Bug Spring Trail

by Dave Baker Friday, May 14th 2010

Relatively new, the Bug Spring Trial in the Santa Catalina Mountains follows portions of an old abandoned trail that once linked Prison Camp with upper Bear Canyon. In spite of its name, the trail does not visit Bug Spring, which was once the primary water source for the old camp.

View from Bug Spring Trail

Cathedral Peak and the Mt Lemmon Highway above the lower trailhead

Geographically, the hike has two distinct sections. The lower portion passes through a burned area from the big fires earlier this decade, and tends to stay on or near ridge tops, with interesting rock hoodoos and big views.

Rock Hoodoos

Ridge top hoodoos

The upper half wanders through a delightful, unnamed canyon that escaped the destruction of the big fires, decorated with ponderosa pine, madrone, oak, juniper and Schott’s yucca.

Two trailheads serve the Bug Spring Trail. Driving from Tucson up the Mount Lemmon Highway, the lower trailhead is clearly signed: "Bug Spring Trailhead" near milepost 7.6. The upper trailhead near milepost 11.6 is signed “Green Mountain, Bug Spring”.

Schott’s yucca

Schott’s yucca

Parties with two or more vehicles available have the option of arranging a one way traverse of the Bug Spring Trail by either planting a car at one trailhead and driving to the opposite trailhead to begin the hike, or by breaking into two groups and swapping keys in the middle of the hike. The one way hike from upper Bear Canyon down to the lower trailhead is generally very mellow, though at the beginning there is a pretty steep hill to climb.

Bug Spring water works

Abandoned water works below Bug Spring

Season: Fall, winter and spring. Lower portions of this trail can be very hot in the summer.

Water: Seasonal water is infrequently present in the un-named canyon along the upper portion of the trail; it is definitely best to bring plenty of your own water.

Difficulty: Moderate, though there are a few steep climbs. A one way trip is approximately 4.5 miles, with a 600 ft elevation gain traveling downhill from upper Bear Canyon; or a 1,400 foot gain from the bottom up. A round trip is about 9 miles long with a total gain of 2,000 ft.

Note: This is a Forest Service fee area. The Bug Spring Trail is popular with mountain bikers; be alert for downhill riders and be prepared to step off the trail quickly.

Maps: Green Trails Santa Catalina Mountains

Map

Click map for larger image

Trails

Comments (2) -

6/4/2010 3:50:52 PM #

The upper portion of the trail still has the "New Trail Smell", it is in that good of shape.  Great access to Hollin Basin from there too.

Craig

9/2/2010 7:43:07 PM #

Bug Spring Trail is a very popuular and fun mountain biking trail. Usually ridden to Molino Basin thru Prison Camp Trail.

Abe

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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!

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