The Romero Canyon Trail in Santa Catalina State park can be a busy location – on a hot day you will undoubtedly pass groups of hikers focused on getting to the Romero Pools and enjoying the cool water. For much of the hike to the Romero Pools you can look down into Montrose Canyon. On Sunday we hiked up the Romero Canyon Trail until the last prominent saddle before the pools and bushwhacked/boulder hopped down the steep hillside into Montrose Canyon. Getting off the trail quickly separated us from the crowds and we took advantage of the quiet to have a nice nap in the shade beside the water. From where we entered the canyon traveling down is mostly easy hiking and scrambling – but we did come to several places where we had to exit the canyon to bypass obstacles. Eventually we ended up back at the Overlook to the Montrose Pools and returned to the car via the Romero Canyon Trail.
The Red Ridge trail makes a steep descent down the north side of the Santa Catalina mountains. The trailhead is a small parking area/pull thru on the right hand side of the road just after Red Ridge Road (private), a large Forest Service sign describing the trail is visible from the road if you look carefully. After a very short hike up and out of the parking area the trail wanders thru a landscape of large burned trees, some standing – some fallen, that are an impressive reminder of the fire that burned thru this area several years ago. In many burned sections there is beautiful new growth, including wildflowers, and incredible views. Most of the trail is easy to follow – but some spots require a bit of searching where the trail is overgrown (pants may be a good idea to protect your legs from some of the more vicious undergrowth). As you wind your way towards the East Fork and the junction with several other trails you will see fewer burned areas – we were delighted to see Doubting Mariposa Lilies, a Black Rattlesnake and a number of different birds and lizards. For this hike we stopped at the East Fork to enjoy the flowing water and watch the spiders hunting above the water and on the rocks. From the trail junction there are a number of possibilities for longer adventures, but we were looking for some steep hiking and 2000+ feet of elevation gain to get in shape for an upcoming trip – so we headed back up Red Ridge. Map.
After two weeks of hiking up the Finger Rock trail to Linda Vista we needed a change of scenery, so we headed to the Pontatoc Ridge trail. The trail starts from the same parking lot as the Finger Rock Trail – a prominent sign will get you onto the Pontatoc trail and hiking towards the prominent cliffs below the Pontatoc Ridge. The trail crosses Pontatoc canyon and then begins to climb, part of the way up the climb there is a well signed trail junction: take the right hand path for the ridge – the left for the canyon. The trail keeps climbing with good views of Tucson, eventually you will reach a small saddle (very nice place to rest) with good views. As you leave the saddle the trail begins to climb again and you will quickly come to another (unsigned) junction. The main trail continues to the left to an area where you can see some of the old mining activity – the trail to the right climbs to the top of Pontatoc Ridge! Map.