Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sendero Esperanza Trail to Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park West November 2, 2013

                    Map of Saguaro Park West. This map is not very good and does not have many of the shorter trails on it. Buy a topographic map at REI or Red Hills Visitor Center before making a determination on a activity.

Directly to the east and west of Tucson, Arizona, is a wonderful national park oftentimes overlooked in the west. That is a mistake because Saguaro National Park is extraordinary. The Federal Government created the preserve in 1994 to protect the iconic Saguaro cactus and surrounding Sonoran Desert community.  The Saguaro is an amazing cactus: it can live for 250 years and it is a keystone species meaning it supports many other desert wildlife.  The park also keeps Tucson from developing more of the desert on the eastern and western side.

Saguaro National Park is divided into two districts separated by the city of Tucson. They are known as Saguaro Park East and Saguaro Park West. Entrance fees to the park are $10 for seven days or $25 for a year. If you are a Senior or Military member I believe the park service offers discounts. Both divisions offer a wide variety of activities including hiking and camping. Saguaro Park West has the 10 mile Hugh Norris Trail and multiple routes up Wasson Peak. Saguaro Park East offers more backpacking opportunities with trails climbing to the top of the Rincon Mountains including Tanque Verde Ridge.   

For today's hike I am starting at the Sendero Esperanza Trailhead on Golden Gate Road. (Golden Gate Road is rough and for high clearance vehicles only). This trail connects to the Hugh Norris Trail and King Canyon Trail as well as others making it a great place to sample a wide variety of trails. Today I am hoping to climb 4480 foot Wasson Peak. Total mileage round trip is 7.8 with about 1520 feet of elevation gain. The first part of the trail on Sendero Esperanza is flat; watch for snakes but enjoy the many different species of cacti. After a mile the trail joins the Hugh Norris Trail. Go left and follow the trail as it switchbacks toward Amole Peak. After Amole Peak the summit of Wasson is only about a half a mile. The last two miles to the summit gains 960 feet so it is steep in places. From the summit enjoy the view of the Rincon Mountains, Catalina Mountains, Santa Rita Mountains and many more. A hiker also told me you can see 23 wilderness areas.

Special consideration: even during the fall the sun is intense and there is very little shade so I would bring at least three water bottles depending on how much you drink in the dry desert air. I don't suggest this trail in the summer when temperatures can be around 120 degrees. Wear sunscreen and a wide brim hat to keep the sun off your face. (Information from www.nps.gov/sagu)

                                 The magnificent Saguaro cactus along with Prickly pear

                            A dead Saguaro; life goes on.

                     The first part of Sendero Esperanza. Notice the lack of shade.

                    On the Hugh Norris Trail looking west.

                Barrel cactus

               Looking toward Tucson from summit with Catalina Mountains in the background.

               Summit picture with vegetation

                 Looking south; notice the upper part of the King Canyon trail.

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