Loop
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mini location map2016-07-03
26 by photographer avatarDarthStiller
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Aspen / Marshall LoopTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Jul 03 2016
Hiking7.10 Miles 1,658 AEG
Hiking7.10 Miles   5 Hrs      1.42 mph
1,658 ft AEG
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Six years ago I took my wife and kids up to do the Aspen Marshall Loop. It's one of the hikes in the 100 Classic Hikes in AZ book, and at 3.5 miles, it seemed doable for my kids who were then just barely toddlers. The only problem was all the tree fall after the recent fire. We got barely a mile in on the Aspen Trail before we decided to head back. After noticing a few years ago that some recent triplogs were posted in which it was noted that the tree fall was taken care of, I decided it was time to venture back. With the summer AZ heat in full force, and a three weekend in my pocket, this seemed like the perfect time to try it again. : rambo : This turned out to be a perfect slice of heaven away from the baked desert heat of the last month.

3.5 miles seems like too short of a hike for such a long slog of a drive down and back, and it's also getting to be almost too easy for my kids. So after looking over the maps, I decided to incorporate the Sunset Trail, making it the Aspen/Marshall Lollipop/Lasso Loop hike. There was fortunately a route posted on HAZ of this exact hike, so I was able to download all the trails we would do into Route Scout and have all the offline mapping.

We started our hike just before 11am after a full 3 hour drive from our house in Mesa. I then picked the wrong road and ended up walking behind some of the cabins at the Sunset Trailhead for about 10 minutes before we got on the actual hike we drove there to do. The Sunset Trail started out in the shade, and then gets open and exposed as it bends around the mountain over towards the Marshall Gulch TH. The scenery of the mountains and down into Tucson are very nice. As we got closer to the campground area, we could hear the stream running in the canyon below us.

The Marshall Gulch TH was extremely busy, as you would expect for a holiday weekend. It was immediately apparent that it was a good idea to do our hike from the other trailhead for the parking options, as well as less driving amongst the heavy traffic.

We made our way up the Aspen Trail like we did 6 years ago and it was immediately apparent how much things have changed up there since then. Much more vegetation and less dusty. I went back and looked at the pictures from six years ago and it's really amazing to see the change. And since the kids are much taller now, it was so much easier for them to walk over and around what little tree fall was left.

The Marshall Gulch Trail was an even nicer treat with the stream running right next to it, and even more vegetation. The closer we got to the Marshall Gulch TH, the heavier the trail traffic got, but that was ok. About a half mile out we noticed how the trail splits into two parallel trails. I decided to take the higher trail and avoid the din of the crowd. Good call for the most part, and it seems as though that higher trail is in fact the correct one.

Getting back to the Marshall Gulch TH, the smell of grilled hamburgers hung in the air, making us want to finish our hike and go get some dinner. Dmitri thought that was the parking lot we parked at once we got there, and when he found out he had to hike another 1.3 miles, he wasn't too happy about it, but he made it through.

Going back up the Sunset Trail back to our car was the warmest part of the day. The sun had started to hit us directly and there wasn't much shade. Up until then, there were more clouds than what the forecast called for, which helped keep things nice and cool. Once we levelled out and got back into the shade of the pines, the breezes cooled us off right away.

With the little extra walking we did at the start and the side jaunts off to some scenic lookouts along the trail, our mileage ended up at 7.1 for the day, which is now my kids' new record. They were tired when we were done, but they weren't miserable, which is an important distinction. I was very proud of them that they were able to handle the longest hike they've done, as well as the most elevation gain they've done. A few months ago, we bought them new hiking shoes and within a month or two, Dmitri already outgrew his. Last month at Costco, they got a huge shipment of Fila trail runner shoes at $20 apiece. I snagged a pair for Dmitri, but was only able to get a pair that were about a half a size too big. it worked out because by the end of this hike, he had already grown into them.
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