Tucson Travels – Hiking Rincon Peak

The first mountain I saw in Tucson was Rincon Peak. I was on a flight from Texas and as we descended into Tucson there was a big piece of rock seemingly a bare few feet below the airplane on the right side. In reality it was substantially more, but it certainly did get my attention.

Last weekend a friend suggested going for a walk, and where I was thinking a casual few hours of strolling in the foothills she was thinking of the mountains. Fully knowing that I was walking into something a bit out of my usual range, I couldn’t let the challenge pass and agreed to go along.

Getting to the Miller Creek trailhead was surprisingly easy – usually “16 miles of dirt road” is a euphemism for “you might be able to make it in a car, but you’ll really want something else” but in this case it was an actual road in very good condition. It was also a surprisingly pleasant area; being on the east side of the range shades it an bit from the scorching afternoon sun and blistering winds, and at around 4000 ft elevation with several creeks in the area there were actually quite a few plants and trees.

The trail begins by meandering along a streambed until breaking off and switchbacking up to around 6000 ft. While the trail is fairly steep at times it is generally a reasonable slope interspersed with large boulders to step up on, and if you can remember to turn around there are some impressive views of the foothills on the way up. After a bit the trail becomes less steep and runs into a shaded area where there was still snow and icy patches, then it flattens out on the approach to Happy Valley Saddle. From this point it is a fairly nice stroll through a forest which is hard to believe exists given the surrounding desert – another example of the wonders of altitude.

The trail going further was in good, if occasionally snowy, shape as it slowly but steadily rose from 6000 ft to 7500 ft before becoming much steeper for the final push to Rincon Peak at nearly 8500 ft, but the combination of the altitude and surprisingly deep snow led to my pace dropping substantially once above 7000 ft. By 7500 ft I resting as much as I was going, and we decided to save the summit for another day.

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