On this day a year ago I was hiking with my son on the Hope Camp Trail, also known as the Loma Alta Trail, since it’s trailhead is at the north end of Camino Loma Alta Road. Drive east on Old Spanish Trail to Camino Loma Alta and turn left (north). The last half-mile or so of the road is graded dirt and ends at a small dirt parking lot. From there, walk north and open the gate to enter the trailhead, closing the gate behind you.
The trail traverses the area to the south of the front peak of the Rincon Mountains (Tanque Verde Ridge) on the far east side of Tucson, Arizona and opens up on occasion to show beautiful panoramas towards the back peak of the Rincons, as in the photo I’ve posted. Late afternoon light is the most interesting and dimensional, so bring a small flashlight for when you find you aren’t back at the trailhead until dusk. We started our hike at about 3:30 pm and got back to the car just after sunset, which meant we were still on the trail during the period of “sweet light” just before sunset. This photo was taken on our way in, prior to that beautiful time of day.
This is a three-hour 6.2 miles out and back trail classified as easy to moderate. It is part of the Saguaro National Park – Rincon Mountain district. It is extremely quiet and remote, so be prepared with plenty of water, snake bite kit, etc. You may never pass another hiker. For those who love solitude, this is the place.
The trail generally follows parallel to a wash, through a very impressive dense saguaro cactus grove (quite arguably the largest concentration of saguaro cactus most of us will ever see) then opens up to an old dirt road from which one can get a sense of placement in the Rincon Valley.
This is the highest point of the trail at 3310 feet, after starting at 3150 feet. Look for the old dilapidated windmill at Deer Camp before heading into a more scrubby and secluded portion of the trail where it follows the wash. If the conditions are right, as they were when we were there, this section is a treasure-trove of bees, thistles and other abundant tiny wildflowers just waiting to be captured with a macro lens by those observant and patient enough to look for them. This month is the best time to go – while the wildflowers are out and before it gets too hot. Of course, with our three-day stint this winter of fifteen degree temperatures, the wildflower season and normal bloom time for the saguaros might be altered, but this is still the best time for the temperature.
2.8 miles in are the remnants of another windmill at the site of the old Hope Camp. Not much remains, but this was once a cattle ranch.
The trail turns due north at this point and is called the North Hope Trail. This section is only another .3 mile and ends at a natural cul-de-sac.
I don’t know if it is complete, but the park service planned to link the Hope Camp Trail to the Manning Camp Trail with a new five-mile trail section called the Quilter Trail, slated to open earlier this month.
Permits for day hikes are not required, but contact information is:
Saguaro National Park – Rincon Mountain District
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730-5601
Photograph filed with the U.S. Office of Copyright. Any use requires licensing from Martha Lochert.