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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ARIZONA TRAIL RINCON VALLEY PASSAGE 8


ARIZONA TRAIL RINCON VALLEY PASSAGE #8
Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead to Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Cienega Creek is a reliable water source

Also known as the "three bridges" section, Passage 8 of state-traversing Arizona Trail winds through a swath of desert south of Tucson.  Although it's one of the shortest and easiest of the 43 passages that comprise the 817-mile trail, this 14.8-mile trek is special because it's home to the first stands of saguaro cactuses encountered when hiking the trail from south-to-north. The hike begins at the Gabe Zimmerman trailhead with a contemplative stroll around memorials to the victims of the January 2011 Tucson shooting that wounded Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. From here, the route descends into Davidson Canyon and the fringes of Cienega Creek Natural Preserve where perennial waters and shady cottonwoods make for a popular camping and water stocking spot. (Note: if you want to leave the trail and explore around the creek, permits are required. See link below.) Beyond the creek, the trail roams under and around three railroad trestle bridges then heads north into Colossal Cave Mountain Park.  The privately operated park offers camping, water and tours of subterranean limestone caverns and is a good turnaround point for a day hike. The passage continues on to Hope Camp at the border of Saguaro National Park where you can continue north to Utah or hike three miles west to the nearest car shuttle location at the Loma Alta trailhead.

One of the "three bridges"

LENGTH: 4.7 miles to Colossal Cave
RATING: easy
ELEVATION: 3098' - 3650'

Arizona Trail heading into the Rincon Mountains
Gabe Zimmerman trailhead

GETTING THERE: Gabe Zimmerman Trailhead:
From Phoenix, go south on I10, take exit 281 in Tucson, go 3 miles southeast, then north on the frontage road (Marsh Station Road) to the trailhead on the right.

INFO & MAPS: Arizona Trail Association
Colossal Cave Mountain Park: 520-647-7275

CIENEGA CREEK NATURAL PRESERVE: 520-877-6158

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