Tucson, AZ: Santa Rita Mountains via the Arizona Trail

Explore a century-old mining camp in the Coronado National Forest.
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Explore a century-old mining camp in the Coronado National Forest.

Back in the early 1900s, the dry arroyos of the Santa Rita Mountains were a hotbed of placer gold mining activity. Those days are long gone, but this easy 14-mile out-and-back hike offers a glimpse of a once-booming mining camp, plus spring wildflowers and desert wildlife like deer, javelina, and coatimundi. Start by exploring the restored adobe buildings of Kentucky Camp near the trailhead, then head south on the Arizona Trail, scanning the canyon floor for the hundred-year-old mounds and craters the gold miners left behind. Hike on to reach a ridge with sweeping views of the Sonoita Valley to the east. At mile 5, head west at the Gardner Canyon Road Trailhead, then drop along Cave Creek—look left to see a 1903 aquaduct that once supplied the camp. Meander south through junipers and oaks to Stetson’s Dam, a lovely place to linger before retracing your steps.
Info: Arizona Trail: The Official Guide, by Tom Lorang Jones (Westcliffe Publishers). Map: Santa Rita Mountains (Green Trails Maps). (520) 281-2296; www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado
Hike provided by the Arizona Trail AssociationEvent and membership info: aztrail.org

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Location: 31.7427368164062, -110.764587402344