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The Best Hikes of Tucson Mountain Park

247 Triplog Reviews in the Tucson Mountain Park
Most recent of 54 deeper Triplog Reviews
3.72 mi • 1,513 ft aeg
We Hiked a loop that takes you to the Bushmaster summit. The loop starts by climbing out of the parking lot up the ridge line that eventually takes you over a saddle around a peak. Trail was challenging to find until you reach the ridge line. As you continue upward, trail flattens out as you head towards Buckmaster peak. To reach the peak, you hike along the ridge line. After on the peak, you continue hiking the ridge line until it looks like you are going to be cliffed out. The trail disappears as you head off the top of the ridge on the left down several shelf’s, heading towards the valley below. This se toon is completely bushwacking. Once in the valley, it’s a relatively fast decent down the wash that leads you back to the desert floor. The hike along the desert floor is fast, leveraging some washes, before you reaching the parking lot.
2 mi • 1,200 ft aeg
Went with the girlfriend (her first bushwhack!) up Bushmaster from the little parking lot about a mile east of Gates Pass. As we approached the mountain we stuck to the southeast ridge, which was a little rocky, but not too tough. Running into cliffs near the top, we turned right and contoured around to the north side, and from there picked up a cairned route to the summit. On the way down we followed the same cairns to the nearby saddle and descended through the wash. Pretty dull day weatherwise, but still a fun adventure!
4.83 mi • 584 ft aeg
Starr Pass Resort Trails
Wanted to hike the trails that have their trailhead directly across the street from the main Starr Pass Resort buildings. These are the Hidden Canyon and Bowen Trails, neither of which I had been on before. Went in on the Hidden Canyon Trail and finished on the Bowen. When I got to the junction with the Bowen, I headed over to do a little hiking on the Yetman (down to the Bowen Stone House) before returning to the resort. Pleasant desert hiking with some decent views at times. :)
12.02 mi • 2,933 ft aeg
Bren Second Ridge & the Bowen House
I needed to go to either Sierra Vista or Tucson on personal biz, after which I was planning to hike. A quick glance out the window at the Huachucas [which were engulfed all the way down to about 5,500-6,000’ in dark grey clouds] made my decision an easy one. En route to Tucson, I watched the Santa Ritas, Whetstones, Rincons, and Catalinas taking quite a beating... but the Empire Mountains [which top out just below the 5,600’ mark], had no cloud cover, so I figured I’d be good to good with the Tucson Mountains.

The original plan to was to knock off both Bren and Golden Gate. I started with Bren and had an absolute blast. After the viral infection that wreaked havoc on my equilibrium last Summer, it wasn’t a happy few months driving by mountains like Bren and Golden Gate and looking up at the summits with fear instead of with excitement. My equilibrium is still not 100% but I feel very fortunate to have recovered enough that I found Bren to be fun and easy and I can now look up at Golden Gate with excitement instead of fear.

Just like the other summits I’ve done in the Tucson Mountains, the views from Bren were absolutely beautiful, [as were the views throughout my Tucson Mountain adventure today]. I couldn’t be sure which area on the summit was the highpoint, so I hit up all areas in question. The area with the triangle on CalTopo had a summit log by the highpoint area, but log definitely did not look official. It consisted of a single sheet of paper within a small, bent Pringle’s container. The prominent point to the SE of the one represented by the triangle on CalTopo appeared to be slightly higher; but I was not able to find a log on that area of the summit. I also did not find any survey markers, although I didn’t devote much time to looking...

…with very strong wind gusts, the summit was rather chilly. I was also short on time, given that I wanted to log at least 10 miles while spending the least amount of time on the trails as possible. Given how cold it was on Bren – and that I’d likely be finishing up in the dark OR on a treadmill if I decided to go for Golden Gate as well, I decided forgo Golden Gate and hit up the nearby Bowen House. I consulted good old Route Scout Topo which has saved me on many a hike and immediately came up with a very fitting plan: I’d head SE off Bren, hit up UN 3339, and then hop on the sweet looking ridge that runs NW – SE, located just to the South of UN 3339. From atop UN 3339, I spotted what looked like a full out trail leading up to this ridge; and sure enough, then entire ridgeline was routed to the point where it felt like a full out trail… so much so that I actually departed from the route in several places in order to get more of a thrill.

In addition to being loads of fun and very fast for off-trail thanks to being extremely well routed, the views along the ridgeline were sensational; and, to top things off, my spur of the moment decision to incorporate this ridgeline led to an ‘accidental summit bag’ of what is unofficially called “Second Ridge”. As I’m made my way along the ridgeline and approached one of the prominent points I noticed an ammo box nestled by a rock pile on the highpoint area. Both the ammo box & log inside were placed in January of 2009 by a party of 4 (Dena, George, Suzanne, & Vince). One of the messages in the log also indicated that there is also a “First Ridge” and a “Round Top” [I’m guessing somewhere in the Tucson Mountains as well]. I couldn’t believe just how many folks had signed the log. There were so many sign-ins that I actually didn’t have the time to read through them all. One person wrote, “Stung by a bee in the face but kept going. Fun hike.”

Speaking of the little darlings, I think today’s bee encounter, [amidst crazy strong wind gusts], was almost as surprising if not more so that finding the ammo box / log on Second Ridge. I was at the end of the main part of the ridge and about to make my descent when I stepped on a huge boulder to get some final views from atop the ridge. On the boulder was a small, shallow indentation that had some water; and by the small “puddle” of water, [that probably did not even come to 1/4 of a liter], was a bee. I guess an off-trail experience is not complete without a bee encounter. At least this one proved to be a rare but pleasant encounter where my presence did not piss off the bee for once.

Last up was the Bowen House, which is really neat. I’d read about it a while back and it’s been on the ‘to hike’ list for awhile now, so it was very nice to finally see. I then went back by way of the Yetman Trail. There were a few times where I gave in to off-trail temptations and scrambled up some very small peaks/molehill types of things. Some of the bigger peaks looked very tempting, but I was starting to get tired by this point and short on daylight, given the distance I needed to cover to get back to my vehicle. At the end, there is a very nice route that leads from the parking area located to the NW of Bren back over to the parking area in front of Bushmaster, [which is where I had parked]. This shortcut bypasses having to hike on the very busy Gates Pass Road.

All in all, it was another super adventure in the Tucson Mountains, which never disappoint… and a nice break from some of the cliffing-hanging off-trail adventures I’ve been up to lately. The three biggest challenges I encountered where:

1. Not getting run over by motor vehicles while crossing Gates Pass Road
2. Not getting run over by bicyclists on the Yetman Trail
3. Getting back on time [for once] when using my mom as contact person
5.88 mi • 608 ft aeg
Starr Pass-Yetman
Checked out some sections of trail out in the Tucson Mountains that I had not previously hiked, including a fairly new one that is known to the biking community as the Beer Garden Trail. :) This one is a connector shortcut between the Yetman back to Starr Pass. Very popular mountain biking area, and I encountered many today (all very friendly and courteous). I generally get off the trail if I see them coming, so that they can maintain their momentum (as I am usually strolling along looking at things anyway). Fine day out there between storms.
3.91 mi • 1,625 ft aeg
Tower & Bushmaster Peaks
I had my plans set on a trip to the TMP after work today, but had a hard time deciding which peak(s) to hit. I finally settled on doing the Tower and Bushmaster loop again, good stuff. This might be about the toughest 4 mile hike pound for pound that I have been on, even on the second go around. Got started a bit before 3 from the Gates Pass overlook. Took some of the social trails into the valley where they seem to disappear, and then started the bushwhack. My legs had healed up from doing Lime Creek in shorts last weekend, well they are all marked up again. I did this trip as basically the same route as I had done last winter, just CCW this time to hit up Tower first. There is a pretty good use trail for a stretch to the saddle, then it is just find the path of least resistance up to the Tower. Lots of scree and stabby plants to contend with along the way. Took a nice break up top, and then started making my way across the Bushmaster ridge. There is a better use/ game trail heading east to follow for long stretches. I spooked a pack of about a dozen javelina (adults and babies of all sizes) on my trek across, one even stopped for a while at about 20 feet so I could get a good look. Pretty steep and loose on the last ascent up Bushmaster, but a good peak. I could see the parking lot pretty close from the top, unfortunately it was not a straight line return. I cut down one of the drainages from the ridge, it was much harder going down this area than up like I had done the last time. I really had to go it slow to make sure and get good footing to avoid the slide into cholla or catclaw. Made it back to the parking lot right about 6 for a quick break, and then the ride home to Phoenix. Very cool but rugged combo if that is your kind of hike.
3.82 mi • 1,277 ft aeg
My friend Julie wanted to summit Cat Mountain, so I figured why not since I was already scratched up to heck from yesterday's scramble! :lol: I downloaded Nick's track, but needless to say, we didn't quite follow it. It's kinda PYOR on that trek. Luckily we found some cairns on the way back down, because there was one section that I did NOT want to downclimb that we climbed up at some cliffs. It was quite warm when we got to the top, so we didn't stay too long. As we were pondering our route down, a bee that had been stalking me for quite a ways up stung me for no reason. And people wonder why I hate bees. :x Have a huge welt on the shoulder blade now. Also rolled my ankle pretty stinking hard at the top just starting down. Thank God for ankles of steel!!!! :sweat:
4.02 mi • 1,577 ft aeg
Tower Peak & Palisades Crest
I chose Tower Peak for ‘logistic purposes’: with holiday madness already setting in, causing major delays with some special food that I normally order online, an obligatory trip to Tucson to hit up Whole Foods was very much in order. In addition to being a very easy / straightforward TH to get to, the takeoff point for Tower Peak is also very conveniently located to the Speedway Blvd Whole Foods.
Superstition Wilderness Loop Hike
Superstition Wilderness Loop Hike

Having hit the trails just once this past weekend, I was more than ready to tear it up... [but not so ready for the trip down ‘Memory Lane’, which began the moment I pulled into the TH and caught sight of Bushmaster Peak dominating the horizon]. Most of the way to Tower Peak was a repeat of my approach to Bushmaster from January of this year ( ... 7376). With my equilibrium still not 100%, it was sad and frustrating to have to slow my pace in order to be able to enjoy the scenery; and the vivid memories of how I rocked the show on this same stretch of mountain en route to Bushmaster Peak back in January definitely didn’t help matters.

Despite the small handicap, I was making phenomenal time; and it felt very good to be able to easily negotiate stretches of moderately loose footing that I’d found slightly challenging back in January when I did Bushmaster. However, I decided to take a slight detour by following a fun looking route up toward UN 4063. With literally just 300’ to go, things got rather cliffy and I ended up turning back. Knowing that I might have succeeded had it not been for the viral infection that F’d up my equilibrium this past summer, it was extremely frustrating to say the least.

As far as Tower Peak was concerned, the most challenging part proved to be on the approach rather than the ascent. Very shortly after having returned to the main route after my failed attempt to summit UN 4063, [but before reaching the saddle area where you’d continue North to bag Tower or East & slight South to bag Bushmaster], there is a ginormous, downed saguaro laying right across the path. With very loose footing, a relatively steep grade, and not much margin for error between many varieties of thorny vegetation just waiting to nail you, it definitely took some care to maneuver around.

Interestingly enough, Tower Peak is only about 1 air mile from the TH and NOT the one with all of the radio towers on top, which is shown as 4395 on CalTopo and approximately 2 air miles from the TH. The ascent up Tower was very uncomplicated, both from a route-finding and a technical standpoint. There are some cairns to help guide the way and the grade is relatively gradual with many solid, good-gripping boulders. Given that the peak tops out on the low end [at a little over 4,000’] and the metropolis of Tucson dominates views to the East, the summits views were surprisingly beautiful. And, while the summit area is not very large, there are many excellent boulders to rest on while soaking up the sun and enjoying the beautiful, 360-degree views. The highpoint area is obvious, and there is a summit cairn and register. The oldest sign-in I saw, [located at the top page of the main log], was from March of 2005; but there may have been older sign-ins… by this point, I was getting buzzed by a not so happy bee and was not about to hang around flipping through the summit log.

The return trip proved to be a very enjoyable experience with many fun surprises. The first was UN 4063. I had noticed a route leading up to this peak from the saddle area where the route to Bushmaster Peak and Tower Peak diverges; and on my return from Tower, I decided to check it out. The route is very well beaten in, and it leads toward a massive, vertical-looking boulder, which is easily skirted by heading either clockwise or counter-clockwise to the SE. As you start to skirt the boulder-like summit, you’ll notice that it’s much more approachable from the other sides; and some fun scrambling is required to reach the summit. To my surprise, the views from this unnamed little peak were even better than those from Tower. Even more interesting was the summit register: according to what appeared to be the first sign-in, [a SAHC group from October of 2013], this summit is also known as the “Palisades Crest”; and there were also interesting ‘artifacts’ in the register… like 2-3 almonds in a smaller, clear, cylinder-shaped container… and part of someone’s thermals… :o

Shortly after bagging UN 4063 and returning to the main route, it was time to figure out how to maneuver around the giant saguaro that had fallen across the path. Luckily from this direction, there was a medium sized rock against the base of the cactus. However, at just over 5’ tall, there was no way my short legs would come close to clearing the cactus, [even with the rock], if I attempted to use it to step over… but the rock provided just the extra lift I needed to be able to leap over the cactus and then ‘stick a landing’ on the one solid rock in sight, located a few feet away on the other side of the cactus. I’m sure glad my equilibrium no longer impacts the athleticism needed to pull that off or the fun and surprisingly easy leap could well have ended in a painful cactus encounter.

The final treat was riding the small ridgeline [that runs NW from the TH] back to the TH… vs contouring it to the East like most of the routes listed for Tower & Bushmaster. This ridgeline is routed to the point where the routes look/feel more like full out trails in most places. Aside from a few loose spots, the footing is worlds better than the fainter routes that contour the ridgeline, and I don’t recall having to dodge any cactus, [something that definitely cannot be said for the contouring routes!]. To top things off, there are tons of full little prominent points along the ridgeline that make for some very fun scrambling and offer some excellent nice views.
7.02 mi • 710 ft aeg
Robles Pass TMP Trails
This one starts 4 blocks from my house. :)

Back about 2009 or 2010, an area of land between Ajo Way and Irvington Road was added to Tucson Mountain Park. A network of trails was developed, used mainly by mountain bikers, that connects nicely with the existing trails to the north of Ajo (using culverts to pass under the busy road). I had been aware of this section (Robles Pass Trail Park) for some time, since I live close by, but my frequent drives along Irvington yielded no conclusive evidence of trailheads or parking spots, so I never went to check it out. My hiking friend Paul and I had talked about going there periodically, and we finally decided to go today.

I have lived here for 36 years, and back in the 1980's before Irvington was extended west of Mission Road this area was pretty undeveloped and a place the locals would go to do some four wheeling or target shooting. There are quite a few jeep/atv tracks back in there, and we afraid that the trails would involve a lot of hiking on these (something neither of us likes to do much). We were pleasantly surprised to see real trails! :D They wind around to make it interesting for the bikers, and for the most part feature pretty mellow grades. Great views and wonderful cactus are a highlight. There are 13 interconnected trail segments here, totaling about 16 miles. We encountered several mountain bikers and a few neighborhood folks out for a morning walk on these enjoyable trails.

The day before our hike, I researched a bit online and found that one of the listed trailheads was on the north side of Irvington just north of Manzanita Park. So I drove over and parked in a lot on the northeast corner of the park, then walked to Irvington and saw crossing would a little tricky with a steep embankment to navigate. So I went back and checked the satellite view and found a culvert close by that would get you under the road with no problem. Perfect! :D

Once you exit the north side of the culvert under Irvington you walk to your right to a jeep road that will get you to the trailhead, which is marked by a cairn along the road that parallels the El Paso Natural Gas Pipeline (marked on my route). You can also park in here if you don't want to leave a vehicle in Manzanita Park and use the culvert. In this particular location we didn't find any signs, but we were happy to see them show up at virtually every intersection, once with got to where the Rocky 13 segment reaches the Camaro Loop.

It's nice to actually have a real neighborhood hike available that I can walk to from my front door if I choose! 8)

Hardly any wildflowers noted, but the cactus bloom in there now is quite spectacular.
5.05 mi • 1,388 ft aeg
Nice, warm day out for February. Saw 3 deer. Good bit of scrambling, lot of rock is loose.
Did the loop, going up the mountain via the north/east scramble, decently cairned most of the way. Coming down the west side, you basically do your best to figure it out.
Solar-powered radio tower on top, connected to a couple of spikey devices.

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