Sycamore Reservoir Trail

by Charles Wednesday, January 16th 2013

Have you hiked on the Arizona Trail? If not you might be surprised to learn that there are great opportunities to experience a day hike on the AZT that are only a short drive from Tucson! One of my favorite sections of the AZT is the Sycamore Reservoir Trail.

Looking down into the Sycamore Reservoir area - the stripe of green marks Sycamore Canyon with the most prominent green area marking the Sycamore Dam and Reservoir.

This hike starts from the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site just over 7 miles up the General Hitchcock Highway. The Recreation Site is named for Dr. Gordon Hirabayashi who was imprisoned during WW II for resisting the relocation and internment Japanese Americans - a conviction that was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1987. A sidewalk between two foot bridges near the entrance will take you past a several signs with information about the history of the area.

After turning into the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site take the dirt road past the campsites and restrooms to one of the parking areas near the corrals. The trail begins from the south side of the parking lot - a sign near the beginning of the trail shows the surrounding area and trails - standing in front of the sign you are on the Molino Basin Trail and the Arizona Trail! Follow the trail to the right and down the hill to a signed junction with Soldier Trail - the Molino Basin Trail continues to the right. At just over a mile you will arrive at Shreve Saddle - at the saddle the trail becomes the Sycamore Reservoir Trail and you enter the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.

Shreve Saddle - Arizona Trail sign and gate blocking access to an old road. Beyond this point you are in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness

From the saddle the trail heads steadily downhill - note the junction at 2 miles (it can be slightly confusing on the way back...). At 2.2 miles there is a sign and trail leading off to the left - the trail to the left is an unofficial route that will take you on a short side trip to the dam that was constructed to create Sycamore Reservoir. The reservoir was created to provide water for the Prison Camp - the dam traps water from both Sycamore Canyon and Bear Canyon. While it I don't think anyone would currently describe the area behind the dam as a reservoir the dam does, at times, provide water for an impressive seasonal display of green! Of course, use caution around the old dam.

The dam is hidden by the trees - while the hillside is often green note the change in the right side of the picture form September of 2011 (Green!) and December 2012...

After returning to the main trail you will soon cross Bear Canyon and then notice Sycamore Canyon on your left. At 3.1 miles a large cairn on the left marks the junction with the Bear Canyon Shortcut trail (useful if you are heading to Thimble Peak). At 3.5 miles the trail reaches its end at a junction with the East Fork Trail (the AZT continues down into the Sabino Canyon area - see Dave Baker's AZT entry from this area in 2008) and the Bear Canyon Trail (which will take you to Seven Falls). From this junction there are great views – look carefully and you will see the Palisade Trail winding down to its junction with the East Fork Trail! There are quite a few hiking options from this junction - but one of the simplest is to return the way you came.

The author with Sycamore Dam in the background - be very cautious if you decide to go off trail and scramble to the base of the dam - steep cliffs, loose rock and slippery footing...

Season: Fall, winter and spring.

Water: There is often water near the dam and sometimes in both Bear and Sycamore Canyons. Purify before drinking. As always, it is best to bring plenty of your own.

Difficulty: The hike to the junction with the Bear Canyon Trail and East Fork Trail is just under 7 miles (round trip) with close to 1,000 feet of total elevation gain - moderately difficulty.

Maps: Green Trails Recreation Map - Santa Catalina Mountains.


Hiking Report: January

by Jeremy Davis Monday, December 31st 2012


As I write this, December 31, 2012; Tucson and the surrounding mountain ranges are being pelted with rain and snow.  As I look from the Summit Hut door to the North, The Catalinas are being blanketed with snow to about 4000 feet.  What a spectacular place we live and know that conditions can change on a dime.  Enjoy being outside.

January in Tucson becomes the envy of many across the country, and conditions are perfect for playing in the outdoors. However, if you are anything like most of us, you love having the opportunity to head up into the mountains and play in the snow and ice at least a couple times a year. With weather these days as I write this, snow is falling in Catalinas and the mountains are absolutely beautiful from our Tucson valley. Here are some tips and suggestions for enjoying the outdoors in the new year!  Of course alway be careful as conditions on the mountain ranges can change by the minute, so be prepared!

Above photo of Guthrie Mountain

Tips: As with any adventure in the Desert (whether it be in the snow or in the heat), you must be prepared to bring water.  Many folks don't realize this, but you can dehydrate just as quickly in the cold as you can in the heat.  Also when venturing outdoors in our mountain ranges in the winter time, make sure to pack the appropriate clothing with layers.  Make sure to pack and nice warm puffy jacket in your pack as you head up.  You will be thankful when you stop walking and are able to keep youself warm at your rest times.  Of course, ensure that you let someone know where you are going and when you might be back and always bring a headlamp in case your are out later than you expect.

Gear: If you're hitting the higher elevations, after we've had some rain and snow, a pair of snowshoes makes the inaccessible accessible again! And not only do we sell snowshoes for the whole family, we also rent snowshoes! If you're not worried about snow, but you might encounter some ice, products like the Kathoola Microspikes and a pair of Leki Trekking Poles, will help you stay on your feet.

Sunset on Potatoc Ridge Trail

Destinations: If you're looking for a nice snowshoing adventure, heading out any of the trailheads along Catalina Highway just after a nice snowfall will offer great views and a great experience. Another awesome winter experience, although only recommended for those comfortable with winter backcountry hiking, is the trek to the summit of Mount Wrightson. Wrightson is the highest peak in southern Arizona and is likely to have ice and snow from the first winter storm, well into March. This is a trip where trekking poles, microspikes AND snowshoes are just about a requirement in winter. Lower elevation destinations such as Milagrosa Canyon offer pleasant temperatures. However, be aware that water levels may be higher than normal depending on recent rain and snow-melt.

Some General Resources to keep handy: 

-Seasonal road/day use closures went into effect Dec. 17 - Road Closures (the list of roads is in this is nice – who can remember?) – also has some notes about lower elevation open recreation sites.

-Calling (520) 547-7510 for General Hitchcock Highway conditions/closures or better yet are the community updates on or 

Hiking Report | News

Review: Inov-8 Trailroc 235, 245, 255

by Charles Wednesday, December 19th 2012

In the second half of 2012 Inov-8 released 3 new models in their Off-Road series - the Trailroc 235, 245 and 255. Because the fit and features seemed right we decided to stock the entire series - and after getting good feedback from a staff demo day on the Douglas Springs Trail and from several staff members who purchased Trailrocs we are confident they are a great addition to our selection!

Summit Hut Buyer Richard running in Trailroc 235s during a staff demo on the Douglas Spring Trail - after trying the 235s on the demo Richard eventually purchased a pair of 245s.

All of the models in the Trailroc series share the same fit and outsole - but the cushion, protection and drop vary between the models. If you like the fit and the outsole the Trailroc series offers a unique chance to dial in the drop/cushion/protection/drop for your activity/personal preference without changing the fit or grip!

Fit - Inov-8 describes the F-Lite and X-Talon series as having a 'Performance' fit and the Trailroc series as having an 'Anatomic' fit. The obvious difference when you put on a Trailroc is that there is more room in the front of the shoe. For very narrow feet this may be a problem - if you are using the X-Talon 190 or 212 and find the fit to be perfect there is a chance that the Trailroc will be too wide. We think that the Anatomic last is going to be a benefit for many of our customers - while the flexible mesh used on the uppers of the F-Lite series and X-Talon 190 stretches to accommodate many people (see our F-Lite 195 & F-Lite 230 Review for more information) the Anatomic last should be a better solution for a wide range of foot shapes. It is worth noting that the protective rand around the front of Trailroc 255 makes it feel just a bit more narrow than the 235 or 245 (because the material has less stretch/give than the mesh on the 234/245).

The Trailroc outsole - the different colors show the different rubber compounds. On the Trailroc 235 the different rubbers are not colored (the outsole is all green), but the 235 does have the three different rubbers/same outsole.

Outsole - The Trailroc outsole is aggressively lugged and makes use of three different rubber compounds to maximize both grip and durability - but most importantly this outsole performs quite well on trail! For me the X-Talon outsole is slightly stickier, but the difference is minimal and I think that the X-Talon outsole wears down more quickly than the Trailroc outsole (at least with use on rocky Tucson trails!). One question many people have when they first try a light weight shoe with an outsole that has aggressive lugs is if they will feel the lugs push into the bottom of their feet - we have not found that to be a problem with any of the models in the Trailroc series.

Drop - When talking about footwear 'drop', or heel to toe differential, refers to the amount of difference between the height of the heel and the height of the forefoot. A traditional running shoe often has a 10mm to 12mm drop (positioning your heel above your forefoot), some minimal/barefoot footwear (such as Vibram FiveFingers) has a 0 drop (positioning your heel and forefoot on the same level). The Trailroc series offers drops between 0mm and 6mm - if you are currently wearing shoes with a higher/traditional drop it is important to take time to transition to a lower drop shoe. For some suggestions/help/tips about running form and transitioning to lower drop shoes see Merrell's Bareform Page and Inov-8's 'The Transition Journey'.

The side and back of the 235. On the left: Pontatoc Ridge Trail. On the right: Douglas Spring Trail.

235 (Men's, Women's) - 0 drop, 0 Arrow (Inov-8 grades there shoes between 0 and 4 'Arrows' with 0 being a very very minimal shoe and 4 being maximum cushion and protection). The 235 is a great choice if you want a minimal option with an aggressive outsole. You will not have as much ground feel/sensitivity in this shoe as you would find in the F-Lite 195, Merrell Trail Glove or Vibram Spyridon - but you get a much more aggressive outsole that I think will, especially on loose and wet terrain, have better performance. The upper is mesh with TPU overlays that do a good job of providing enough structure to hold your foot in place. The mesh is great for breathability, but it will let in thorns/grass seeds/brush on overgrown trails and you may want more protection in some situations. There is a minimal toe cap that provides a bit of extra protection to for your toes.

The side and top of the 245. On the left: Near the General Hitchcock Highway after the first snow of the season in 2012. On the right: On the shore in Ebey's Landing, WA.

245 (Men's, Women's) - 3mm drop, 1 Arrow. I love my 235s, but after 6 to 8 miles I want something with a little more protection - the 245s are a great solution offering a more cushion and rock plate (the 235 does not have a rock plate). The 245s are minimal enough that I can still feel the trail under my feet, but there is enough protection that my feet still feel good after 15 to 20 miles on the trail. The 245 has the same type of mesh upper found on the 235 - nicely breathable, holds your foot in place well, very little protection from thorns/grass seeds/brush, minimal toe cap. If I could only pick one Trailroc model the 245 would be my choice!

Side and top of the 255. On the left: Near the General Hitchcock Highway after the first snow of the season in 2012. On the right: Taking a break on the Pontatoc Canyon Trail after an off trail adventure on Pontatoc Ridge (should have worn gaiters I guess...).

255 (Men's, Women's) - 6mm drop, 2 Arrow. The 255 is a clear step up from the 245 in terms of support, protection and cushion - your foot is well protected from the trail! In addition the upper of the 255 is the most protective of the series - while the top of the shoe is mesh (which provides good breathability) a thick rand around the front provides good protection from rocks/brush/thorns and substantial protection for your toes. The 255 is my choice when I will be spending time off-trail. The trade off for all of the protection that the 255 offers is that it does not have the ground feel/sensitivity of the 245 or 235 - this could be a positive or a negative depending on your preferences and usage.

The Trailroc series offers great features and options - it is one of my favorites and well worth trying!


2012 Cave Creek Thriller and McDowell Mountain Frenzy

by Charles Wednesday, December 12th 2012

30k Start at the 2012 Cave Creek Thriller

October 2012: 3:12:57 and 12.4 miles into the Cave Creek Thriller I reached the Start/Finish line aid station - my first 30k race was not going exactly as I imagined. My stomach rebelled during the first lap, I was tired and hot and I thought about dropping out - but after taking a break 'just one more lap' started to seem possible - so I headed back out onto the trail for more heat and punishment. I don't have a glorious story about how I 'bounced back' with a 'second wind' - it was hot, I felt miserable and I was moving slowly (more walking than running for sure). At the last - gloriously well stocked - aid station (ice!) I sat on the ground and rested before eventually making my way to the finish in 5:27:14 - not exactly the time/run I had hoped for, but I finished!!! While I was wiped out it must not have been that bad since the next day I signed up for the McDowell Mountain Frenzy 25k in December...

Hurting but still smiling during the 2012 Cave Creek Thriller

If you like trail running you should certainly check out Aravaipa Running's events. The Cave Creek Thriller and McDowell Mountain Frenzy are part of the Desert Runner Trail Series. The DRT Series races are held in regional parks in the Phoenix area. For the 2012/2013 season there are 7 events: Cave Creek Thriller, Pass Mountain, McDowell Mountain Frenzy, Coldwater Rumble, San Tan Scramble, Elephant Mountain and Mesquite Canyon. Every run has (near) 30k and 50k distances and they all have other distance options as well (both shorter and longer). All of the races are very well organized - nicely stocked and positioned aid stations, great course markings and friendly people!

2012 McDowell Mountain Frenzy

December 2012: The morning of the McDowell Mountain Frenzy the temperature was nice and cool. There were a few runners in jackets at the start and I wondered if I would be cold, but it only took a few minutes after the start to warm up. I relaxed for the first few miles and enjoyed rambling thru the desert with the other runners. Eventually a small climb gave me a welcome burst of energy - I sped up for a gentle downhill section before yet another stretch of rolling hills slowed me down. At 1:52:37 I finished the first 10.1 mile loop! I struggled to keep my pace up during the second loop as the course continued to roll thru the desert towards the final steep climb. It would have been a triumphant moment to run up the last hill - but I walked it, managing to arrive at the top with just enough energy to enjoy the downhill to finish line - 3:08:34!

Mugs and Gear from the 2012 Cave Creek Thriller and McDowell Mountain Frenzy

A few gear notes:

Garmin fēnix™: Altimeter, Barometer, Compass and GPS all on your wrist - with remarkably good battery life! This is a great navigation tool and way to track your outdoor adventures!

Inov-8 TrailRoc 245: More room in the toe box than the X-Talon and f-Lite series shoes, great traction/grip on the trail, lots of breathable mesh and a lacing system that does a good job of holding your foot in place - there is a lot to like about this shoe!

Balega Soft Tread Quarter Socks: Great feel and these still feel great after a lot of miles on the trail and trips thru the washing machine.

Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Pack: In a run like the McDowell Mountain Frenzy there are plenty of great aid stations with food and drink - you certainly don't need a pack! But, for me, these runs are partly a way to get in-shape for unsupported runs in the mountains where I prefer to bring a bit more gear and this pack works incredibly well when moving fast! The Summit Hut will be carrying this pack in 2013.

Events | Gear

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!