Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Oracle Ridge Catalina Mountains August 9, 2014

                          Corral bells

Location: Take the Catalina Highway about 23.5 miles and turn right onto Oracle Control Road. Follow this road downhill passed the Mount Lemmon Fire Station. The trailhead is another 100 years along the road. If you have a jeep or all-terrain vehicle it is possible to drive down to Oracle, Arizona, by an unimproved dirt road.

The Hike: The trail along Oracle Ridge is actually the Arizona Trail which starts along the Mexican border and ends at the Utah border. This section is about 13 miles one-way and it ends at the American Flag Trailhead near Oracle, Arizona. It follows the ridge that extends northward from the Santa Catalina Mountains. Along the way are splendid views of the San Pedro Valley and Catalina Mountains. Many people hike the ridge to see its wildflowers which can be abundant in August.

Immediately after leaving the control road the trail climbs to over 8000 feet through a burned forest. Here I saw many species of wildflowers including Paintbrush, Corral bells and Sunflowers. The trail then descends to Stratton Saddle where it intermittently joins an old jeep trail for the descent to Dan Saddle. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wooden trail signs and the Arizona Trail blaze. At Dan Saddle a trail departs to the left descending to Catalina Camp and the Red Ridge Trail. The trail passed Dan Saddle is overgrown in places so watch your footing. The trail ascends precipitously climbing 500 feet in a half-mile. Keep an eye out for the Biosphere to the west. I would also watch for rattlesnakes because they like to sun themselves on the rocks. I hiked to the old Jeep trail near Rice Peak about four miles and turned around. Total mileage for the day was about eight miles with 1500 feet of elevation gain. (Information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar).

                 Along the ridge

    Looking west toward the reef.

      This truly is a beautiful trail.


     A burned forest with Red Ridge in the background.

        Vegetation along the ridge with a tall Century plant.

    Looking east across the San Pedro Valley.

                 I cannot go a summer without seeing Paintbrush.

   Corral bells

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