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Saguaro NP to Molino Basin, AZ
mini location map2022-10-07
22 by photographer avatarGrangerGuy
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Saguaro NP to Molino Basin, AZ 
Saguaro NP to Molino Basin, AZ
Hiking36.88 Miles 8,499 AEG
Hiking36.88 Miles3 Days   2 Hrs   12 Mns   
8,499 ft AEG27 LBS Pack
1st trip
In support of the Arizona Trail in a Day fundraiser for the AZT, I volunteered for a segment in the middle of the Saguaro Wilderness. This meant a day walking into the starting point, and two days walking out from the finishing point. As a reminder, walking across the park requires paying a park fee or having an appropriate pass.

Hope Camp Trail
I started at the Loma Alta Trailhead of the Hope Camp Trail. There is a short section of dirt road passable by any car and good parking here. I was surprised there is no outhouse here. This is a popular weekday trailhead for people doing day hikes, apparently. Hope Camp Trail is wide and pretty flat. At about 2.3 miles I met the AZT and …

Quilter Trail
Named after Jake Quilter, an enthusiastic trailworker, who died suddenly while doing trail work. Info on him: [ John "Jake" Quilter ] . According to trail signs, Quilter Trail from Hope Camp Trail to Manning Camp Trail is 5.5 miles, although I measured it at 4.6. It’s always tough to get these right. There was good water where the trail enters the wilderness boundary, at The “Quilter Trail – 1.35mi Water Crossing”. At a signpost pointing right to the abandoned Madrona Camp, begins the …

Manning Camp Trail
Continuing northeast on the Manning Camp Trail, I encountered at seasonal stream flowing cheerfully at several gallons per minute at N 32.1787° W -110.60955°. This trail is flagged for maintenance. It looks like the park service will soon be fixing many places where the trail has become a stream. Thank you, NPS! About 2.3 miles from the Quilter Trail, there is an intersection with the Douglas Spring Trail going off to the left. This intersection is a little confusing. From here the trail heads east and south. The sky was darkening, and rumbling, and I could see I was going to get wet, so I quickened my pace a little to Grass Shack Spring Camp, arriving and getting my tent set up just as it started to rain. Note that camping here requires a paid reservation at, but it is a nice camp, with good bear boxes that make great tables, and a really nice outhouse. The camp is 3 miles past the end of the Quilter Trail, or 10 miles from the Loma Alta Trailhead.

Saturday morning, I began my commitment to Arizona Trail in a Day, leaving camp around 6:15 am. In 4.6 miles, arrived at Manning Camp, another place where you could camp after making the reservation at This camp is a backcountry camp for maintenance and fire crews, and is really well appointed with faucets delivering running water, giant wood furniture, picnic tables, solar showers, cabins, covered corrals, and a propane stove that would serve dozens. It’s a puzzle to me why there isn’t a circle drawn around this place excluding it from the wilderness. No one was around. I enjoyed a hot lunch (using my own stove) at their picnic table, and then continued NE on the …

South Fire Loop Trail
You only go about 0.1 mile on this trail before it bears off to the right, with the AZT / Mica Mountain Trail continuing straight.

Mica Mountain Trail
A quarter mile up this trail, I encountered something I had never seen before, a photo stand. The idea here is you set your camera on the stand and take a picture, which you email to their upload site and they add it to their time lapse photo series. Unfortunately, at 8000’, my brain doesn’t work quite so good, and I am “icon-challenged” in any case, :lol: so I put my camera on the stand backwards. If you are in doubt, take pictures both ways and sort it out when you get home. At 1.5 miles from Manning Camp, I took the short detour left on…

North Fire Loop Trail
… arriving at the summit of Mica Mountain, my high point for the trip. Then back the way I came to the intersection with the Mica Mountain Trail. There is quite the trail network up here, and the trail labeling is imperfect up here, and people have scratched edits on the signs so you don’t lose the AZT. Mostly I was following my GPS, so I had no issue. I continued straight on the north Fire Loop Trail, which seems to be marked Mica Mountain Trail, past the intersection with the Bonita Trail and turning left on the…

North Slope Trail
I headed down this trail 0.6 mi to Italian Spring, which is a large grassy puddle, with good water. Just as I finished up stocking up my water and having a snack, the skies opened up with thunder and lightning and hail. Not my favorite thing on mountain ridges, but I hoped that the radio tower on Mica Mountain would be a better target than me. Hail stings on bare skin. I headed as fast as I could down…

Italian Spring Trail #95
I was much slower than a couple other parties of younger folks dashing from the storm, including an unauthorized dog, but there was no point in rushing and getting hurt. Once out of Saguaro National Park, and entering the Rincon Mountains Wilderness, I had completed my section of Arizona Trail in a Day, but I just kept walking until the rain stopped, setting up camp on a flat spot with great views.

Sunday, October 9, I was in no hurry to leave camp, and continued down the hill, with my pruning shears and saw handy. I trimmed a lot of catclaw and mesquite that was encroaching on the trail, but eventually ran out of time for this. Just before exiting the wilderness, I encountered a seasonal stream flowing vigorously, which I have added to the water sources.

Where FR 37 comes in from the left to go to Italian Trap Tank, there is a wide sandy wash flowing that had to be forded, but never more than an inch or two deep. I’m confused as to whether this is the beginning of the Italian Spring Trail or if Italian Spring Trail #95 begins at Reddington Road and follows the alignment of the AZT. Even the Far Out app shows this location as the transition from AZT Passage 9 to Passage 10, while the AZ Trail webpage shows the dividing line at Reddington Road.

From here it was clear I would have to push to get to my intended camp at The Lake where the trail crosses Bellota Road. I picked up a gallon of water I had cached at Reddington Road and pressed on the …

Bellota Trail #15
The hike through the rolling meadows of the Reddington Pass area is beautiful, and far different from the high rocky wilderness to the south. I watched numerous storms meandering through the area, but none hit me. A lot of target shooting goes on in the area, and even after dark :scared: . I wished I was wearing my orange hunting season hiking gear as I walked along the ridge top. I arrived at The Lake just before 6 pm, set up my tent, and had dinner in the dark. A great horned owl serenaded me all evening. As I sat there, a helicopter and fixed wing plane came in and circled for about 20 minutes, looking in the dark for who knows what?

Monday morning, I was walking toward Molino Basin at first light. It is nice rolling country, and I watched the moon set and the sun rise as I went. Took a long break at West Spring, and then made the thousand foot climb up over the pass to Molino Basin.
wildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observationwildflower observation
Wildflowers Observation Light

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Carolyn's Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Flowing at gallons per minute of clear, cool water.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Fletch's Creek Medium flow Medium flow
Flowing at gallons per minute across trail.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Grass Shack Spring Gallon + per minute Gallon + per minute
The stream flows vigorously through the camp, by all the campsites.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max Italian Spring Dripping Dripping
Pretty pool of water in the grass. Good source.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max Manning Camp Spring Gallon per minute Gallon per minute
I collected water at the faucet at the cabin. There was water everywhere.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water 4 out of 5 Quilter Trail - 1.35mi Water Crossing Heavy flow Heavy flow
Lots of water flowing in the ravine today, just where the Quilter Trail crosses into the wilderness.

water 1 out of 5water 2 out of 5water 3 out of 5water less than max The Lake 51-75% full 51-75% full
Plenty of water in the Lake, although I did not check it out for drinking quality.

water 1 out of 5water less than maxwater less than maxwater less than max West Spring Dripping Dripping
There was good water in a pool at the spring.
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