Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Top 10 Arizona Hikes

Over the last 3 years we have explored most of Arizona from our home in Tucson.  Most of that time has been spent on numerous hiking trails around the state.  I think we've hit every trail in the Tucson area and picked some of the highlight trails from everywhere else.  From low desert, steep peaks and alpine meadows Arizona offers some amazing diversity when it comes to hiking and the outdoors.  Here are our top favorite hikes so far, more coming soon!

Mt. Wrightson is dog friendly!

Hike #1 - Mt Wrighton

Tucson, AZ - Starting at the trail head in Madera Canyon, this challenging hikes climbs over 4000 feet over just a bit more than 5 miles to the highest of the Tucson area mountains.  Starting at over 5000 feet this is doable in the summer due to the coolers temperatures at elevation.  From the top of Mt. Wrightson on a clear day you'll see up to 100 miles in any direction with 360 degree views.  This is a scenic, challenging and fun hike.  The quickest route is to take the Old Baldy trail all of the way to the saddle.  Optionally you can use the super trail which adds on more distance but isn't quite as steep.  To make a nice loop take Old Baldy up and the Super Trail back down.  Give yourself 8 hours and bring plenty of water.

Hike #2 - Chiricahua - Heart of Rocks Loop

Chiricahua Hoodoos
From Willcox, AZ take hwy 186 to 181 to the entrance of Chiricahua National Monument - This isn't your typical AZ rock hike.  Chircahua is full of amazing hoodoos and rock formations throughout the hike.  It is truly some unique scenery that you won't find anywhere else.  We have not been there since the 2011 fires but surely it has not affected the uniqueness of the rock formations scattered throughout this loop hike.

Balance Rock, Chiricahua National
Monument, Arizona
There are a number of ways to see the area but the Heart of Rocks Loop is one of the best.  This 8.7 mile hike goes through the best of the area.  Start at the Echo Canyon parking area and then onto the Echo Canyon Trail.  After 1.6 miles along Echo Canyon trail, take the Rhyolite Canyon and descend around 400 ft over a mile or so to the Sarah Deming trail. Heading out of the canyon again, you gain about 900 ft while walking 1.5 miles to the best part of the hike, the Heart of Rocks loop. The Heart of Rocks loop is 1.1 miles and showcases  the most impressive rock formations in the monument.  These include Duck on a Rock, Punch and Judy, Camel head Rock, Pinnacle Balanced Rock,  and more. The entrance to the loop is well marked. After you finish the loop continue along the Balanced Rock trail to the east. After hiking 1 mile along a relatively flat section, the trail descends back down into an canyon just after the Inspiration point trail head junction. Another mile and you reach the last junction. Turn North and hike along the Ed Riggs trail the final 0.7 miles back to the original trail head.

Hike #2 - Aravaipa Canyon

Aravaipa Creek December 2011
This hike is easy to find but probably a long drive from anywhere you live.  It's between Mammoth and Winkleman off of AZ77 north of Tucson.  Turn east on Aravaipa Road.  About 12 miles and you can't miss the trailhead.  The dirt road is a bit rough the last 6-8 miles or so.  Keep in mind you must register through BLM to enter the area and it is limited to 50 hikers per day.

There isn't a specific trail to this area.  It follows the creek back in 12 miles or so through a number of canyons and great areas to explore.  I especially enjoyed this hike in the winter as there were some great colors still to some of the trees.
A shot of the scenery near the trailhead

Mt. Rainier, Sunrise/Skyscraper Hike and Photos July 2012

Being on the road for work all of the time surely gets old quick.  Fortunately for me sometimes I get to visit places that offer some fun things to see and do on the weekends.  I got lucky and had a conference in Seattle in July.  No matter what this would be a nice escape from the dreadful heat in the middle of the summer in Tucson.  Why not make a weekend of it?  80 degrees or 105?  Pretty easy call.  The summers in Tucson get old quick and I'll do anything to escape!

Katie flew out to meet me on Thursday night.  We spent most of Friday bumming around downtown Seattle seeing the usual tourist sites.  Ate some good seafood, oysters, cruised Pikes market, did the Seattle underground tour (it was ok but I am just not a tour kind of person) and saw what we needed to see of Seattle the city.  After a week in the city I was ready to get out into the woods!

Hiking through a snowfield at Mt. Rainier
Having never spent any time in the area previously we decided to make visiting Mt. Rainier National Park our first stop.  We spent the night in Puyallup and awoke early on Saturday to hopefully beat some of the crowds.  We opted to drive to the east entrance of the park basically taking highway 410 all of the way in.  I had numerous recommendations on starting at the Sunrise area for the great views and hiking options.  I knew it would be busy but getting there early paid off and there were only a handful of people at the Sunrise lot/trail head around 8:30am.  It was a bit foggy, but I'll take hiking in the fog vs. hiking in a crowd all day long.

Mt. Rainier sunrise hiking trail head in fog
Leaving the dog covered trailed at
Sunrise in the AM
The initial plan was to hike up to Frozen Lake and take the trails up in the Burroughs Mountains from there.  The trail up to Frozen Lake was fog covered in the morning only opening for a few moments with amazing views of Mt. Rainier.  We made it up to Frozen lake in no time with not a single soul to be found.  It was great!  From there we headed up the Burroughs trail.  After a half mile at most we had to cross a snow patch on the steep trail.  It was a bit nerve racking without any real gear for it; only one person had trekking poles.  The girls got a bit nervous through there and when we made it to the next snow patch they said "no way" and we turned around.  So much for hiking up the Burroughs!  Even in mid July definitely look for a snow report and come prepared!

Sign at Burroughs Mountain Trail
We were warned!
We then trekked back to Frozen Lake and then towards Skyscraper Peak we headed.  As we entered the fields the wildflowers were blooming and the views were amazing.  We crossed a few more snow fields but mostly on flat ground so nothing that posed much of a problem.  By mid morning the fog and clouds gave way to spectacular views of Rainier and the surrounding area.  Treading through the snow fields had wore the group down a bit so we ended up heading down into the meadows of Berkeley Park instead of going to Skyscraper Peak.  The area offered some great views and the wildflowers were in full bloom.  We hiked around this area a bit before heading back up to Frozen Lake.

Upon returning to Frozen Lake the crowds had shown but so had the views we missed on the way in as the fog had cleared.  Some amazing scenery down into the valleys there looking back towards Sunrise.  We got some great photos before deciding to head back to the trail head.  We only had one weekend in the Seattle area and figured if we called it an early day it would give us time to hike another area.  So off we headed to Olympic National Park!

Some great info on hiking Skycraper:

Some pictures from our hike on Mt. Rainier:

Mt. Rainier National Park
The crew at Frozen Lake, Mt. Rainier National Park
Picture of Mt. Rainier with wildflowers blooming
Wildflowers blooming with Mt. Rainier in the distance

Great views of Mt. Rainier
Berkeley Park, Mt Rainier National Park Hiking

Mt Rainier Burroughs Mountain Hiking Trail
Snow field going up Burroughs Mountain