On our second day at Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson, AZ, we set our eyes on the highest point in the park, Wasson Peak. It was a little warmer than we prefer for hiking – low to mid eighties, but after a week or so with little physical activity, we felt up for it. (Plus, I suppose this is considered cooler weather for Tucson anyway.)
We got the last spot at the King Canyon trailhead parking lot and started on our 8-mile, 1700 foot loop. The beginning of the trail is a little unclear as to which way is which, but we went left of the fork, which we took to be King Canyon Wash (intended to take the Gould Mine trail according to the map).
This first mile on the wash was soft gravel and a teeny tiny bit of scrambling up some rocks amidst a plethora of saguaro and other native cacti.
We then bore left to the Sendero Esperanza trail until it intersected with the Hugh Norris Trail. We did it this way as a park ranger had told us that if we did the loop counter clockwise we would be descending on the steepest mile, not coming up. The ascent coming this way was pretty gradual, making the heat manageable and offering gorgeous views along the way.
We then reached the 0.3 mile out and back spur to Wasson Peak, which was only about a 200 foot incline, went very quickly, and was definitely worth the effort! The plateau at the top offered 360 degree views of the park, the Tucson mountains, bajadas in the distance, surrounding towns (including Tucson), and was just stunning with ravens circling above.
After taking in the view over lunch, we headed down to finish the Hugh Norris part of the loop. It was indeed a bit steep, consisting of a lot of loose gravel. This almost made me think it could have been easier to come up it rather than sliding down, but alas. The trail could also be quite narrow, so I had to be sure to dodge any cacti or other sharp brush that was growing into the trail – this is one of those rare moments when John’s “they protect me from the elements” reasoning for ALWAYS wearing long jeans actually made sense to me!
We then finished the loop on the King Canyon trail – the opposite trail we started on. This gave us a little bit more of a climb before descending but we were glad to not sink into soft gravel going this way!
Overall, this hike seems to sum up everything this underrated park has to offer – the unique Sonoran desert flora, wildlife, and beautiful mountain views!