The Best Hikes of Santa Catalina Hikes

1,378 Triplog Reviews in the Santa Catalina Hikes
Most recent of 599 deeper Triplog Reviews
3.23 mi • 1,843 ft aeg
The plan was to hit the summit, but the overgrowth is so thick I ended up off course. Where the trail took a bend, the most obvious looking route ended up being a game trail. After floundering around trying to find an alternate route and getting cliffed out, decided to play it safe and retreat.

Lots of activity on the ridge to the north. Kept seeing the DPS helicopter making multiple passes and saw firefighters on the ground waving around. Asked a friend on SARA what was going on, but said that rescue was being done by the local fire department.
13.28 mi • 4,333 ft aeg
Hike #1 Memorial weekend 2022 and staying far away from northern traffic, so headed south to Tucson. The hike Saturday was Ventana to the Window. The temps were slated to be in the 70s to 90s. I considered that it might be warm for the hike, but I usually can handle it. I was lucky to have the Gelinator (and Slick) as partners for the day. We left the TH at 6:00 on for the Pusch Ridge adventure. My goal was to try to keep up. I didn’t, lol.

Ventana means “window” in Spanish so it is a fitting name for the canyon. There was absolutely no water anywhere along the canyon floor. The Bighorn fire summer 2020 (2 years ago) fried this area and recovery is ongoing. The damage is depressingly clear in the burnt big trees like Alligator Juniper and Sycamore. Wildflowers are still in moderate bloom, especially as elevation increases. The overall canyon was generally brown with dried grasses. There were some shaded areas where the trees provided a nice canopy.

I choked a bit on the 4300 AEG, but sometimes you just suck wind. The mind says “go” and the body says “no”. It’s good to be humbled now and then, so your head doesn’t get too big. The highlight at the top is always worth the climb up. We hung out a while, took pictures and had a snack. It was time to go before I knew it, and down we went. Was considering Kimball too, but not on this day. Had a pretty nice breeze most of the way back, which took some (but not all) of the bite out of the temperature. The freeways were clear the entire way back. This was a nice finish to another great day in the Catalinas, spent with an awesome strong hiker.
9.5 mi • 4,400 ft aeg
See all that green up in the mountains? Yeah, you've got to walk through all that. Trail is badly overgrown between linda vista and the green slabs. Recommend long pants or gaiters. Clouds of swarming gnats between the pima canyon trail junction and mt. Kimball. I've been hiking this trail since i was a teenager in the 80s, and i have never seen the trail in as bad shape as it is now.
5.25 mi • 1,224 ft aeg
My original intention was to hike the top of Aspen Trail into Wilderness of Rocks, but, not seeing any closed signs or indications of it being so, I started following Meadow Trail. Was Meadow closed further in? Did the Forest Service re-open it? I don’t know, but lots of hikers, some climbers, and no closed signs to be seen along my entire hike.

Meadow Trail looked largely unscathed to me. Except for a few torches trees here and there, the top of the mountain looked to be mostly ground fire. Very little evidence of fire on the western-end switchbacks.

I kept going on Mount Lemmon Trail, which had mosaic burn between Meadow and Sutherland Trail junction. Sporadic torching observed in places. The post-Aspen Fire aspens burned, but already have 3 foot tall replacements coming up in their ruin. The bracken ferns are coming in strong and carpet the open areas. Most of the pines at Sutherland junction are wiped out, which is where I turned around. More mosaic burn along upper Sutherland and upper Canada del Oro from what I could see, with quite a few surviving pines.

I took the same route back, except for an off-trail side trip to the west side of Lemmon itself. More mosaic burn here, and nice to see one of my favorite spots still has living tree cover. Did one quick lap to the top of Radio Ridge at the end, and then headed home.

Not as bad as I feared as far as fire damage goes along the route I took. Still rough to see, but it looks like recovery is already under way in many places.
10.79 mi • 2,347 ft aeg
This updates the information for Thimble Peak, a well known and distinctive peak north of Tucson. The 18-year old guide for the hike written by Hans Schenk is accurate and holds up remarkably well for 2021. Earlier triplogs and pictures show an evolving set of conditions at the southwest tower (the taller of the two towers, and more difficult to summit), ranging from “no bolts”, “bolts”, “metal chain ladder”, and now, to “no metal ladder”. However, there are two bolts: one is about 6 - 7 feet above the base for climbing, the other (this one with a screw-oval quicklink) just above the wall for lowering off. In my pictures, I show their location. I also show the crack 3 – 4 feet above the lower bolt where one can place additional protection to reach the top, where several boulders perched there seem ready to dislodge with the slightest tug. Mitch, my climbing buddy and leader on this climb, gave the short climb a 5.5X rating. He also recommended bringing a tricam #2 and/or Metolius #8 for the crack. Forty feet of rope is sufficient for the climb but 100 feet is needed for an easy and safe descent of the chute, which is laden with numerous huge chock stones. Despite the short climb, this is not one to be taken lightly. Highly recommend a 100-foot rope, the pieces listed above, helmet, and climbing shoes. A 10-foot length of ribbon and bale ring would be helpful for setting a new anchor to get safely down the approach chute. There is a strap anchor of unknown age already in place at the top of the chute, but it’s safer to use your own, new ribbon. Add ½ mile to the distance since you now have to park outside the camping area at Prison Camp.
15 mi • 4,700 ft aeg
I hiked Blacketts a few weeks ago and North Saddleback Peak caught my eye. I got it in my head that I should try for a link up of Blacketts to Thimble, with North Saddleback in between. I found some victims... (ahem), friends willing to make the bush whack with me, unsure of if the route even went. Smooth sailing up Blacketts (there's a trail, after all). Then an hour of bush whacking to North Saddleback. The crux there was descending off Blacketts. Then another 2.5 hours of contouring "fun" to get up to Thimble. There's no ladder on Thimble these days; but one of my friends and I were able to free solo the south summit. Not recommended without previous climbing experience as the exposure and consequences of falling are both great. We returned to the Sabino parking lot via Bear Canyon. GPS route should be linked. Definite class 3 moves required (and class 5 moves if summitting the Thimble).
11 mi • 4,200 ft aeg
Visiting from the Northwest and not used to hiking in the heat! Started late at 8:45am after getting lucky with parking - the lot was full and we grabbed the last spot. Lots of people at lower elevation, but we were on our own after the Vista, and only met one person near the summit. Trail finding was difficult at times because of the burns, we lost the trail twice, and it does not look like it’s been used much after reopening. Hiking through the burns is a bit spooky, the ground is bare and the trees are leafless and charcoal black. There are several downed trees across the trails, but they did not present a big challenge. Also, there is no shade where the fire went through and a lot more of the hike was in direct sunlight. I was glad the little grove along the spring before the final accent to the junction with the Pima canyon trail is still there. There was no water in the spring, but the ground looked wet. The view from the ledge at the top is just as I remembered it from many years ago. We took our time on the way back carefully navigating rocks and loose dirt. We reached our cars just when it got dark enough that I considered turning my headlamp on. The hike was more challenging than I expected, probably because of the heat and the fact that the trail traversed many burned down areas.
10 mi • 3,400 ft aeg
This was my third visit and surprised to find the proliferation of waist high grass. It was there on prior hikes but not to this extent. It does make for a handy hand hold but otherwise, does a great job of hiding all that it surrounds. Not too troublesome on the ascent but for the descent, our group of 3 fell 6-7 times when our foot caught the grass on a sloped boulder. Kind of dangerous and was grateful for the brief respite given traversing the boulder field about half way down the canyon. Note the canyon climb to the ridge is .80 miles having an average grade of 30% so steep. Fire pit and camp site in good shape at the rim and the views, magnificent. If you rely on cairns, I found very few. Never more than 2 in a row.
8.7 mi • 2,053 ft aeg
Apache Peak Abort
With high hopes to beat the heat just enough to check Apache Peak off my to-do list, we were on-the-road early and on the trail before 7 am @75°, albeit a bit more humid than expected so we'd have plenty of sweating right from the start.

Unfortunately our hopes were dashed early on... with so many 4x4 timber steps (the step height on some was 8-10") to step over it wasn't long before my hips were bellowing in agony. Not willing to waste a 4-hour round-trip drive by giving up a mile into the hike, it was time to shut up and keep on truckin'. Eventually I got used to the pain enough to ignore it for the most part.

By time we hit the Oracle Ridge Trail #1 it was up to 88°, but thanks to a left turn to head south we had a nice cross-wind and with the humidity dropping noticeably it felt cool... for a while. Although we were faced with the next significant climb we could see our goal, which prompted a bit of optimism.

When we reached where Forest Road 639 ended, neither of us felt ready for the last 1.25 mile 1300' climb. If that was all, after taking a quick snack break I'm sure we would have persevered. But the impetus to abort the hike was provided by two issues related to my recent back surgery:
1. An intense burning in the upper back, which was just more pain added to the existing hip pain.
2. But a bit more worrying was the lack of feeling from my right foot so I wasn't able to feel the terrain and had to watch every step I took.

As a result, it was time to call it quits and head back. I even had the idea of Tracey hiking back to the 4Runner then driving to the end of FR 639, where I would be waiting, but with no information of the route from the TH to that point we both deemed it unfeasible. So again, it was just down to slogging it out.

We did take one short side-trip to visit the High Jinks Ranch, which is on-the-market for $555,000... if we had a cool half-million-$ laying around, we just may have been interested. A realtor was showing the property so we just took a few quick photos and left.

One positive... by heading home early we were cooling off at home before the dust storms kicked up.

Now the day after... the burning from the back is down to an ache but the the forward half of my right foot is still numb. Not sure if I can wait til the end of July for my 6-month surgery follow-up with the surgeon... will probably talk to PA anyway.
12.4 mi • 3,119 ft aeg
This was part 2 of the hike we did in February doing the lower half of this trail. Last time we hiked from Oracle all the way up to Rice Peak and back down. This time, we started from the upper TH at Summerhaven on top of Mt. Lemmon and walked down to the base of Rice Peak. I had originally thought this upper section would be a total distance of 11 to 12 miles. It would really only be barely 10. So I had the idea of trying to hike down to Catalina Camp and to the junction of the Red Ridge Trail. We decided to go to Rice Peak first and then on our way back up, we would decide at Dan's Saddle whether or not to lose another 900' of elevation before having to climb back up 2000' to get back to the car. We had lunch just before Dan's Saddle, made our assessment, and decided to go for it. I had 3.5 liters of water left, which was right at the limit of what I was comfortable with. We ended up a quarter of a mile short of the junction when we decided to head back up. The temperature was getting noticeable warmer as we descended, and the trail was pretty steep and gnarly in sections as it went past the Catalina Camp. I ended up running out of water a half mile from the TH, so it was a good call.

At the start of the hike we kicked out about 5 deer below the trail that ran over the ridge and out of sight. We kicked a few more out as we hiked along the trail, and I was thinking they might have been the same deer. At one point there were two above the trail running through the trees. The must have been yearlings because their coats were still kind of spotty. Every time we saw them, they ran like crazy and wouldn't stop. I mentioned to Wally that they really seemed spooked and he brought up the fact that this is mountain lion country. Oh yeah. I was never able to get any pictures because by the time my camera was out, turned on and focused, they were gone.

The climb back up from Catalina Camp was a bit of a slog. Going up from Catalina Camp to Dan's Saddle seemed a lot harder than from the saddle back to the car, even though the AEG for both is roughly the same. Luckily, as we ascended, clouds came rolling in, giving us some shade and breezes. I think if the sun would have been hitting us directly, I would have run out of water a lot sooner.

On our way home, there were some very dark storm clouds rolling in from the southeast. Hopefully that's a sign of the monsoon arriving soon. Lots of clouds in the sky in Tucson as we left, none at all in Phoenix.

Saw 2 other hikers all day, who looked so similar that I thought it was the same guy doing an out and back hike. Nice to get this trail completed and mark off another hike in the 100 Classic Hikes in AZ book.
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