Tortolita Mountain Park – Tucson

Tucson, AZ

Last Saturday we drove about 120 miles east from Why to Tucson, AZ.  We visited Tucson two years ago and found it to be pleasant (for a city) and surrounded by good hiking areas.  On Sunday we had the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers, Andrew and Becky (Rosie the Riveted).  We met them previously during our stay in Bolder City, NV where we did some hiking together.  We met at the Hub Restaurant and Creamery in downtown Tucson and shared some great conversation and a good meal.  The conversation was so good we forgot to get any photos!

One of the main reasons for our visit to Tucson was to have the motorhome serviced at Premier RV.  During our last visit Premier did some repairs and enhancements for us and we were please with their work.  So, since the motorhome was in need of some routine yearly maintenance (oil change, etc.), we decided to return to Tucson.

Once the maintenance was complete it was time for some hiking.  Our friends, Hans and Lisa, wrote a blog last year about a hike they did in the Tortolita Mountains that looked interesting, so off we headed to check it out.

The Tortolitas are a small group of mountains north of Tucson and just west of the Santa Catalina Mountains.  There are almost thirty miles of trails here, many of them beginning near the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Resort.  We couldn’t find the trailhead at first so we drove into the resort and asked the girl at the gate about it.  Turns out she had a map of the trails for us and directed us to the parking area for the trailhead.  Many of the trails connect to each other, so you can choose the length and difficulty you want by combining different trails.  We followed the same loop as Hans and Lisa and hiked almost nine miles on a loop made up of the Wild Burro, Upper Javelina,  Wild Mustang, and Wild Burro trails.

The trailhead, complete with flush toilets

We began the hike on the Wild Burro Trail that goes along flat terrain next to a wash.

After about a half mile, we turned on to the Upper Javalina Trail and began to gain some elevation.

Looking down over the resort

Suddenly John had a bit of a scare when something moved across the trail right in front of him.  It turned out to be a Gila Monster over a foot long!  The Gila Monster is the only venomous lizard native to the United States, but its sluggish nature means it represents little threat to humans.  This guy waddled across a rock and under a bush.

Look closely, it’s a Gila Monster

After that bit of excitement, we continued up the trail through a series of switchbacks.

As we gained in altitude great views were all around us.

Looking north to Picacho Peak

As we hiked, we passed a number of the elusive Crested Saguaro Cactus.

The trail continued upward until we were at about 4,000 feet.  Fortunately a nice breeze kept the temperatures very pleasant as we climbed.

Stare at this for a few minutes!

This area is filled with Saguaro Cacti and each one seems to be unique.

I’m all arms!

Finally, as we hiked the Wild Mustang Trail we began to descent back down toward the Wild Burro Trail, the path that would take us back to the trailhead.

Returning back down the Wild Burro Trail, we arrived back at the parking area.  After all that hiking, Pam spotted one of the nicest Crested Saguaros located right next to the Jeep.

The next day we drove back north of Tucson to Catalina State Park.  We didn’t want to take a long hike right after the one the previous day, but Pam had read about an interesting Crested Saguaro not far from the trailhead.  So we hiked the Canyon Loop Trail, a three mile loop, and were successful in the search for the Saguaro.

Sorry for the shadow, the sun was not cooperating

We enjoyed both of these hikes.  They represent just a tiny fraction of all the good trails in the area.  Tomorrow we plan to meet some fellow bloggers and do a hike we completed during our previous visit to Tucson.

More on that later . . .

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25 Responses to Tortolita Mountain Park – Tucson

  1. Sandra Silva says:

    We always enjoy your blog but I have to say this one was really special. I too am fascinated by the crested cacti and you really got some wonderful pictures of them this time.

    We are currently staying in Morgan Hill, CA where I am recovering from a partial knee replacement on my right leg. The operation was very successful. I plan to have the same operation done on the left knee in the fall. Then maybe we can join you on one of your less adventurous hikes in the future.

    This summer we will be in Reno/Carson City taking care of family business. If you venture up that way please make sure to let us know.

    Sandy and Bob Silva

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. ThoseYoungGuys says:

    Great shots of the crested saguaros!! And how cool to see a Gila Monster in the wild! Better than almost stepping on a Western Diamondback like us!

  3. Nancy says:

    Neat to see the Gila Monster and to see the crested saguaros. I have never seen the crested ones before and will be on the look out for them. Neat hike and neat views! The sunset was oh so special!

  4. jimandbarb says:

    More crested saguaros, we are going to have to start looking for those, that last one was very cool!

  5. Yay! You found the crested at Catalina! A pretty unique one, I’d say.

    So glad you got to see a gila monster in the flesh, they are so neat! We too had the problem of it going under bushes making it difficult to photograph!

  6. Janna says:

    Love those crested saguaros!!! We’ve hiked some around Catalina–one of our favorite places to stay in Tucson!

  7. Jodee Gravel says:

    What a great hike! Seeing a Gila in the wild is nearly unheard of anymore. I always thought they looked so out of place with their bright orange and black coloring (not that I can think of a place where that would “blend in”). Love all the crested cactus and the view of Picacho Peak – and of course those two cute hikers you kept running into 🙂

  8. Becky says:

    It was wonderful meeting up on Sunday! We really enjoyed the visit. This looked like a great hike. Nice that you saw a gila monster. We kept looking for them, but no luck.

  9. LuAnn says:

    You seem to have become somewhat of a crested saguaro expert Pam, not to mention an advertisement for some of the greatest hiking trails in the west. Great photos! 🙂

  10. cathy says:

    A gila monster…I’m so jealous! What a great hike! Let us know when you get to Benson!

  11. Box Canyon Blogger Mark says:

    Rare flora and fauna in this post… love the Gila Monster and Crested Saguaros. We did that hike, but Mr. Monster didn’t come out for us. :))
    Box Canyon Mark

  12. pmbweaver says:

    Oh WOW…Gila Monster! Now that is a treat. Good eyes, John.

    Another beautiful hike. All the Crested Saguaros are awesome, but the last one is terrific!

    Lovely, lovely sunset photo!

  13. Ingrid says:

    Pam must be in cactus heaven – some very unique crested ones. Looks like more great hikes 🙂

  14. Suzanne says:

    Oh, wow, those crested saguaros are just spectacular! Such a work of art, each one of them, and you found so many! Great hike! I love the Tucson area, and will definitely add this to the list for my next visit.

  15. Gay says:

    Thanks for the info about Tortolito Mountain Park…we will return to Tucson in a few days for doctor appts. and bus maintenance. Hope to have some hiking time as well!

    Beautiful landscape and I also get so excited to see the crested saguaros.

  16. heyduke50 says:

    Haven’t seen a Gila Monster in the wild but this trail is on our list if we go thru Tucson

  17. debbiemc14 says:

    Just gorgeous! I’m really looking forward to more hiking, especially once we get to AZ in April. Thanks for the pictures.

  18. Great info on the hiking in Tortolita Mtn Park. Love the beautiful pics!

  19. I missed the Sonoran desert. And look at all those beautiful crested saguaro! Pam you are truly in heaven there. We are making notes of these trails, who knows we might end up there next winter. Wonderful photos!

  20. Sherry says:

    Wow a Gila Monster and what a great closing picture. I think you have become the Crested Saguaro Cactus queen. Those are some amazingly beautiful cacti. Really fine pictures. Thanks so much.

  21. Laurel says:

    What a fabulous hike! Now I’m plotting to see how we can fit that one in while we’re here. 🙂 The crested saguaro are gorgeous — and it’s so cool that you saw a Gila monster. You guys find the best hikes.

  22. Mary says:

    We are crossing paths. We left Why a couple weeks ago, and we just left Tucson on Wednesday. Those saguaro are great, I love them and your crested ones are very nice. We will be heading back to Why on Monday once we finish our art show here in Carefree. Can’t wait to get out of the city.

  23. rommel says:

    Tortalita sounds tasty… I mean… looks good. 😀 Wow, so many if those cactus! I always wanted to see those esp. tall ones like that. Still hoping …

  24. libertatemamo says:

    That Gila Monster was amazing! And of course you have a knack for finding those crested cacti.

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