Pima Canyon, Southerland Trail among the best hiking trails in the region | brighten up

Whether you’re biking, hiking, or taking a walk, the Oro Valley has a lot to offer. Due to COVID 19, we have all learned the value of the great outdoors. Now that the region’s snowy season seems to be over and the days are starting to get longer and warmer, it’s the perfect time to get out and enjoy the beauty of the Oro Valley.

A few trails at the gates of Oro Valley that are nearly five miles round trip are Pima Canyon to the Dam (a six-mile round trip hike) and Southerland Trail in Catalina State Park. On this hike you can branch off to Dripping Springs to make it just over six miles long.

Pima Canyon is located at the end of Magee Road and uses the Iris Dewhirst trailhead for parking. The trail is moderately used, but few hikers make it to the dam.

This hike begins with an incline that will give you plenty of practice from the start to the first crossing of the riverbed. For families looking to take their toddlers into the hills or fitness advocates looking for an uphill challenge, the trail so far is perfect, challenging for toddlers but not too far. Beyond this point you get in and out of beautiful views of the canyon wall, green growth, burnt areas, and city views to the southwest. There is also a nice riparian area about 1.5 miles up the trail that makes for a nice, shorter destination point.

It was nice to see the exposed rock and the beautiful rock formations exposed by the burnt areas. The fire made areas of the mountain more visible. It was a pleasant surprise because it replaced my fear of seeing the desert I loved as ugly. The fire will allow new growth and many native plants have branches that have survived the fire. After crossing the riparian zone, you will cross the dry river several times while continuing to ascend the canyon. The whole hike is beautiful. Finally you come to an area where you descend on the west side of the river and ascend on the east side through bedrock mortars. These were created by prehistoric natives who used a pestle to grind or pulverize grains for food in these holes. Just beyond is your destination, as the dam is located against the western rock face.

The next trail we recommend is the Southerland Trail from the main Catalina State Park trailhead. From the parking lot, you will take the path to the northeast which will take you across three rivers. Depending on rain or snowmelt, there may be running water in the river beds. For many families, river crossings are their destination so that their youngsters can play in the water. Playtime in nature has many benefits for children, and this is a great trail for that purpose. The walk to the river crossings is flat, fun and not very far, even to the third crossing which usually has the most water. After the river bed, you will turn left and climb a staircase that crosses a railway line. If you prefer to take the Canyon Loop trail for a total hike of 2.3 miles, continue straight or east and discover another beautiful trail in the park. After the climb to a bench, the rest of the trail is fairly flat. Our goal (and a great destination spot for a day hike) is the large flat rocks just before the 50 year old trail.

The two hikes above should take three to five hours. For adventurers looking for relatively easier hikes, we suggest the Honey Bee Canyon hike and the Linda Vista Trail hike.

For an easy hike, Honey Bee Canyon Park off Rancho Vistoso Boulevard offers the chance to see petroglyphs, created by natives most likely before settlers and ranchers appeared. From the Honey Bee Canyon parking lot, follow the paved sidewalk to its terminus. The park restroom building and ramadas will be on your left. Almost directly opposite is a natural surface path. Follow him as he turns to the right. You will see a park sign mentioning petroglyphs. Follow the bottom of the wash north under the Rancho Vistoso Bridge. This is a flat hike, popular with hikers and runners, but with the added challenge of navigating sand in the bottom of the wash. The canyon is secluded enough that you rarely feel like you’re still in civilization. About a mile from your start in the parking lot, you will see the petroglyphs on the rocks; it is an exercise in intellectual creativity to theorize what the symbols may have represented for these ancient inhabitants. Past this point you will see a concrete water reservoir and then the remains of a dam built by a rancher long ago. This is the common turning point for many hikers on this trail.

The adventure, beauty and excitement that awaits you in and around the Oro Valley abounds. Spring is the best time to experience it. Remember to always take plenty of water on any hike.

Lynanne Dellerman-Silverthorn is Oro Valley Town Recreation Managementr.

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