Incinerator Ridge Trail, Kellogg Trail, Mount Bigelow

by Charles Friday, July 26th 2013

In 2012 an extension to the Incinerator Ridge Trail was completed that connects the existing trail to the San Pedro Vista.

This extension is a short - but important - addition to the trail system in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It provides a useful link between trails outside of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness lower on the mountain (Bellota, Bug Spring, Green Mountain) and higher on the mountain (Butterfly, Crystal Spring, Oracle Ridge). The extension helps form an alternate route for the Arizona Trail - especially useful for mountain bikers who are prohibited from riding in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.

This extension also creates the opportunity for a lovely day hike taking you from the San Pedro Vista up to Mount Bigelow with outstanding views of the San Pedro Valley, Galiuro Mountains and views thru the Santa Catalina mountains down into Tucson - all in just over 5 miles with 1800 feet of climbing/descent (round-trip)!

The hike starts at the San Pedro Vista (approximately 17 miles up the highway) - a trail marker on the north side of the parking area marks the start of the trail. The trail climbs from the parking area  - takes you along a ridge - and then up and thru the rocky cliffs in the Barnum Rock area. The steepness of the trail eases for a bit as you turn north and start to get views of Leopold Point and the popular Ridgeline Climbing Area.

Leopold Point (named for naturalist Aldo Leopold) and the Ridgeline Climbing Area

As you continue north the trail passes unofficial trails to the left (down to a parking area on the highway used frequently by climbers accessing the area), to the right (over to the Ridgeline Climbing Area) and then to the right again (from a small saddle up to Leopold Point).

Mount Bigelow from near Leopold Point - the trails up to Mount Bigelow follow the hills and ridges visible in the picture.

After more climbing the trail reaches another section of beautiful ridgeline.

Clouds and Sun behind Mount Bigelow from the Incinerator Ridge Trail

Tucson City lights from the Incinerator Ridge Trail

The trail passes a signed junction with the Knagge Trail (at a well-used campsite) and then arrives at the end of the Incinerator Ridge Road. This is the end of the Incinerator Ridge Trail - to continue up towards Mount Bigelow cross the road and go thru a parking spot to continue along the Kellogg Trail. Take the Kellogg Trail to a signed junction with the Butterfly and Mount Bigelow Trails. At this junction you are just below Kellogg Mountain - if you are comfortable traveling off-trail (be cautious and careful!) you might take a detour and make your way to the top...

Sunrise from Kellogg Mountain

Looking back along the ridge from Kellogg Mountain

From the junction continue on the Butterfly trail to the Northwest. The trail climbs towards Mount Bigelow eventually meeting a dirt road with buildings and towers just across the road - a right on the dirt road will take you towards the Butterfly Trail Parking area. The facilities on Mount Bigelow keep it from being one of my favorite peaks - but there are great views and it is certainly worth visiting!!!

Sunset over Mount Lemmon

Map with comments - High Resolution PDF (4.73 mb) or High Resolution JPEG (5.55 mb)


Lizard Rock

by Charles Thursday, July 11th 2013

Lizard Rock in the Santa Catalina Mountains - picture taken near the Bug Spring Trail above Bear Canyon

'Big' adventures/plans are everywhere at the Summit Hut - just today I heard from my friends at the Summit Hut about: the Grand to Grand Ultra, training for the Javelina Jundred, two different upcoming trips to Mount Rainer, climbing/biking/trail running in Alaska last month and an upcoming Grand Canyon R2R trip.

Sunrise from Lizard Rock

But sometimes you need a smaller adventure... perhaps Lizard Rock? Great views, a rocky ridge at the top, total distance of .6 miles, all the hiking is off-trail - what a fun adventure!!!

Looking down into Tucson

The parking for Lizard Rock is one of the unmarked pullouts just before Mile 16 (the parking pullout on the west (left) side of the highway is first if going up the mountain - this is where you will start the hike - about .1 miles up the highway there is another parking pullout on the east side).

Sunset - looking west across the Santa Catalina Mountains

There are many possible paths to the top - none that I have found are great...

Headlamps moving across the rocky top of Lizard Rock

After a number of trips up this is my best suggestion: start in the parking pullout on the west side of the highway, take the most obvious indistinct trail up to an old campsite, turn left onto a small trail, keep going up to the top!

Tucson city lights, clouds and stars

Map with comments - High Resolution PDF (3.86 mb) or High Resolution JPEG (4.87 mb)


Gates into the Green

by Charles Monday, June 17th 2013

This is part 3 in a series of posts on the Sky Island Traverse - previous post: A Windmill to the West.

The Curtis Windmill is now a familiar landmark along Highway 80, but not a place to linger - after parking I gather my gear enter the sea of Creosote thru the western gate.

Gate to the west off of Highway 80 into Arizona State Trust Land

For several miles the dirt road heads gently downhill to a locked green gate on the boundary of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area - this area was created in 1988 "to protect and enhance the desert riparian ecosystem, a rare remnant of what was once an extensive network of similar riparian systems throughout the American Southwest."

A quick detour to the right - around the gate and thru the fence - and back to the road. The road looses elevation quickly here which is fine with me, I am anxious to be down in the ribbon of green.

The green of the San Pedro River in the distance

As I get closer to the river a windmill appears - AERMOTOR on the tail - water in the tank - an old wheel lying nearby on the ground - gear box exposed and rusted.

Working windmill near the San Pedro

The road comes to an end and I slow down as an overgrown foot path takes me west to the river - small paths eventually lead down to water and shade. The river alternates between joyous wet sections and blindingly bright dry sections - I see too many bright red Vermilion Flycatchers to count, send Great Blue Herons flying upriver and watch Coati from behind a fallen tree.

A wet section of the San Pedro River - along my route it alternated between sections like this and sandy dry sections

The San Pedro flows - undammed - north into Arizona from the Sierra Madre Occidental in Mexico to the Gila River. It is hard to imagine what this area must have been like nearly two centuries ago when James Ohio Pattie called it the Beaver River.

Just after the Contention Ruins I trade the sandy river bed for a small path on the east side of the river - artifacts from the San Pedro's long history occasionally appear. Soon I turn east along Willow Wash - across and up to the signed junction with the San Pedro Trail - on towards the Grand Central Mill.

Remains of the Grand Central Mill

The Grand Central Mill was a silver processing stamp mill that processed ore-bearing rock from the mines in the Tombstone area - there are a number of mills along the San Pedro. At another signed junction I take a side trail to the Fairbank Cemetery - old graves overlooking the San Pedro, it feels lonely here and I move on...

Fairbank Cemetery - looking down on the San Pedro

The last stop for the day is of the Fairbank Historic Townsite a recent and well preserved part of the San Pedro's 13,000 years of human history.

The last gate of the day.

There are parking lots on either side of Highway 82 and today I am glad to step into the car and escape the summer heat!

Map with comments - High Resolution JPEG (3.1 MB) or High Resolution PDF (2.5 MB)


-If you are interested in the San Pedro River be sure to visit the Friends of the San Pedro River website - "The Friends of the San Pedro River (FSPR), founded in 1987, is a mostly volunteer, non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of the river through advocacy, education, and interpretation."

-Expect flow and conditions in the San Pedro to be constantly changing - this area can be brutally hot  and flash floods are a possibility.

-This route largely follows the published Sky Island Traverse route.

-The first several miles of this route are on Arizona State Trust Land which requires a permit (be prepared for a delay since you will most likely obtain your permit via the USPS).

Hiking Report

A Windmill to the West

by Charles Thursday, May 23rd 2013

This is part 2 in a series of posts on the Sky Island Traverse - previous post: Sky Island Dreaming, next post: Gates into the Green.

From Cochise Stronghold the Sky Island Traverse travels west to Highway 80 and then on to the San Pedro - for this section we departed from the published route and looked over maps, aerial imagery and land ownership information to come up with a different way to exit the Stronghold and arrive at Highway 80 near the Curtis Windmill...

Part 1 - Slavin Gulch Trailhead to Middlemarch Road along FR 687 - 2.8 Miles

Forest Road 687 - headed towards Middlemarch Road

I have been on this section of FR 687 a number of times to access the legendary climbing formations in the Stronghold - but never on foot - it is May and it is hotter than I would like - but looking left to the amazing jumbles of rock is amazing.

Classic Cochise - a ridge filled with complex boulders and rock formations - looking east from Forest Road 687

Part 2 - Middlemarch Road to Unnamed Road West - 4.1 Miles

Looking back on the junction of Forest Road 687 and Middlemarch road - Sheepshead in the background.

Fences, houses, animals and old buildings come into view that I have never noticed from the car. The subtle curves, drops and climbs - along with friendly waves from passing cars - break up the dusty miles - but eventually I am just ticking off dusty miles to Part 3.

The wide dusty dirt highway...

Part 3 - West on Old Roads to Highway 80 at the Curtis Windmill - 7.9 Miles

Gate into Arizona State Trust Land just west of Middlemarch Road

The miles on Middlemarch give us access to a swath of Arizona State Trust Land - permit required - where old dirt roads run west to Highway 80. The road I want is unmarked and a GPS waypoint helps me find the junction. My feet appreciate being off the wide dusty road and enjoy the rocks - a nice change from the uniform surface of Middlemarch Road.

A view of the Creosote - Arizona State Trust Land west of Middlemarch

This road appears to get very little use and I am alone amid a sea of Creosote - an occasional Juniper floats into view and Ocotillo break the skyline - white and green in the nearby wash - all I can hear is the wind. I watch my map carefully and eventually take a right turn along a fence, here the trail becomes more overgrown - a few careful steps over another fence - more overgrown road and then signs of cattle.

The road takes me to an area near a well and water tank that are obviously used for cattle - thankfully not here at the moment. 

Water tanks and well with Cochise Stronghold in the background

From here the roads show more signs of use but I am still alone as I pass under the power lines and eventually out to Highway 80 at the Curtis Windmill...

Curtis Windmill - just off the east side of Highway 80

Map 1 with comments - High Resolution JPEG (2.9 MB) or High Resolution PDF (3.4 MB)

Map 2 with comments - High Resolution JPEG (2.8 MB) or High Resolution PDF (3.4 MB)


-I did this in several smaller segments and originally thought this would be 2 sections, but later realized this made the most sense as the single section presented here.

-This route exits Cochise Stronghold at a different point and takes a different route over to Highway 80 than the published Sky Island Traverse route - but it arrives at Highway 80 at the same spot.

-As mentioned briefly above traveling across Arizona State Trust Land requires a permit - as far as I am aware permits are not available online and you will likely be obtaining your permit via US Mail (be prepared for the delay!).

Hiking Report

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!