Thursday, November 21, 2013

Finger Rock Canyon Catalina Mountains, Arizona November 16, 2013

                Grasses and shrubs. Looking up canyon.

The Catalina Mountains offer a wealth of hiking close to Tucson. Off of Skyline and Sunrise Drive trail heads are numerous offering many different hiking options for visitors. Popular ones include Sabino Canyon, Ventana Canyon and Finger Rock Canyon. Three trails start at the Finger Rock Canyon one of which, Pontatoc Ridge, I profiled in late September of 2013. Last Saturday I returned to the trail head to hike to the top of Finger Rock Canyon. Finger Rock Canyon is noticeable from Tucson because of a prominent rock feature that looks like a finger in the middle part of the canyon. Mount Kimball at the top of the canyon is a popular destination.

The Hike: This hike is hard and should not be taken lightly.  First reason is elevation change. The trail head is at an elevation of around 3200 feet. The summit of Mount Kimball is at 7255 feet and the Pima Canyon trail junction is at around 7000 feet. Simple math shows vertical change to be over 4000 feet to the summit of Mount Kimball and 3800 feet to the trail junction of Pima Canyon. The trail is about 5 miles to the summit of Mount Kimball which means that the trail is steep.  The second reason is that the trail is very rocky. Hikers need to constantly watch their footing. Finally, there is some route finding in the bottom of the canyon because hikers have created illegal. In a few places the trail is faint and you have to pay attention.

The benefits of this hike however are numerous. For example, in the upper part of the canyon the views are incredible. Hikers also see three different ecological communities. You start out in the Sonoran desert in the lower part of the canyon with many different species of cacti, in the middle part of the canyon grasses and small shrubs are prevalent. Finally in the upper part of the canyon oaks and pines take over. To see this transformation in one hike is amazing.

                        The view down canyon with canyon wall

               Mid canyon

                   Up on top

                                Starting to get more pines

          Looking down canyon. I am near the top.

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