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The 10 toughest hiking trails in the Tucson area

Posted: 11:42 AM, Jul 20, 2021
Updated: 2021-07-20 17:48:32-04
Man at the edge of a cliff

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — There is no shortage of hiking destinations to choose from in the Old Pueblo, but if you're looking for a real challenge, where should you go?

KGUN 9 set out to answer this question with the help of the website alltrails.com.

The list is based on All Trails' algorithm. "We look at everything from heatmaps, to number of reviews, number of photos contributed, and ranking," the website said.

Here's the list in no particular order, along with a snippet of a review from hikers:

Mica Mountain via Douglas Spring and Cow Head Saddle Trail
Trail length: 25.4 miles

Mica Mountain is an out and back route with an elevation gain above 6,400 feet. "This is an incredible trail! You get a lot of different scenery, hiking through both desert and alpine forests," said hiker Leanne Hay.

Finger Rock Trail #42
Length: 13 miles

This Arizona trail is difficult, but there is a waterfall to see if you can make it! "Appropriately rated Hard. First mile is easy. 2nd mile gets interesting. From there, it has some hairy sections, with very steep drop offs, but it was AWESOME!" said hiker Larry Groth.

Pima Canyon to Mount Kimball
Length: 12.6 miles

This hike features wildflowers along the way. All Trails says the best time to explore it is from Oct. to May. "Incredible hike in the desert mountains. First few miles of hike are very straightforward with saguaros and gentle uphill through the canyon. After that, the hike gets considerably steeper," said hiker Mark Johnson.

Esperero Canyon Trail
Length: 12.5 miles

This hiking spot is recommended for bird watching and also features wildflowers. "Perfect temperatures. Challenging but worth the effort. Great views at the top," said hiker Denise Martinez.

Ventana and Esperero Trail
Length: 13.3 miles

All Trails says this is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. "Gorgeous canyon views, lots of wildlife (snakes, lizards, birds, insects) and beautiful blooming cactus flowers. Rocky path but it’s easy to follow. Not many hikers. Bring lots of water and some snacks as well as sun protection," said hiker Erin Zimmerman.

Box Camp Trail to Sabino Canyon
Length: 10.3 miles

This destination takes hikers to an elevation above 4,500 feet. Dogs are also allowed on this trail! "Overall this was a beautiful trail. Lots of beautiful pines and streams along the trail," said hiker Rodrigo Mendez.

Romero Canyon to Mount Lemmon
Length: 11.1 miles

This trail was closed at the time this article was written. Here's a review from 2018: "We hiked this trail down from Mt Lemmon in October. Spectacular views West as you make your way along many viewpoints, rock formations and new growth pine on the way to Romero Pass," said hiker Robert Feltes.

Mount Kimball via Finger Rock Trail #42
Length: 8.8 miles

This out and back trail is heavily trafficked, according to All Trails. The best times to visit are between Oct. and May. "Super challenging hike and not for the faint of height fear individuals as the trail runs the edge often. That amount of elevation in that short of time means exactly what it sounds like, it goes up, a lot!" said Trent Rincon.

Mount Wrightson via Old Baldy Trail
Length: 11.6 miles

This hiking spot is located near Patagonia, Arizona. Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash. "Beautiful trail and pretty steep! My knees aren’t feeling so bad the day after, but my butt cheeks are wrecked!" said hiker Zachary Schussel.

Blackett's Ridge Trail
Length: 5.7 miles

This Sabino Canyon spot is the shortest on our list, but is still rated as difficult. "Loved it - definitely a very difficult hike. Almost turned around because I started a little late (especially with the summer weather) and because of the steep elevation, but really glad I went to the end because the view is unbelievable," said hiker Rachel Knox.