Sycamore Groves in the Santa Rita Mountains

by Dave Baker Monday, June 29th 2009

Mt Wrightson looms large on the drive up Madera Canyon Road in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson, and the hike to this towering summit from the end of the road is the signature outing in the area.

So, it can be easy to miss some trailheads near the mouth of Madera Canyon that access a loop trail which visits two of Madera’s side drainages. Graced with several springs and tangled groves of white barked sycamore trees, oak, pine and fir - this is a lovely area to spend time in.

Near Bog Springs

Sycamore cathedral near Bog Springs

A direct hike to Bog Springs requires a round trip of a little over 3.5 miles with an elevation gain of a just less than a thousand feet. The cathedral grove of sycamore trees around the spring is exceptionally beautiful and serene.

Walking the complete loop takes in Sylvester Spring, Kent Spring, and Bog Springs, adding another 700 feet of elevation, for a about a 6.5 mile round trip hike from the trailhead; a distinctly harder hike than the in-and-out trip to Bog Springs. On the loop hike, there are some nice long views out Madera Canyon as you traverse the steep slopes between Kent and Bog Springs.

Trail to Sylvester Spring

Tramping uphill towards Sylvester Spring

Two trailheads serve this loop. The first trailhead (31.72681 N, 110.8803 W, WGS84) is on the east side Madera Canyon Road just past the turnoff to Bog Spring Campground. Marking the turn into the parking lot, a sign declares “Madera Trailhead, PICNIC AREA”. In the parking lot, the trailhead is conveniently marked with another sign: “BOG SPRING TRAILHEAD”.

The second trailhead (31.72225 N, 110.87943 W, WGS84) is just a few hundred yards up Madera Canyon Road, but here one parks in a parking lot on the west side of the road identified by a sign stating “Amphitheater and Nature Trail”. The trailhead here is on the opposite (east) side of the road from the parking area.

Once on the trail, the loop junction is reached after a little more than a mile; turn left (east) towards Bog Springs, or continue straight (south) towards Sylvester and Kent springs.

Season: These hikes can be done year round. During summer months it can be hot here, so early starts are recommended.

Water: There is often water at Bog Springs, Kent Spring, and Sylvester Spring, but best to bring plenty of your own.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate if you choose to hike to Bog Springs and back; a little over 3.5 miles round trip with just less than a 1,000 foot elevation gain. Moderate if you walk the complete loop; just over 6.5 miles round trip with a 1,700 foot elevation gain.

Maps: Green Trails Maps – Santa Rita Mountains.


Click Map for larger image


Southern Arizona Hiking Groups

by Dave Baker Thursday, June 18th 2009

Looking for people to hike and backpack with in Southern Arizona? Check these groups out:

Southern Arizona Hiking Club

Green Valley Hiking Club

The Ramblers (University of Arizona's Hiking Club)

Tucson Hikers

The Tucson Hiking Meetup Group 

Tucson Backpackers

The X Hiking Club

Tucson Alt Hikers

What is your favorite hiking group?

Rattlesnake - Cathedral Pk, Jeremy, Ed


Stop the Rosemont Copper Project

by Dave Baker Thursday, June 11th 2009

Arizona congressional representatives Gabrielle Giffords and Raul Grijalva have turned up the heat on the Forest Service in an effort to stop the disastrous Rosemont Copper mining project south of Tucson in the Santa Rita Mountains.

Read about their recent efforts in an article in The Green Valley News.

View the approximate location of the proposed project on Google Maps at,-110.75&z=13&t=h&hl=en.

Check out these links to learn more:

Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, a volunteer-based, non-profit organization fighting the proposed mine.

The Forest Service Environmental Impact Statement home page for the Rosemont Copper Project.

The Rosemont Copper public relations site.

Events | News

Sutherland Thrash

by Dave Baker Monday, June 8th 2009

A trip up the Sutherland Trail from Catalina State Park to the top of Mt. Lemmon is a challenging hike!

For starters, the word “trail” may not be an appropriate descriptor for the route. The first five miles are pretty easy to follow; a beautifully maintained trail leaves the parking spot at Catalina State Park, but after following a jeep road and power line for a while, the trail quickly deteriorates as it begins a steep climb up the flanks of Sutherland Ridge. The next 3.5 miles of trail are very challenging to stay on; often a bush whack route decorated with small rock cairns that are all too easy to miss in the heavy brush and among numerous rock outcrops.

Coral Bean blossoms

Coral Bean blossoms

And then there’s the elevation gain: about 6,300 feet vertical from the trailhead at Catalina State Park to the parking spot on top of Mt. Lemmon. That’s a big climb! (Hike from the Colorado River to the North Rim and you knock off 5,800 feet, while the famed hike up Mt Whitney comes in at 6,100 feet.)

Cargodera Canyon

Exposed rock low in Cargodera Canyon

There are logistics to deal with too. This trip can be set up as a one-way, 11.5 mile hike, if a vehicle is available on top of Mount Lemmon when you finally stagger into the parking lot. Alternatively, you can make a big loop by hiking from the top of the Sutherland Trail to Romero Pass and then down Romero Canyon to the original trailhead. This reduces the elevation gain to a piddly 5,700 feet, but increases the distance to about 20.5 miles.

Jeep road & power line

Jeep road and power line

The combination of big elevation gain and hard bushwhacking make this route challenging indeed, but the hike is also spectacular and satisfying. The low elevation Sonoran landscapes are lavish, and Cargodera Canyon may surprise you with a few quiet trickles of seasonal water. Once atop Sutherland Ridge, the hiker is presented with spectacular views of the big peaks of the Pusch Ridge and the headwaters of Romero Canyon. The “window” in Window Rock is clearly visible from many spots along the brushy and rocky spine. This area is seldom visited and feels extraordinarily wild and primitive, with lots of bear scat scattered along the way.

Atop Sutherland Ridge

High on the Sutherland Ridge

Reach the trailhead (32.42553 N, 110.90828 W, WGS84) by following North Oracle Road (State Highway 77) north from Tucson towards Oro Valley. Turn right (east) into Catalina State Park about 6.3 miles past Ina Road. Signs guide the way to the trailhead parking lot near the end of the road.

The Sutherland trail heads north from the parking lot. After 0.8 mile, turn left (north) at a junction with the Canyon Loop Trail; 1.8 miles later turn right (east) at the intersection with a jeep road and power line. About 2.7 miles later, a metal sign marks the spot where the Sutherland Trail leaves the power line road and soon begins climbing up the side of Sutherland Ridge. The next 4 miles are a thrash, first gaining the ridge top, and then working up the ridge until reaching the Cañada del Oro Trail where you turn right (east) and climb uphill to the junction with the Mt Lemmon Trail. Follow the Mt Lemmon Trail east for about 1.5 miles to the Mt Lemmon trailhead parking lot; or to complete the 20.5 mile loop down Romero Canyon, follow the Mt Lemmon trail west a few steps before turning south towards Romero Pass.

Collared Lizard

A Collared Lizard shows color in Romero Canyon

Season: Spring and fall. The high elevation section of this hike is subject to winter snow, which can limit vehicular access to the Mount Lemmon trailhead. The route has plenty of western and southern exposure, so it can be dangerously hot in the summer.

Water: Seasonal water can sometimes be found along the Sutherland Trail in Cargodera Canyon, and in Romero Canyon. Bring plenty of your own.

Difficulty: Very difficult. The one way trip from Catalina State Park to the Mount Lemmon trailhead parking is about 11 miles long with a whopping 6,300 foot elevation gain.

The alternate loop hike up the Sutherland Trail and down Romero Canyon is over 20 miles long and climbs 5,700 feet; a very long day of hard hiking.

The upper 4.5 miles of the Sutherland Trail is overgrown and difficult to follow. I suggest wearing long pants; shorts are not a good idea on the Sutherland Ridge. The likelihood of losing the trail is very high, so competency in cross country navigation is a must. A good map, with compass or GPS is recommended.

Notes: Catalina State Park requires entrance fees, and the trailhead at the top of Mount Lemmon is a Forest Service fee area.

Maps: Rainbow Expeditions Santa Catalina Mountains or Green Trails Maps Santa Catalina Mountains.


Click Map for larger image


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!