Monday, August 29, 2011
Santa Catalina Mountains
Five thousand feet below the Butterfly Trail #16, the San Pedro River drifts in placid meanders through a hazy desert basin separating southeastern Arizona’s Santa Catalina and Galiuro Mountain ranges. In addition to vertigo-inducing views, this trail offers a lot of variety in terms of bio diversity and interesting side trips. From the upper trailhead, the hike begins as a pleasant stroll in the woods. For those looking for an easy outing, it’s best to start at this end and turn around before the trail begins its 2,000-foot dip down the mountain. Over its pitchy course, the trail passes through a medley of fir-pine, juniper, yucca, moist seep areas and fire damaged segments where charred stumps cling to sheer slopes. Near the midway point, the dribbling water of Novio Spring fosters an oasis of flowering shrubs, nodding columbines and the butterflies for which the trail is named. Below the spring, Novio Falls spews an intermittent veil of water over bare rock. There’s also an informal path (usually marked with red trail tape) leading to the wreckage of a 1957 F-86 plane crash located a half mile past the spring. Two trailheads access this route, so it can be hiked either as an out-and-back or in two-car exchange style.
LENGTH: 5.7 miles one-way
ELEVATION: 6,500 – 8,500 feet
DOG RATING: fair
KID FRIENDLY: somewhat
DISTANCE FROM PHOENIX: 153 miles one way
UPPER BUTTERFLY TRAILHEAD:
From I10 in Tucson, take the Grant Road exit 256 and go 8.7 miles east to Tanque Verde Road. Turn left and continue 3.4 miles to Catalina Highway go left and drive uphill 22.5 miles to the trailhead on the right. Roads are 100% paved.
LOWER BIGELOW TRAILHEAD:
From I10 in Tucson, take the Grant Road exit 256 and go 8.7 miles east to Tanque Verde Road. Turn left and continue 3.4 miles to Catalina Highway go left and drive uphill 19.5 miles to the Lower Bigelow trailhead on the right. Roads are 100% paved. FACILITIES: restrooms, water
FEE: $5 Catalina Highway daily fee per vehicle
INFO: Santa Catalina Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, (520) 749-8700