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Oracle Ridge - Red Ridge Loop
7 Photosets

mini location map2021-09-17
6 by photographer avatarazdesertfather
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Oracle Ridge - Red Ridge LoopTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Sep 17 2021
Hiking8.62 Miles 2,592 AEG
Hiking8.62 Miles   5 Hrs   28 Mns   1.91 mph
2,592 ft AEG      57 Mns Break8 LBS Pack
 no routes
1st trip
Hiked with a friend, doing this loop counterclockwise and starting from the Oracle Ridge TH. My plan was to start at Red Ridge TH, but when I arrived there was a "CLOSED" sign ](*,) even though I carefully checked the USFS Catalina District website and they showed that both Red Ridge & Oracle Ridge trails were OPEN. I drove back to Palisades to speak to someone in that office, and her response was "yeah, I show that trail as open as well, but the Forest Services does a TERRIBLE job of communicating." She called someone at the Forest Service she knew in Sabino Canyon, who had the same response, so she said it was my call but to not worry about it, if the USFS really wanted it closed they should communicate it to the rangers and on the website. She also said that she has heard of the public up there taking the closure signs and moving them around to other trailheads? When I asked why, she said "I guess people are just being mischievous." : app :

To avoid further confusion I decided to start at Oracle Ridge TH, but there is no real parking at Oracle Ridge TH currently, it's now all marked off as "no parking". I spoke to someone a guy at the fire station, who told me to park in the small dirt space across from the fire station however, in one of the "no parking" areas and that it was fine.

I must say, that the crazy amounts of monsoon rain, the ground instability caused by the fires and the apparent fact that no one has done anything to maintain these trails, has definitely made these trails more challenging. Experienced hikers can generally keep up with the trail and a GPS helps at times when it seems to disappear, but you're basically hiking a ridge each way with an abandoned road at the bottom to connect them. The wildflowers, buffelgrass and other plants and weeds were THICK, and usually waist high but at times head high. You really have to be careful in it with your footing, as you can't easily see what you're stepping on, and if there is a critter in the weeds or if the ground is deteriorated under the weeds and unstable. At one point I did almost walk on a black rattlesnake, thankfully he shook his rattle one quick time to cause me to freeze until I figured out it was a rattler and where exactly he was.

I was also surprised to see the mining or excavating, whatever that was they were doing on Marble Peak. That peak is pretty torn up now, they have cut switchback roads all the way up it and even turned part of the Arizona Trail/Oracle Ridge Trail into parts of their highway. Noises from the excavating rang through the canyon between us as we passed by and you could see the heavy machinery doing their think up there.

Catalina Camp Trail was also choked out with waist and head-high growth, and at one spot there has been a washout that makes it a little challenge though not impossible to pass. What an amazing spot the camp cabin is! I walked up and took a peek around, even inside the cabin, and was surprised to see that it looks like it is still being used by someone, there was even a sleeping bag on the bed and other supplies along the edges of the cabin as if it has been recently used. I post pictures here of it. The chandelier in there is just priceless! :app: The creek was flowing well at the junction of Catalina Camp and Red Ridge, a few gallons per minute still and no stagnation. It was a very nice break spot.

Of the three trails, actually Red Ridge is by far in the best shape, which made me scratch my head again why that sign was at the trailhead. There was a small tree down over this trail just above the creek (where you pick up Red Ridge to go back up), and of course the closer you got to the top, the amount of wildflowers choked out even this trail in spots, but for the most part it was actually pretty decent and much easier to follow.

I really hope the Forestry Service finds away to put more time and attention into the Catalina trails. The more time passes, the worst shape they are getting into. I would suspect the Oracle Ridge Trail would be managed by an AZT trail steward, and I'm not sure why that's not happening right now, but so many of the USFS managed trails in the Catalinas just are closed and unattended, and having no one routinely walking on them is making a bad problem worse. There, that's my :SB: !
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Extreme
Trails overgrown with wildflowers and weeds, many places waist high and in places even head high.
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." — Henry David Thoreau
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