Follow Tanque Verde Road east from Tucson and turn left (north) on the Catalina Highway. Drive about 9 miles and pass Molino Basin Campground. Continue 1.7 miles beyond the campground and take the left (west) turn to Gordon Hirabayashi Campground. Drive 0.3 miles to a parking area. Follow a trail out of the south end of the parking lot for 40 yards to reach a “T” intersection with the AZT.
Take Catalina Highway into the Santa Catalina Mountains. Near the top of the mountain range, bear left to the community of Summerhaven. Continue 1.5 miles south to the end of the road at the Marshall Gulch Trailhead. The trailhead is on the west side of the parking area.
Trail Route Description
Passage 11 traverses the Santa Catalina Mountains, including Sabino Canyon and the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. This section features extreme changes in elevation and climate, along with unique biodiversity and refreshing swimming pools – a rare treat along the AZT!
The trail rises and falls through dry grasslands, deep canyons, and dense forests. It features spectacular swimming holes, sentinel saguaros, and steep, strenuous miles.
This section begins with a descent towars Sabino Canyon, a spectacular desert oasis with lush valleys and rich riparian corridors tucked between rocky canyon cliffs. The trail winds along the West Fork of Sabino Canyon and passes by Hutch’s Pool, a spectacular swimming hole, and fantastic camping spot tucked away in the mountains. These unique desert watering holes are popular amongst the Tucson locals and can get crowded on the weekends.
After leaving Hutch’s Pool, the trail climbs steeply through dense forests and granite boulders, including a vertical mile to reach Romero Pass.
The trail continues to climb northeast towards Mount Lemmon, the highest point in the Santa Catalinas, where temperatures can be up to 20 degrees cooler than in the valley (a side trip to the highpoint of this range would add 6.8 miles to the total length of this passage).
Within the Wilderness of Rock, the trail continues to rise and fall through a dense forest of pine trees and oaks. It passes through granite outcrops with unique rock formations, crosses Lemmon Creek, and then makes a final, short descent to Marshall Gulch and the end of this passage.
Moderate to Difficult
All year. Snow can be present at higher elevations after winter storms and lower elevations can be quite warm in summer
Water can sometimes be found at Sycamore Canyon usually at Hutch’s Pool, and seasonal water at Lemmon Creek. Check the online Arizona Trail Water Report for current information at https://aztrail.org/explore/water-sources/.
All water along this passage should be purified prior to use.
There is a large, deep swimming hole on this passage at Hutch’s Pool.
Arizona Daily Star (December 22, 2021) by Cindy Coffer Chojnacky About 20 miles of trails — closed for more than a year due to damage from the 2020 Bighorn Fire — have reopened in the Santa Catalina mountains north of Tucson. After Bighorn burned almost 120,000 acres between June 5 and July 23, 2020, the Forest Service closed the burn scar area to the public including almost 207 miles of trails. A combination of nonprofit group work, grant-funded conservation corps, and Forest Service staff work has steadily opened more trail sections over the past year. The newest “closure order” issued Dec. 15 by the Coronado National Forest, actually opens most of the popular Arizona Trail Wilderness Bypass mountain bike trail system including Butterfly and the rest of Green Mountain Trail. Of that system, only Crystal Springs Trail remains closed; although volunteers and crews have been working on this trail, which should be usable soon. Brush Corral Trail, connecting Green Mountain Trail to the Redington Pass area, also is open. Major ridge trails such as Samaniego, Sutherland and Canada del Oro remain closed although Red Ridge Trail, popular with mountain bikes, is open thanks to work from Tucson Off-Road Cycling Association...
Tucson Local Media (Jun 29, 2021) by Ireland Stevenson A hiker was found dead after embarking on the Arizona Trail near Oro Valley, the Pima County Sheriff’s Office reported last week. 71-year-old John “Jack” Menard started his hike on June 17. His hike itinerary included starting from American Flag Ranch in Oracle to the Gordon Hirabayashi Campground (about 18 miles south of Mount Lemmon), where he planned to be picked up on June 20. Menard never showed up to the meeting location. He was then declared missing, so search and rescue deputies were dispatched along with assistance from Southern Arizona Rescue Association. Arizona Department of Public Safety Air Rescue, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue, Pima County Sheriff’s Department Air Unit, Pima Regional resources, Park Enforcement Search & Rescue, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection were all utilized in the extensive three-day search for Menard. Menard was located deceased, approximately three miles northwest of the Gordon Hirabayashi Camp ground. “The Pima County Sheriff’s Department extends our deepest sympathies to the Menard family on the loss of their loved one,” PCSD officials said in a news release. The cause of death was not immediately...
Arizona Daily Star (April 23, 2021) by Cindy Coffer Chojnacky Hikers flock to the rugged Santa Catalina mountains north of Tucson, but many trails are still off limits in the wake of last year’s Bighorn Fire. Most trails remain closed within the burn scar of the 119,987-acre Bighorn Fire, which raged from June 5 through July 23. Some trails are within Pusch Ridge Wilderness on the southwest flank of the mountains, and others are north or east of the wilderness. The Arizona Trail through the heart of the wilderness was reopened March 2, “just in time for thru-hiking season,” reported the Arizona Trail Association website. Most hike the 800-mile trail from Mexico to Utah in spring or fall. Nearly two dozen other trails, however, remain closed, though hikers were observed using at least one — Mount Lemmon Trail — on a recent visit. Many will stay closed through at least Oct. 1, said Santa Catalina District Ranger Charles Woodard. “After fire, it takes three to five years for an area to stabilize,” he said. “We need to monitor impacts of any heavy rain on the decomposed granitic soils.” The dry winter with one storm in January and light mountain rain...
The Coronado National Forest has updated the Bighorn Fire Closure Order to include the reopening of trails impacted by the Bighorn Fire. Most trails in the Santa Catalina Mountains remain closed, including the majority of the front range trails close to Tucson. Passage 10, 11, and 12 of the Arizona National Scenic Trail have been reopened. Passage 11b - Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bypass is not yet entirely open due to some extreme hazards and potential for continued degradation due to flash flooding. The ATA, along with the Passage Stewards, conservation Crews, other user groups, and the forest service are working to evaluate, stabilize, and improve the tread for preservation, safety, and sustainability of the route where it follows Green Mountain Trail between Bear Saddle and San Pedro Vista. Connectivity between trails throughtou the Santa Catalina Ranger District is still severely limited since most of the mountain was impacted by the Bighorn Fire, which scorched a total of 119,978 acres. Due to the possibility of severe flash floods, all trails on the mountain should be avoided if rain is in the forecast. The Arizona Trail Association has conducted on-the-ground trail conditions assessments, but the possibility of falling trees, rolling rocks, unstable...
Summertime is when hundreds of hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians are planning the logistics of a long-distance trip on the Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT). Especially since many individuals canceled their springtime AZT adventures due to COVID-19, the Arizona Trail Association (ATA) has been anticipating the busiest autumn in history. However, Arizona’s intense wildfire season – with three major wildfires burning more than 100 miles of the AZT – and a recent spike in Arizona’s COVID-19 cases has led the ATA to discourage thru-hiking and thru-riding this year. We know how disappointing this is going to be for so many people. A southbound hike or ride from Utah to Mexico along the AZT is the adventure of a lifetime, and normally we would be encouraging everyone to use these uncertain times to hit the trail. But widespread trail closures with no safe or reasonable detours combined with Arizona becoming a global hot spot for the novel coronavirus has created an unsafe situation for “thrus” in 2020. In southern Arizona, the Bighorn Fire burned 120,000 acres on the Coronado National Forest, including AZT Passages 10, 11 and 12 through the Santa Catalina Mountains, as well as the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bypass....
Tucson Local Media (June 14, 2020) by Jim Nintzel As hotshot crews and aircraft continue to battle the Bighorn Fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains, residents of Mount Lemmon, including the community of Summerhaven, have been warned to be prepared to evacuate. The Pima County Sheriff's Department announced that Mount Lemmon residents should remain "set" to evacuate under the Ready, Set, Go system. The fire has grown to 11,500 acres since it was ignited by lightning on Friday, June 5, according to an incident report. Catalina State Park has been closed and firefighters have established a restricted area bounded along the Coronado National Forest boundary south and east to the northeast corner of the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, northeast along the Forest boundary to its northeastern terminus at Sabino Creek, Sabino Creek north to the Arizona Trail, the Arizona Trail northwest to the junction with Romero Trail, and the Romero Trail northwest to Catalina State Park A total of 506 fire personnel and multiple aircraft are fighting the Bighorn Fire. To read the rest of the article, click here.