Two Hikes: El Camino Del Cerro and Tortolita Mountains

Tucson, AZ

The nimble hiker has been busy planning hikes during our last week here in Tucson.  So Monday and Tuesday were a bit busy as we completed two from her list.  The first was a six mile hike on the El Camino Del Cerro Trail on the east side of Saguaro National Park West.  The trailhead is very easy to find, just exit I-10 north of Tucson on to El Camino Del Cerro Road and follow it west.  The road ends in the parking area at the trailhead.

We combined a number of trails to create a six mile lollipop route ( a route that takes you out a trail, around a loop, then back the same trail like a lollipop shape  —-O).  We started on the Thunderbird Trail then completed a loop on the Cactus Canyon, Coyote Pass, and Gila Monster Trails.

This area of the park is filled with Saguaros

It wasn’t long before we spotted a Crested Saguaro just off the trail.

Saguaros everywhere!

Another Crested near the trail

Wildlife is a bit difficult to spot in the desert, so we were surprise to spot a small heard of deer during our hike.

Spring is beginning to show itself in the Sonora Desert.  Even the Ocotillo are beginning to bloom.

Driving back out from the trailhead through a neighborhood we spotted two Crested Saguaros in yards almost right across the street from each other.

The next day we drove about thirty miles to the north for a hike in the Tortolita Mountains.  The trailhead is located in a parking area near the 

We did this hike last year and enjoyed it so much we decided to repeat it.  The hike begins by hiking the Wild Burro Trail for about a mile.  This section of the hike is very flat as it winds up a dry wash.

After about a half mile we turned to the west and hiked up into the mountains on the Upper Javalina Trail.  Soon we turned on to the Wild Mustang Trail and then returned to the trailhead on the Wild Burro Trail for a total of about eight and a half miles.

There are some massive Saguaros on the trail

Of course, what would a hike in the Sonora Desert be without a Crested Saguaro?

We had great views of the valley below as we hiked up a thousand feet

Another Crested Saguaro

As we approached the highest point on the trail it was obvious that we were approaching the maximum altitude for Saguaros (we were approaching four thousand feet) as most of them were struggling to survive.

The plateau at the highest point on the Wild Mustang Trail

With the approach of Spring the colors of the desert were beginning to appear.

Once back on the Wild Burro Trail the trail was flat except for two sections where the trail had to go up and around then down past high pour-overs (waterfalls when there is significant rainfall).  Both areas have steep elevation changes and the trail is very rough.

If you do this hike we recommend hiking the loop in a clockwise direction.  That way you have the best part of the trail early in the hike and the boring part in the wash at the end when you are tired and focused on the end, not the scenery.

We finished hiking but we still had two Crested Saguaros to check out.  The first is right next to the parking area.

The second is a giant one located on a side road just south of Ina Road.  This guy is impressive!

Ok, fifteen miles in two days!  Let’s hope the nimble hiker has a day off built into the schedule to rest tired legs.  But she eyeballed the bicycles as we got out of the Jeep at the motorhome, so who knows what tomorrow will bring!

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17 Responses to Two Hikes: El Camino Del Cerro and Tortolita Mountains

  1. Gay says:

    You guys are amazing! We will be here a few more weeks and the El Camino Del Cerro hike is on the list. And once again, wonderful photos of the crested saguaro. I saw web pictures of them with blooms last night…a sight to behold!

  2. Jim and Barb says:

    Wow, you had a banner week with the crested saguaros! Love this time of year when the desert comes alive with color…….

  3. Thanks for feeding my crested appetite!

  4. Molly says:

    Thank you for helping me appreciate the beauty of the saguaros. Wonderful pics!

  5. Jeff says:

    Just WOW! Thanks for sharing your experiences thru words and pictures of your awesome hikes. This one will have to go on my list!

  6. pmbweaver says:

    I really appreciate it when you tell us where you start your hike. El Camino Del Cerro Trail and the Wild Burro Trail are definitely ones that we would enjoy! It isn’t amazing how many trails there are just in this one city. Love it!

    Oh how I love spring in the desert. It is so beautiful.

    Wouldn’t that be cool to have a Crested Saguaro right in your own backyard! The one on Ina Road is amazing!

  7. Laurel says:

    Beautiful hikes!! Your personal hiking planner does such an awesome job of finding great trails. 😉 Love those crested saguaros (that last one is WILD!) — it’s like a crested saguaro basket. Looks like spring has come to the desert….

  8. debbiemc14 says:

    You do the coolest hikes! I am going to have to catch up with you one of those times. Amazing cresteds, especially that last one!

  9. Sherry says:

    Really envying you spring in the desert and all those cresteds. Actually I think they pick up and move into your path. I think my legs would need a rest after those two days. Hope you get one.

  10. The hike at Tortilla Mountains is one of our favorites, but we did the trail the reverse of the one you took 🙂
    I would say the last Crested Saguaro takes the cake, by far the most amazing I have seen. Thank you Pam for showing us all these beauties.

  11. geogypsy2u says:

    I think a rest is in order after all those miles. You definitely have a radar for those cresteds. They are superb.

  12. I’ve hiked all these trails, and I enjoy seeing them from your point of view. Great photos!

  13. Jodee Gravel says:

    Spring is definitely coming faster in AZ than it is here in NM. Nothing in bloom yet “over here”. Wonderful crested spottings. I can imagine living in a house with a crested in the yard 🙂 Love the mesa pic with the wispy clouds, and the saquaro skeleton! Some of your hikes are longer than some of our travel days :-)))))

  14. Nancy says:

    Seriously???? I can’t believe how many crested saguaros you see ! What neat hikes!!

  15. colibabas says:

    Awesome pics of the Crested Saquaros! I’ve added these hikes to our to do list.

  16. montanaclarks says:

    You guys are definitely amazing–that’s a lot of miles! And so many crested saguaros. On our ATV ride Friday some of our gang spotted a small crested just off the road–I looked and looked all day, didn’t spot even one!

  17. cyrielle says:

    Your are great people to share your visit with wonderful pictures, I made the travels for the same trails. Thanks my pictures were not as yours giants ! French parisienne 😉

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