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Rinconaissance, AZ
mini location map2018-03-17
12 by photographer avatarchumley
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Rinconaissance, AZ 
Rinconaissance, AZ
 
Hiking avatar Mar 17 2018
chumley
Hiking20.50 Miles 5,970 AEG
Hiking20.50 Miles   9 Hrs   53 Mns   2.33 mph
5,970 ft AEG   1 Hour   5 Mns Break
 no routes
1st trip
For some reason, I'd never previously set foot anywhere in this sky island, nor anywhere in Saguaro National Park. Spoiler Alert: Not a single Saguaro was seen the entire day! ](*,)

Miller Creek #28
This trail starts off with an easy warmup mile along the creek before the climb begins near the NPS boundary. The climb is steady and switchbacks frequently through bouldery terrain. The highlight of this trail is the half mile in the oak woodlands along Miller Creek below the junction with Heartbreak Ridge.

Heartbreak Ridge
The half mile between Miller Creek and Rincon Peak trails is fantastic. This area is called Happy Valley, and it's amazing. I kept thinking that this is what all the sky islands used to look like before catastrophic wildfire. There are enormous old growth ponderosa and fir along with sporadic desert scrub, nicely spaced and overall just healthy looking. Though not reliable, there was water flowing intermittently in the sandy drainage along the trail.

Rincon Peak Trail
The first mile of this one continues the pleasantness of Happy Valley, with a bit more climb. It passes through a couple of drainages that were lightly flowing with winter runoff. There's a tiny flat spot near the map marked point at 7330 where a sign indicates the end of stock use. From here the trail steepens significantly pushing the final 1100 feet to the summit. If I were to guess, this point was actually the end of the original built trail, with the resulting climb having been pieced together over time from use. It just doesn't seem to be a professionally planned or built route. Very odd actually. Nonetheless, despite it's steepness, I really enjoyed this final climb. A bit below the summit there's an affixed register box. It's in need of a new notebook as there is a single sheet of paper that is completely full of writing.

The summit features excellent views in all directions, including the largest summit cairn I think I've ever seen. Another oddity for this peak! The winds today were strong on the exposed summit so we dropped back down a bit to shelter for lunch, before heading back down to Happy Valley.

Happy Valley Campground
I was curious about this "campground" marked on the map and with a sign along the trail. It's really quite nice. Three sites with bear boxes and fire rings, and even a pit toilet! One site was occupied and the backpackers there reminded me that this is a national park, so camping there requires a permit and $8 nightly fee. Unfortunately, there is not a reliable source of water here, though there was still some running in this mid-March.

Happy Valley Lookout
Since I was feeling great, I suggested we continue north on the Heartbreak Ridge Trail, instead of heading directly back down. This was a 4-mile addition to the day and featured outstanding views and the best NPS-quality trail construction I've seen south of Grand Canyon! The lower part eases through shaded oak forest and other desert scrub before climbing into an old burn area and a steady climb. Near the peak, the trail exits the burn area that again reminded me how nice all the sky islands must have once been. We took the spur trail up to the old lookout but the cabin was boarded up and locked, providing no break from the wind which had now picked up even more. After a quick snack, we headed back down to Happy Valley and the return trip on Miller Creek to the trailhead.

This was a great intro to the Rincons and I'll definitely be back. :y:
Drive time to the trailhead was a little over 2 hours, and I think we counted 7 other people all day. My kind of crowds! :) Though the wind on the summits was a bit chilly, the temperature overall was ideal. Sadly no wildlife sightings, save for the loose heifers near the trailhead.
Named place
Named place
Happy Valley Fire Lookout

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water less than maxwater less than max Miller Canyon Light flow Light flow
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