Friday, October 17, 2014

Top Hikes of Tucson

As you probably know by now, one of our favorite things about living in Tucson is the hiking. In fact, every time I start feeling negative about living here - I remember the beautiful hikes that are right outside our front door.

So I thought to compile a list of our favorite hikes in the area. I'll be honest and say that no matter where you hike, you're guaranteed to have views of beautiful desert landscape and challenges. But this is a list of our favorites, in no particular order.

#1 Mount Wrightston from Madera Canyon.
  • Where it's at: South of Tucson. You would take I-19 south to the Pima Mine Road exit. It's a pretty drive through the pecan groves. You drive into Madera Canyon, and there is a variety of hiking trails.
  • Our favorite trail: Follow the signs to "Old Baldy". This is more of a "woodsy" hiking trail, in opposed to Tucson's typical desert landscape.
  • What it's known for: Bird watching. You will see many beautiful birds, bird watchers, and wild turkeys along this hike. (Years ago, Ryan and I had a minor bear encounter.)
  • What kind of pass do I need?: Coronado National Forest pass. Which will get you into various parks, as you will see in this post!
  • Difficulty level: Moderate. It gets pretty steep at times, but it's nothing too technical.
#2 Catalina State Park
  • Where it's at: North of Tucson, off Oracle Road. It's actually about 10 minutes from my house, which I love! Again, there are about 2-3 different trails a person can take.  The trails link up with other ranges (if you're interested in a 20 mile backpacking trip, or trekking)
  • Our favorite trail: Romero Pools. This is a very popular trail around Tucson. It's about 5.5 miles round trip. And you are rewarded at the end with natural pools of water. You are sure to find people swimming in these pools almost year round.
  • What it's known for: Again, the water. And you also will snag some breath-taking city views!
  • What kind of pass do I need?: This is a state park, so your Coronado Pass won't work here. It's $5/vehicle. If you're military or 55+ it's $3/vehicle.
  • Difficulty level: This is a more challenging hike. I'd say 4/5. In the middle portion, it just gets steep with some stair-like climbs. April-October it gets hot, so hydrate smart!!
I did a 10 mile trail race here last April. This was a picture of the sun rising over the mountains. Breath-taking!

What a difference in views - as it peaked over the horizon!

Here I am running in the race! As you can see, there are some "stairs" on this trail.

Here's a background picture of the park. Ignore my husband's creepy mustache. This is when he was growing his 'stache for "Mustache March". *cue gagging*


These are a few pictures I found of the pools at the top! Pictures don't seem to do justice, but you get the idea! ;)



#3 Sabino Canyon
Where it's at: In the foothills of Tucson (northeast side of town).
Our favorite trail: Seven Falls. It's a popular trail, where you have to cross 7 little streams. When you get to the top, there are again, pools of water! This is a beautiful hike, with some amazing views.
What it's known for: The streams of water, "forests" of Saguaro cacti, and beautiful desert landscape. This is probably the most popular hike in Tucson!
What kind of pass do I need?: Again, the Coronado State Park pass will get you in. Otherwise, I believe it's $5-6/day.
Difficulty level: Although this is about a 7.4 mile hike, it's not terribly steep. Crossing the streams takes a little balance (since you have to step on the rocks to get across). Biggest thing is bring water - especially from the months of April-October!!

In the months of April-June, the cactus flowers are in bloom on these trails. Such a treat!

This is the water after our recent rainfalls. It doesn't normally flow this much, but we got to there to enjoy it!

The roads do look similar to this in April, as the canyons fill up with water when the mountain snow melts!

#4 Marshall Gulch
** If you're visiting Tucson, I highly recommend taking a day trip to do this one. It requires driving up Mount Lemmon via Catalina Highway, which is one of the most break-taking drives in the area. It's about 1 hour north (or above) Tucson. At the top of the mountain, there is a ski resort (yes, snow skiing), and a little town called Summerhaven. There are a few restaurants, to reward yourself with at the end of your hike. But during the winter months, there is usually snow up here so hiking isn't an option. (Come in late September-October, and you will find polka music and a lovely Oktoberfest celebration!)
Where it's at: At the end of main street in Summerhaven.
What it's known for: There are freshwater mountain streams along this trail. The landscape on this hike is pine, as you are at 9000+ feet elevation! Dress warm, as it's typically 20-30 degrees cooler in Summerhaven than it is in Tucson!
What kind of pass do I need?: Coronado National Forest pass will get you in here, too!
Difficulty level: Because the air is thinner, this is a little more tricky physically. But again, it's nothing unreasonable! 3/5 because there are parts that are steep.

These are some old pictures I found of us hiking Marshall Gulch. Very different scenery compared to Sabino Canyon & Catalina State Park, isn't it?!

It's fun finding "natural bridges and hammocks" in this forest!

And here we are at Oktoberfest a few years ago. Enjoying a Paulaner and some kraut!
I feel like I could write a short-novel on all the fun and active things to do in Tucson, but here is my short-story version! I really love all the active lifestyle Tucson has to offer. One of my girlfriends and I joke about quitting our jobs, and being "active tour guides". Starting our own business where we "guide" people on bike rides, trail runs, and hikes - and then take them to the best happy hours in town. But I don't think that would pay my mortgage. So the closest thing I can do is blog about it, and host family &friends! ;)