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Monday, November 7, 2016

SWEETWATER PRESERVE

SWEETWATER PRESERVE: TUCSON
Saguaro Vista Trail

Protecting a critical wildlife corridor between the Tucson Mountains and the Santa Cruz River, Sweetwater Preserve also complements a trail-rich area of west Tucson that includes Saguaro National Park and Tucson Mountain Park. Within the 880-acre property, 16 interconnected trails combine for over 12 miles of non-motorized-use routes. For a smallish site, the trails are surprisingly varied. Based on conversations I had with local hikers and riders in the parking lot, the Saguaro Vista Trail is the best place to start exploring. Turns out, that was great advise as this cactus-cluttered pathway gets you into the good stuff quickly. Within a few minutes of mild uphill hiking, views of the Santa Catalina Mountains rising over downtown Tucson and a wildly contorted crested saguaro provide ample photo opportunities.
Santa Catalina Mountains viewed from Black Rock Loop
The trail then swings northwest where the graceful arms of chain fruit cholla and Palo verde trees frame the mounds of Wasson and Amole Peaks. Although Saguaro Vista lives up to its popularity hype, the fun doesn't end there. Each trail junction within the preserve is marked with excellent map signs that make finding your way around a cinch. The signs show a mind-boggling menu of trails that might leave you wondering which way to go. No worries though, there are no bad choices. For instance, Black Rock Loop shirts the preserve's far north sector for expansive views and a walk among jumbled basalt outcroppings. Lost Arrow Trail contours foothills above the gorge of Sweetwater Wash while The Spine traces a decommissioned road atop a sunny ridgeline. Take your pick, each trail has it's own flavor and scenic qualities making for a perfect way to spend an hour or a day in the desert.
View of Tucson Mountains from Saguaro Vista Trail
The Spine
LENGTH: 12.93 miles total
RATING: easy-moderate
ELEVATION: 2466' - 2680'
HOURS: dawn to dusk daily
Dogs must be on leash and owners must pick up and pack out waste.
GETTING THERE:
Wildflower Ridge
Sweetwater Trailhead: 4001 N. Tortolita Road Tucson.
From Interstate 10 in Tucson, take the El Camino Del Cerro/Ruthrauff Road exit 252. At the bottom of the off ramp, head right (west), go 2.6 miles to N. Tortolita Rd, turn left and continue
1 mile to the trailhead.
INFO & MAP: Pima County Parks & Recreation




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