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

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