Today I completed S.A.R.A.s annual refresher for Technical Ropes Awareness level; which covers anything under a 40 degree slope. After a bit of debate in the morning about the weather we went up to Soldiers Trail to run through all of our set ups in the rain and fog. The temperature dropped as the day went on so we started to pick up the pace and actually finished about an hour ahead of the normal time! The picture above is our belay set up for a raise and the picture below is for our main with a 3 to 1 inline. (both are tied off because the systems were not actually in use) We currently use the MPD, made by CMC, for our tech systems.
So here is my menial attempt to give you some insight on which hikes I believe are the top five for families here in Tucson. The criteria for stacking some amazing trails against each other is far from anything scientific but rather just some reasonable sound judgment (I think) from a Dad. First and foremost is safety; In Tucson that can be huge concern, variable temperatures from 115 in the summer to below freezing in the winter. I generally try to hike up high up the mountains in the summer and down low in the winter to avoid any sever temperature changes. Then there is that fact that something in the desert is always plotting to poke you, maybe a cactus, or shrub, or the rare snake bike. Next would be the ability to vary the distance of the hike, if one of the kids is attempting to re-enact the exorcist we need to have a quick….ish out. Last thing, the views, it’s got to be worth something, not only we big people, but I want my children to see why I love the outdoors so much. So lets get to it!
This is one of the most fascinating places on Mount Lemmon and has tons of historical sites. Convenient enough it is just past mile marker sever on Catalina Highway so it doesn’t take that long to get up there. The camping area is pretty big so you can have a larger gathering there and people can go on short hikes down three trails that join up there. Soldiers Trail is pretty tough but the trail to Molino Basin is better for the kiddos. Best of all, if the kids have tons of energy you can go up the Sycamore Trail to the saddle on the old jeep road. If they are up to something a bit longer (about 4 miles out and back) you can go all the way to the dam, its worth it.
The entire park is a fun area that has a nice 8 mile paved loop with plenty of stops to get out and do short little hike in the desert landscape, jump back into the air-conditioned car and head to the next spot. One downside is the spiderweb of trails to the north of the loop, if your not careful it can be a kind of maze. At the south-east end of the loop there is a nice little picnic area with some big rocks for thuds to climb on. This park also hosts a bunch of different events like the junior ranger program, more information can be found at their website.
This is one of the first trail my wife took me on when I first got to Tucson. Mostly we just scrambled up the little canyon on the north side of the road. There is a little cascade and plenty of trees for the kids to climb on, just be sure to watch for snakes.
These trails can either be a nice out and back or a longer loop depending on what you and the family want to do. There is a small creek going up Marshall Gulch and beautiful young aspen trees coming back down the Aspen trail. This trail is great for spring, summer and fall but unless you want to snowshoe this isn’t the trail for winter time.
This is by far one of the best outdoor ‘centers’ I’ve ever been to. The visitors center is amazing and the park is well maintained. It can get a bit crowded but there is plenty of space for all of the visitors. If you want to ride the tram up Sabino Canyon Road you can do that and hike around in some or you can head up Bear Canyon and check out Seven Falls. The entire park is well labeled and even stroller friendly in some areas.
One of the fun places to explore!
Honorable mentions; General Hitchock and Box Spring while these trails are great they just didn’t stack up to the others in my opinion. Check out the poll below and share what you think is the top family trail in Tucson!