AZ Trail #5 LbNA # 23733
|Owner||Kristal & Ron |
|Placed Date||Jul 12 2006|
|Found By||Squatchis |
|Last Update||Oct 19 2013 |
Distance: 3 miles RT, with an optional .4 mile side trip
Difficulty: Moderate, with a few long, steep stretches
Elevation: 9,100 feet with a 600 foot drop and return
This box is the fifth in our series, highlighting points of interest along the Arizona Trail, a nearly-completed hiking/biking/equestrian trail that crosses the state from north to south.
Thirty miles north and 6,000 feet above Tucson is Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley, the southernmost ski area in the United States. Ski Valley has 18 runs covering 70 skiable acres with the terrain being 30% advanced, 40% intermediate, and 30% beginner. One surface and two double lifts help visitors enjoy 950 vertical feet of the mountain. Although they have no snow-making equipment, they are open at least a few weeks of the year. If there is no snow on the ground, you can still ride the main lift for great views to the north and south. Hours vary by season, so call (520) 576-1400 for details.
TO THE TRAILHEAD
From Tucson, take Tanque Verde east and then Catalina Highway north 26 miles to the top of Mt. Lemmon. (There is a $5 day use or $20 annual fee for the entire area. The pass includes access to the Sabino Canyon and Madera Canyon recreation areas where you can also find letterboxes!) From the parking lot for Ski Valley and the Iron Door Restaurant, continue driving 1.7 miles up a narrow, paved road to a large parking lot at the trailhead. This road will not be passable if snow is present.
TO THE BOX
The trail begins just left of the fenced-in radio towers. Skirt the fence and go up a utility road and through a big old gate. Soon you will come to a trail junction. Take the Meadow Trail #5A to the right and go past the Catalina Observatories, an extension of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory. They have 4 telescopes here and one on nearby Mt. Bigelow, which you will be able to see when you drive back down Catalina Hwy. This trail takes you through a lovely meadow and then down a few steep, fern-lined and densely-forested switchbacks to the next trail junction. Now take the Lemmon Trail #5 right, across a long ridge and down to a large metal AZ Trail sign at the western edge of this mountain. From this point, the Arizona Trail follows the Lemmon Trail #5 south and the Sutherland Trail #6 north.
From the two small trail markers at the junction, continue on the Lemmon Trail for 104 paces. At this point you are approaching a big, gnarly pine that is forming a tripod with two other fallen tree trunks. If you are in the right place, the burned trunk in the tripod is perfectly framing Picacho Peak in the distance at 290*. The box is one step off the trail below you, underneath two prone trees and three rocks. Please be sure to re-hide well, as this spot is very visible from the trail.
On your return trip, stay right, keeping to the Lemmon Trail #5. In about a mile there is a trail marker at which you can side trip to the Lemmon Rock Lookout where there have been fire spotters working for over 100 years. It is open to the public from 8-5 daily and has impressive views of the mountain range and the Tucson valley beyond.