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.
From Tucson, head north on Catalina Highway high into the Santa Catalina Mountains toward the town of Summerhaven. After passing Loma Linda Picnic Area and just before the road to Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, turn northeast (right) on FR 38 (Mt. Lemmon Control Road). Pass the Fire Station on the east (right) side of the road and follow the dirt road a short distance downhill. Look for the trailhead for Oracle Ridge on the west (left) side of the road where there is space for a few passenger vehicles.
Trail Route Description
The Pusch Ridge Wilderness Bypass is an alternate route for trail users to avoid the designated wilderness area within Passage 11 (ideal for hikers, but illegal for mountain bikers and very dangerous for equestrians). The ATA strongly recommends this route for equestrians so they can avoid the difficult northern section of Passage 11 (Santa Catalina Mountains). This bypass is a very technical route, but safer than Passage 11 for equestrians.
From the Gordon Hirabayashi Trailhead the route crosses Catalina Highway and then follows Bug Springs Trail, Green Mountain Trail, Incinerator Ridge Trail, and then on the Butterfly Trail. It joins the Crystal Spring Trail which ends on the Control Road. This road takes you to the Oracle Ridge Trailhead and the end of the bypass.
Moderate to Difficult
All year. Snow can be present at higher elevations after winter storms and lower elevations can be quite warm in summer (current weather forecast)
Water may be found at Novio Spring, Crystal Spring, and Green Spring.
All water along this passage should be purified prior to use.
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...
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....