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Monday, January 19, 2015


Windmill Loop connects with the Arizona Trail

Because Oracle State Park is open only on weekends, there's a narrow window of opportunity for hiking the site's 15 miles of trails during the cooler months. Located in a prime wildlife corridor of high desert scrub and savannah grasslands, the park is bolstered by the far northern reaches of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains and the sprawling rampart of the Galiuro range looming over the meandering gorge of the San Pedro River to the west. Although there's little shade on the 8 routes that amble among stands of Soaptree yucca, agaves, isolated patches of scrub oak and fruit-bearing cholla, the upside is that the sun drenched foothills display unobstructed, "see-forever" vistas. The best time to hike here is November through April when crisp mountain breezes whipping through hip-high forbs add hair-rustling fun to the trek.  Despite being within a park setting with all the expected amenities, the trails have a nice wilderness feel to them.  Sightings of mammals like whitetail deer, fox, javelina as well as native birds and reptiles are common. Passage 13 of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, which skirts the park's edge, connects with several of the routes.  Excellent signage and soft footing make for easy, pain-free travel on most of the trails. The one exception is the Windmill Loop that begins at the bottom of Kannally Wash with a trudge through calf-cramping sand with few directional signs.  Post hike, visit the park’s Kannally Ranch House.  The 1930s-era, adobe structure with its, multiple levels, twisting staircases, unusual art-embellished spaces and a kitchen with a wall of original iceboxes adds a note of history to top off your day.
LENGTH: 15 miles plus 4 miles of AZT
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 3700' - 4600'
HOURS: Saturdays & Sundays 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
FACILITIES: restrooms, picnic areas, museum, gift shop
FEES: $7 daily fee per vehicle
From Phoenix, take Highway 79 south. At the junction with Highway 77 turn left (east). Turn right off Highway 77 at the Oracle turnoff. Follow the road through Oracle (America Avenue) 2.3 miles to Mt. Lemmon Road. Turn right on Mt. Lemmon Road. Follow it 1.1 miles to the park entrance. The park is located on the left (north) side of Mt. Lemmon Road.
Oracle State Park
3820 Wildlife Drive, Oracle, AZ

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