Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ventana Canyon Trail

A few minutes from our house is Ventana Canyon, one of dozens of canyons on the south side of the Santa Catalina Mountains, on the northern side of Tucson. It is just west of the more popular Sabina Canyon. This mountain range is part of the Coronado National Forest.

From the trail head at the Ventana Canyon Resort, the Ventana Canyon Trail (Tr #98) to the Maiden Pools is a good three hour hike up and back. It is a bit deceiving at a quick glace at the map. A 1300 foot increase in elevation over 2.5 miles seems reasonable. But the catch is that the bulk of those feet are in the last quarter of the hike to the Maiden Pools.

After meandering through an easement/right-of-way amide saguaro, cholla, barrel cactus, ocotillo, prickly pear, mesquite, the trail follows the Ventana Canyon creek. This creek is dry 95% of the time. Water might be found during the winter run-off in March or during the occasional monsoon shower in late-summer.

The beginning of the canyon is somewhat narrow, not a slot canyon, but with interesting spires raging overhead. After the tough last 1/2 or 3/4 mile, the trail levels off and even descends a bit to the Maiden Pools. If you are hoping for a waterfall, go in the spring after the winter snow melt.

The top photo was taken just above the Pools looking south back down the canyon and into east Tucson. The Santa Rita Mountains are in the distance. You can see the trail along the stream down below. The bottom photo is the view from the same location but looking north, up the canyon. The trail continues another three miles where it joins the Finger Rock Trail (Tr #42). From there one can go east and meet up with the Arizona Trail, Romero Canyon Trail (Tr #8), Esperero Canyon Trail (Tr #25) or west and catch the Pima Canyon Trail (Tr #62).

This hike, because of its low elevation and lack of any meaningful shade, is best done in months other than the summer. Like most of the hikes along the south side of the Santa Catalina Mountains, if you have seen one canyon, you have seen them all. Today though, I was graced with the presence of a roadrunner in the middle of the trail. He appeared as interested in me as I was in him.

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