TUCSON (3TV/CBS 5) -- We all know that Arizona is a hiker’s dream state with ample hiking opportunities year-round if you are willing to travel a few hours out of the Valley.
Most of us travel north to escape the heat but southern Arizona has so much to offer the desert-dweller looking for a cool down. While there are hundreds of miles of trail in southern Arizona, these are just a few of our favorites.
Don’t forget: Just because these hikes are in cooler temperatures, you still need ample water, sun protection and take a filter as some of these hikes do have water sources available.
Also, if you are hiking during the monsoon season (June through September), be safe and read my article about staying safe when hiking during the monsoon season.
[READ MORE: Hiking safety during the Arizona monsoons]
Mount Lemmon Wilderness of Rock (Easy to Moderate)– Mount Lemmon in the Santa Catalina Mountains is not lacking in hiking opportunities. But because this area has so many options in length and difficulty, it is my favorite. You start your hike through a fir-pine forest, you will soon become surrounded by a “forest” of towering stacked rocks at 7,000 ft and ending with a spectacular view overlooking the City of Tucson. While the name may sound uninspiring, it is quite spectacular
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Trailhead – Marshall Gulch Trail #3 to Marshall Saddle and out Aspen Trail #93 (easy). There are numerous ways to approach this hike with many intersecting trails so please take a map (the paper kind). If you want a hike that is a bit longer and more strenuous, hike in via the Lemmon Rock Trail #12 or Mount Lemmon Trail #5 to name just a couple.
Mileage - 3.2 mile loop
Elevation Gain – 660 ft
Heart of Rocks (Strenuous) – Topping out at nearly 10,000 ft, the Chiricahuas are the second-highest mountain range in southeastern Arizona and home to vast amounts of hiking and rock climbing. Found in the Chiricahua National Monument, this hike reveals some interesting geological formations such as Pinnacle Balanced Rock, Punch and Judy and Duck on a Rock. There is no water anywhere on this hike so carry plenty and it can still be hot since you are starting at 5,800 ft.
Trailhead – Visitor Center Parking Lot (this is just one of three trailhead options so you can take your pick. A start at the Echo Canyon Trailhead makes for a slightly easier hike).
Mileage – 7.3 miles out and back
Elevation Gain – 1,500 ft
Bog Springs (Moderate to Strenuous) –For this hike, we are going south of Tucson towards Green Valley and into Madera Canyon in the Mount Wrightson Wilderness Area. This area – like every location that is part of this list – is home to ample hiking opportunities. I like this one for its rich foliage and access to water. And, if you are a bird watcher, Madera Canyon is one of the best areas in the US to get a glimpse of your feathery friends. Although water is usually available at both Bog and Kent Springs, take extra just in case.
Trailhead – Bog Springs Campground. While there are not a lot of trail options in this general area, you still need a map. I guess the overall theme no matter your hike – always have a map.
Mileage – 5 mile loop
Elevation Gain – 1,400 ft