Coronado National Forest Overview
Coronado National Forest is an expansive national forest located in southeastern Arizona near Tucson. It is made up of five non-contiguous ranger districts, each with multiple sky island mountain ranges and its own wilderness areas. These “sky islands” are isolated mountain ranges surrounded by a radically different lowland desert area. Most notable among these mountain ranges are: the Santa Catalina Mountains, Chiricahua Mountains, and the Pinaleño Mountains. The most popular wilderness area would be the 56,000 acre Pusch Ridge Wilderness located just north of Tucson, AZ. Many of the best hikes in Coronado National Forest listed below are located here and are just a short drive away from downtown Tucson.
|Nearest Metro Area||Tucson, AZ|
|Area Size||1,780,000 acres|
|Established||April 11, 1902|
|Hiking Trails||1,100 miles|
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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in Coronado National Forest
(*** = best hikes in Coronado National Forest)
Aspen Trail #93 + Marshall Gulch #3 Loop – 3.8 mile loop
A somewhat heavily used trail in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, this hike is an enjoyable way to experience Mt. Lemmon. The loop is moderate with minimal elevation gain and can be enjoyed by hikers of all skill levels.
Bear Canyon Trail #29 to Seven Falls*** – 5.3 miles out and back
Depending on the season and amount of recent rainfall, you can either run into a gorgeous tiered waterfall or little more than a trickle. There is no shade along the trail so be sure to bring lots of water to drink. Not difficult until you get towards the end but should be doable by everyone. This is one of the best hikes in Coronado National Forest and the Tucson area.
Chiricahua Canyon Big Loop*** – 8.3 mile loop
Unlike the rest of the hikes on this list, this loop is not in the Santa Catalina District but in the Douglas district on the eastern border of Arizona. The trails take you into a canyon and on a great trip with views of spectacular rock formations in the Chiricahua Wilderness.
Finger Rock Canyon #42 Trail to Mt. Kimball Summit*** – 8.7 miles out and back
This is a steep and difficult climb even for experienced hikers but the view cannot be beat. The overlooks are spectacular and definitely reward you for the effort put in!
Phoneline Trail #27 to Blacketts Ridge Trail #48 – 4.0 miles out and back
Popular but difficult trail that will lead you to Blacketts Ridge that offers some incredible panoramic views of Tucson. The trail can be rocky and steep at times but manageable for most. Take Phoneline Trailhead in Sabino Canyon to Blacketts Ridge Trail.
Pima Canyon Trail #62 – 6.6 miles out and back
The trail up Pima Canyon continues all the way to the top of Mt. Kimball but going 3 miles in and out will get you all of the views that you’ll need to see without getting too strenuous. Though the stream in Pima Canyon is dry for most of the year, it supports an excellent example of a desert riparian habitat.
Pusch Peak via Linda Vista Trail #49 – 3.8 miles out and back
Super difficult but short trail that takes you up to incredible views of Oro Valley and Tucson. This hike is for experts only as it climbs over 2300′ in a little over 1.25 miles!
Romero Canyon Trail #8 to Romero Pools*** – 4.9 miles out and back
The first mile is relatively flat before climbing nearly 2 miles up a rocky incline up to Romero Pools. The water level will depend on the time you visit but there are also impressive views over Tucson and of Mt. Lemmon to your east.
Tanque Verde Falls #342 – 1.8 miles out and back
Difficult trail to navigate as there are no trail markers but it eventually leads to beautiful falls – again, the amount of water will depend on the season! There is a decent amount of scrambling and climbing over rocks but worth it in the end.
Window Peak via Ventana Canyon Trail #98 – 12.4 miles out and back
The Window (or ‘Ventana’ in Spanish) is a 15’ x 25’ opening in solid rock that tops one of the peaks in the Santa Catalina Front Range. The trail is difficult to climb, especially as you get further from the trailhead. However, there is a popular viewpoint at the 2 mile marker that some use as a turnaround spot if you’re not wanting to go all the way.
Featured Image: Mount Lemmon, Photo by Joe Passe
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