The King Canyon Trail is an excellent way to enjoy Saguaro National Park West, which protects a major portion of the Tucson Mountains west of Tucson, Arizona. The Sonoran Desert ecosystem is on full display along the trail, featuring Saguaro cactus groves, Ironwood trees and Jojoba shrubs, to name just a few plant species.
Wasson Peak, from Tucson’s west side
Hikers will also encounter plenty of evidence of the mining history of the Tucson Mountains in King Canyon, including a few mine shafts right beside the trail. Indeed, King Canyon Trail is named after the Copper King Mine, which was active in the area in the early 1900’s and briefly during World War II.
A section of King Canyon is also home to ancient Hohokam petroglyphs; down canyon a bit from the Mam-A-Gah Picnic area, which is about a mile up the trial.
Ancient rock art in King Canyon
Located on the west side of the range, the King Canyon Trail provides the most direct route to the high point of the Tucson Mountains – Wasson Peak (4,687 ft). A final bit of history: Wasson Peak is named in honor of John Wasson, the first editor of the Tucson Citizen newspaper in the late 1800’s.
This is a beautiful and rewarding hike, but note that the Tucson Mountains are relatively low elevation and can be dangerously hot in the summer, early fall and late spring. Winter, late fall and early spring are the best times to take advantage of the Park’s trail network and enjoy the unique scenery and landscapes.
King Canyon Trail
The trailhead is on the opposite side of Kinney Road from the entrance to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Kinney Road is easy to reach by following Speedway Boulevard west past I-10. Speedway eventually becomes Gates Pass Road, which continues up and over Gates Pass before descending into Avra Valley. Gates Pass Road ends at the junction with Kinney Road where you turn right (north). Look for a dirt trailhead parking lot just past the entrance to the Museum, on the right (east) side of the road. The first mile or so of trail follows an old jeep road which begins at the back of the parking lot.
Avra Valley from Wasson Peak
Season: Fall, winter and spring. The Tucson Mountains are low elevation and very, very hot during summer months, late spring and in early fall. This hike is most enjoyable on cool winter days.
Water: None: bring plenty of your own.
Note: Dogs and pets are not permitted on this trail. Though fees are not collected at the trailhead, Saguaro National Park is a fee area.
Difficulty: Mt Wasson is 3.5 miles from the King Canyon trailhead with a 1,900 elevation gain. Moderately difficult.