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The Best Hikes in Saguaro National Park

2,263 Triplog Reviews in the Saguaro National Park
Most recent of 412 deeper Triplog Reviews
0.5 mi • 358 ft aeg
 This was one of the high points on my Mica Mountain trip. See my Mica Mountain triplog for the timeline, distance, elevation, routes, etc.

It only took about 10 minutes or less to get from the Fire Look trail to the top of Spud Rock. From the top, there are some great views of Tucson and the surrounding area. There really aren't any views from the top of Mica mountain because it is covered in trees. But, the tree cover was quite pleasant over there. If you're interested in nice views all around, you will want to include Spud Rock as one of your destinations.
20.73 mi • 4,962 ft aeg
 I decided to hike to the top of Mica mountain. Brian, Jim, and Preston have already summited Mica mountain before and they were interested in hiking to Reef Rock and Manning Camp only on the same day. They planned on starting at 9 am. I knew I needed more time because I planned on summiting Mica mountain, Spud rock, and Helen's Dome, if there was time. Then, I wanted to stop by Manning camp on the way down. I arrived at the trailhead at 5:30 am and started my hike. The sun was already up and it was still cool. My goal was to get up as high as I could to avoid the heat because the Tucson high this day was 96. The hike started out with only a gradual incline and it was fast moving going up the ridgeline and then along the sides of several hills. The trail was maintained very well in this area. After hiking for a little over 2 miles, I found a podium style registry which I signed around 6:30 am. See my timeline below for more details.

Trails taken: Turkey creek trail, Deerhead spring trail, East Slope trail, Switchback trail, Heartbreak Ridge trail, Fire Loop trail, Bonita trail, Cowhead Saddle trail, North Slope trail

5:30 am - start hike right after sunrise
6:25 am - reached podium-style registry (2.1 miles)
8:30 am - 5 miles in, found great place to take a break. Left a banana peal on a log strategically placed across the trail as a marker for the other guys coming up.
8:45 am - arrived at Deer head spring
8:55 am - reached Dearhead spring trail junction
9:11 am - reached East Slope trail junction
9:19 am - reached Switchback trail junction
9:45 am - reached Heartbreak Ridge trail junction
10:15 am - reached Fire Loop trail junction (7.1 miles)
10:30 am - reached Mica Meadow area
11:12 am - arrived at Mica summit (8.7 miles). Had lunch at the top. Would have been 10 minutes earlier but I saw 2 huge turkeys fighting, along with a deer who was watching the entertainment. I got some great videos of this.
11:55 am - left Mica summit
12:15 pm - reached the top of Spud rock (9.4 miles)
1:03 pm - reached trail junction and near base of Helen's dome
1:26 pm - reached the high point on the Eastern side of Helen's Dome (11 miles). Climbing the West side would require ropes, we believe.
1:43 pm - back at the trail junction at the base of Helen's dome
2:20 pm - arrived at Manning camp (12.4 miles), took photos, video, and break
3:08 pm - arrived at "lollypop junction" (13.4 miles), better known as the end of the Heartbreak Ridge trail. Brian, Jim, and Preston showed up 2 minutes after I arrived. We never planned this - What great timing. We all took a 40 minute break.
3:50 pm - started descending
4:30 pm - reached Spud Rock Spring
4:54 pm - reached Deerhead Spring
6:45 pm - reached podium style registry (18.6 miles)
7:45 pm - back at trail head (finish) (20.7 miles)

Total roundtrip distance = 20.73 miles
AEG = 4,962 feet
Strava moving time = 10 hrs 31 mins
Pace = 30 min 45 sec per mile

The drive: The last 2 miles getting from the Miller Creek trailhead to the Turkey Spring trailhead required 4x4. This road must have gotten eroded badly in the last few years. There were a several bad spots.
17.77 mi • 4,687 ft aeg
Rincon Hike
 Jim and Brian and I carpooled out to the upper Turkey Creek trailhead for our long anticipated Rincon hike, negotiating some nasty spots along the upper trailhead road (road 4408) along the way.

We started late morning under a merciless sun, temps being pretty warm, our destination being Reef Rock and Manning Camp. No shade and lots of sweating for us all the first few miles until we reached some much appreciated pines and a small pool of cool water at Mudhole Spring, where we cooled off and ate lunch. A bit more climbing brought cooler temps, full pine forest cover, and a gentler rate of ascent. I made a quick side trip to Spud Rock Campground to see the aspen grove.

We met Mike below Man Head on Heartbreak Ridge Trail, and stopped to rest for a bit. Mike then continued downhill while we went up and on to Reef Rock. The beauty of the forest on top of the Rincons exceeded my expectations and I found myself taking a lot of photos. The views from Reef Rock were incredible, one of the highlights of the day.

We then went west through the mountaintop forest, passing under some massive and very tall pines, and on to Manning Camp, where we took a break, pumped water, and enjoyed the beauty of the area and the old Manning Cabin’s rustic charm. We checked out the little pool below the cabin and the helipad nearby, and then left to begin the long journey down a little after 6 pm, with golden light starting to flood the mountain summit.

We heard a turkey, a whippoorwill, and a poorwill calling on the way down as darkness set in. Also noted was what we assumed to be Mike’s taillights driving down the 4408 road far below. The last few miles seemed to drag on as we descended the rocky trail in darkness and wind.

We were all happy to reach the truck a little before 10 pm, where we ate a well deserved dinner on the ground in the moonlight. The drive down 4408 was less intimidating now that we knew what to expect, and after a long sleepy drive, we all made it back to Tucson, exhausted.

Great hike with Jim and Brian and very nice to finally see the summit of the Rincons, a place I’d been wanting to visit since moving to Tucson in 2013, but had never gotten around to doing. The Rincons surpassed my expectations, absolutely beautiful up there. A lot of effort to get up there, but it was worth it.
17.46 mi • 4,657 ft aeg
Rincon Hike
 Preston drove, which was good as an Outback can no longer get to that upper trailhead, and myself and Brian joined in a hike to the upper Rincons. It was nice to visit Reef Rock where the views are excellent, and also nice to get back to Manning Camp. Trails are in good shape. Really nice day.

We ran into Mike as he was returning to the Turkey Creek TH from Mica Mt/ Spud Rock, and Manning Camp, and so there were 2 vehicles at the TH today. Probably the busiest day it had seen in a long while.

Not 100% sure, but car to car took about 11 hours. Lots of breaks while out.
6.08 mi • 974 ft aeg
Douglas Garwood Wildhorse Three Tank Carrillo
 Took advantage of the less blisteringly hot day after work and went for a hike. Scared the daylights out of dozens of lizards, though one particularly handsome fellow posed for photographs. Also startled a squirrel and three white-tailed deer.

The trail is very bloomy with cactus flowers, ocotillo and palo verde.

Still some pools below Wildhorse Tank.

Cactus, ocotillo, and palo verde are the most visible.
16.17 mi • 5,128 ft aeg
 The stars aligned. A rare weekend off, great weather during slim season plus a couple others willing to do this. Drove out and set up camp on Sat. Earliest start ever for me of 7:15 am.

My pack was heavy & didn't fit correctly. Significant issue for 1st 4.5 miles. Will see major vegetation changes during the climbing: cactus, manzanita, junipers, pines.

The sign indicating just 3.2 miles to the summit was reassuring. Proved to be slow going as this hike is relentless. 6 hours up, 5 hours back. The other major trail page showed reports of 9-11 hours. Not buying into the "avg time of 7-10 hours".
21.7 mi • 4,804 ft aeg
 I've been wanting to get at least 1 summit of the 3 major Rincon mountain range peaks for a few years now. Brian and I finally decided to try it today. This would be his second time at Tanque Verde peak, but 1st time for the both of us doing the long loop up Tanque Verde Ridge and down the Douglas Spring Trail. It was the longest hike of my life in terms of distance, but not the most exhausting. The trail was very good and easy to follow almost the entire way. There were many signs along the way with distances posted so we knew how much further we had and also how far we traveled. GPS distances were slightly different but pretty close. There may have been only 1 or 2 places where we almost got off the trail, but there were many cairns to help us. I believe this hike was similar in AEG to the Grand Canyon South Kaibab to Bright Angel trail, but it was about 4 miles longer in terms of distance! This was definitely a lot of hiking for a single day. It's going to take about 4 days to fully recover from this one!

Animals seen: birds, beetles, lizards, 1 rattlesnake, ants, 1 toad, 1 deer

Plants & Trees seen: pink penstemon, juniper, oak, manzanita, fairy dusters, agave, yucca, prickly pear, white mariposa lily, silver puff, pin cushion cactus, saguaro, 1 crested saguaro, brittlebush, goldeneye, indian paintbrush, thistle, delphinium, prairie clover, scorpion weed

6:40 am - started hike at Tanque Verde Ridge trailhead
8:45 am - walked a few hundred feet off the trail to admire and photograph and huge field of pink penstemon flowers (15 min break)
9 am - resumed hiking up the trail
9:06 am - took a snack break in a shaded area (18 min break)
9:24 am - resumed hiking up the trail
10:40 am - arrived at Juniper Basin. Took a water and snack break. Noticed a flow of water in the stream (35 min break)
11:15 am - resumed hiking up the trail
12:40 am - arrived at Tanque Verde Peak, had lunch, admired views, took many photos and videos

---- Ascent total moving time was 4 hrs 52 mins over 9.5 miles = 1.95 MPH on avg ----

2:00 pm - started longer descent heading down to Cow Head Saddle
3:08 pm - arrived at Cow Head Saddle. Noticed trail junction going toward Manning camp, Helen's Dome, AZT, Mica Mountain, etc. (7 minute break)
3:15 pm - continued descent
4:28 pm - arrived at Douglas Spring Campground. I was here before in Jan 2022. (16 min break)
4:44 pm - continued descent
5:30 pm - saw a rattlesnake which rattled late when I was probably only 6 feet away (5 min break)
7:29 pm - arrived at Douglas Spring Trailhead
(we probably took another 10 minutes total in water breaks along the way)

---- Descent total moving time was 4 hrs 50 mins over 12.2 miles = 2.52 MPH on avg ----

Note: Strava said our told moving time was 9 hrs 21 mins. That figure seemed about 20 minutes shorter than my timeline calculation, but perhaps Strava was more exact.

21.7 miles roundtrip, 4,804 AEG

pink penstemon, fairy dusters, white mariposa lily, silver puff, brittlebush, goldeneye, indian paintbrush, thistle, delphinium, prairie clover, scorpion weed
17.74 mi • 4,785 ft aeg
 Met up with Linda just before sunrise to knock off a peak and gain some altitude. We picked this one a) because most other peaks down south are iced over, and b) this one is a cooker if the weather isn't just right - much better when cold. Today, the conditions couldn't have been better with temps most of the way between 40 & 50, though we did endure some 60 to 65 in the last hour or so.

This one can be uneventful in the lower 6 miles, but we pretty much chatted those away and they were gone quick enough. Once we hit Juniper Basin CG, we took a snack break before pushing out the final couple of miles. We made the final leg in short order and had the peak to ourselves. In fact, we hadn't seen anyone prior to or after the campground on the trip up. Views were excellent in all directions, despite the haze, so we sat snapping pics before the long trip back. The descent was just like the ascent, in that we chatted it away and soon enough, we were back to the parking lot.

It was really good to see Linda again - it had been a bit. We always have good conversation and a compatible pace, so always nice to hike with her. Thanks for driving down!
2 mi • 302 ft aeg
 Beautiful, cloudy day. Perfect for hiking. Started at the TH on Speedway, Tucson AZ, Saguaro National Park East. This trail is a stock trail, so parts of it are worn, with trenches. Still easy to navigate with adequate signage. The trail has a slight incline, wide and sandy up to about mile 0.8. The incline increases and the trail becomes single file. Poles are not necessary for this part of the trail, but are nice to have. It meanders through the landscape with rolling hills. Just past the 1 mile point, we heard water flowing and observed a nice water fall on the west side of the trail. Short of the 2 mile point, the Carillo Trail crosses the path and stock are not allowed on Wild Horse past that point. There will be signage indicating that stock are not allowed. Shortly after this point, there is a magnificent saguaro with at least 20 arms. It is to the west of the trail and easily visible. We passed over a small water flow. At about the 0.3 mark, we hit the Little Wild Horse Tank. This is the most water I have ever seen in this pool with a stunning water fall. There was enough flow that we stayed on the west side of the pool and continued up the trail to other water flows. This part of the trail was narrow and steep, but I was still able to negotiate the climb with out polls. This part of the trail fades into the wilderness as you proceed up the canyon. We just went up a short distance where there were nice boulder shelves to sit on and enjoy the sound of the flowing water with a few small water falls. The entire trail is rather sandy with little mud along the route. I have been on this trail when it was bone dry - still an enjoyable hike.

fairy dusters, brittle bush, Parry's penstemon, poppies
15.2 mi • 4,719 ft aeg
 excellent hike to rincon peak. ideal conditions. cool up top but not cold. warm down low. just a little bit of snow and ice at the top, passable without traction though i did use poles.

the upper half of this hike is magic. the lower half is very rocky and rougher than i remember

only saw 2 people.

awesome day

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