Wasson Peak, Tucson AZ
Technical Level: Expert
Parking: minimal, 10-12 spots
There are a couple of starting points to get up Wasson Peak, located in Saguaro National Park on the west side of Tucson. This route starts at El Camino Del Cerro, a trailhead at the end of a winding, paved road on the edge of the Park. After just under a quarter mile, take a left on Sweetwater trail which will roll in and out of a few washes, climb some “steps” and lead you up to a saddle in about 3.5 miles of semi-technical terrain. Most is fairly runnable (jog-able at least) until this point where it intersects with King’s Canyon trail. The right turn here is where your real climbing starts, and likely will demand some power hiking. Shortly before the summit, continue right past the Hugh Norris Trail turnoff and get ready for some excellent 360 degree views of the Catalinas far out east, Tucson’s city sprawl and flatter desert vistas west toward Ajo.
This is a good 2 hour, 9.5 mile out and back if you’re not trying to break any records but can be turned into a lollipop by dropping down Huge Norris on your descent from the peak. I was surprised by the fun, smooth, flows two mile section of trail here, so contradictory from the east side of the mountain. Keep left at a few intersections to stay on Sendero Esperanza Trail which will circle back to the saddle and Sweetwater Trail for your trip down to the start. There are a few sections after the enjoyable Hugh Norris bit that are sandy and loose, making it a tougher extra 4 miles than it looks like it might be, especially in hot temps. This 13-mile version took me about 2.5 hours in late fall when temps were moderate.
Overall, Wasson is a great training ground to get a mixture of moderate, runnable climbing, steeper hiking and technical descending.