Friday, March 13, 2015
Directions: Tanque Verde Ridge is a popular hike in Saguaro National Park East. If you are traveling from the University of Arizona take Speedway BLVD east and then turn onto Freeman Road, Admission to the park is $10 per visit but yearly passes are available,
The Hike: This trail is one of the most popular backpacking routes in Saguaro National Park. It is about 15 miles one way to Manning Camp which is at 8000 feet. Along the way hikers can camp at Juniper Basin. The hike also gives trekkers a chance to see many different ecological environments from cacti along the first part of the trail to Ponderosa pine stands at Manning Camp.
My cousin and I arrived at the trail head early in the morning around 7 am. We did not want to be rushed to reach our destination. The previous weeks trek up Mount Kimball was fun but Nathan and I started too late in the morning to truly enjoy the summit. Today we also wanted to make a tangible destination. Juniper Basin would be the logical choice at 6 miles down the trail. The first part of the hike the trail ascends to the ridge line. Here is the stereotypical Sonoran Desert environment with Saguaro Cacti, Prickly pear, Ocotillos, Palo verde among many more. At 5000 feet the Saguaros and cacti disappear and are replaced by high desert grasses such as Sotol and Bear grass. From here on views from the trail are spectacular to the east and west. This particular day was windy so my cousin and I rested in gullies away from the wind. Cloudy skies also made for a pleasant hike. This trail can be hot during the late spring and summer so bring plenty of water when you hike it. Juniper Basin campground is set in the upper part of a basin among Alligator juniper and Pinyon pine. There is a creek near the campground that has water most of the year. The trail the last mile to the campground can be hard to find because it skirts along rock. Keep an eye out for cairns along the trail which guide the way. The hike back to the car was uneventful. We did see spectacular lighting the last mile of the hike with sun highlighting Saguaros in the foreground and dark clouds in the back, Total mileage was around 12 miles with about 2000 feet of vertical gain. (Some information from Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country by Erik Molvar).