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Guindani Trail
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17 by photographer avatarPhilipMueller
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Guindani TrailTucson, AZ
Tucson, AZ
Hiking avatar Nov 28 2008
PhilipMueller
Hiking4.25 Miles 1,250 AEG
Hiking4.25 Miles
1,250 ft AEG
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
Kubla Khan towered over me. At 58 feet in height, Kubla Khan reigns supreme in the underworld of Kartchner Caverns. I paid homage and quietly left. That was about two years ago. I, like so many others, had come to see the main attraction of Kartchner Caverns State Park: one of the most spectacular cave discoveries in the world. In addition to the underworld, I noted for future reference the Whetstone Mountains that sit humbly as a western backdrop to the famous caverns. I passed the Whetstones several times after that on Highway 90 on motorcycle and/or hiking trips somewhere else, always rubber-necking to look at those beckoning canyons and peaks.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving this year, I had my chance for a sneak peek: the Guindani Trail. The Guindani Tr. is accessed from the western edge of the state park, but it is actually part of the Coronado National Forest. I closed the dividing gate behind me and off I went. Within .36 miles, there was a fork with a sign, and I went right. At .55 miles, there was another fork with a sign, and I stayed left. At this point I was heading north on the northeastern flank of the range through Chihuahan semi-desert grassland with Mesquite infiltrators. At .88 miles, the trail turned west into Guindani Canyon. Oh my, how beautiful this canyon must be in the spring or during monsoon season when water rushes through it, and it bursts with flowers as Century Plants on the hillsides above shoot up in their final glory. On this day, there were some shallow pools, but overall it was dry. That is not to say that it wasn't lovely! In fact, I was treated to a dash of fall color from a scattering of Ash and Oak trees that were lucky enough to take root in this life-giving canyon. I also saw a tarantula and an unusually colorful grasshopper. As I continued west, I crossed the wash at least half a dozen times. I had to look for cairns a few times, but the course was generally easy to follow. At 1.7 miles, I went through another gate and a few yards beyond that, hidden behind a bush, I saw a sign. I could go right on Cottonwood Saddle Trail, No. 386, or continue on Guindani Tr. to the left. I went left. The wash was behind me now as I hiked up from about 5,100 ft to another gate at the 2.29 mile point. A few yards from there, I enjoyed a fantastic view from the saddle at 5,609 feet, the top of this particular hike. I could look south and west over Middle Canyon to a couple of formidable Whetstone peaks. The San Pedro River valley was to my east with thick clouds and bursts of sunlight randomly shading, coloring, contrasting, and accentuating countless mountain ranges in the distance in an ever-changing show of light. The light show continued as I headed down the grassy south side of the saddle and then around to the east face, also grassy, and back down toward the park. I was pleasantly surprised to spy a Sonoran Rainbow Cactus by the side of the trail on the east face. At the 2.7 mile mark, I passed through another gate and just over one mile later, I was at the signed junction with only about a half-mile stroll back to the park. Note: it was all downhill from the saddle.

The hike on Guidani Tr. at a moderate pace with stops here and there and lunch on the saddle took about three hours. Other than the approximate half-mile/500 foot climb from the canyon to the saddle, the hike was not strenuous. Guidani Tr. is an excellent option for hikers at most skill levels who are looking for a half-day outing and a sneak peek into the Whetstones.
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