Thursday, February 19, 2015

Benchmark Mountain Tucson Mountains, Arizona February 6, 2015

                     Map showing my route in red with an ESRI Basemap in the background

Gates Pass is located to the west of Tucson in the Tucson Mountains. Take Speedway BLVD away from downtown. At the end of Speedway visitors will see the turnoff for Gates Pass Road.

Today I drove over Gates Pass and parked at the David Yetman Trailhead. The parking lot was full when I arrived and had to scramble to get a space when somebody left. The first half mile is on the David Yetman Trail which ends at Starr Pass. This trail is easy to follow and popular with visitors. At a small divide I departed the David Yetman and hiked the Golden Gate Trail which climbs on the side of the mountains and ends at Gates Pass. The scenery from this trail is very beautiful but hikers do need to watch for cholla polyps (or cholla bombs as they are affectionately called by hikers). The trail is also rocky so please watch your step.After a 1.5 or two miles about there is a small divide where hikers are rewarded with views toward Tucson. At this point I decided to summit Benchmark Mountain  I noticed a steep but hikeable trail leading up the slope of the mountain (cross-country hiking in the Tucson Mountains is not advisable because of all the cacti in the desert). After an initial steep pitch I noticed a nice well-maintained trail that wrapped around the peak to the summit, From the top I could see the Rincon Mountains and the Tucson basin to the north and Kitt Peak to the west. After eating some lunch I departed the peak to find some shade.

                      On the Golden Gate Trail looking toward the Old Tucson Studios and Kitt Peak

                                Sonoran Desert scenery

                Top of Benchmark Mountain looking toward Tucson

                               Right below the summit

                       Cool effect with the sun right behind the hill

                       Looks like the grass is lit from behind

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