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Half dirt singletrack and half sandy wash, Brittlebrush connects to the heart of the national park.


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Map Key

1.3

Miles

2.2

KM

Point to Point

2,769' 844 m

High

2,539' 774 m

Low

82' 25 m

Up

248' 76 m

Down

5%

Avg Grade (3°)

11%

Max Grade (6°)

Dogs No Dogs

Features Wildflowers

Trails in Saguaro National Park's Tucson Mountain District are open daily from sunrise to sunset. Pets are prohibited beyond parking and picnic areas. Bicycles are not permitted on any of the National Park's trails; however, the adjacent Tucson Mountain Park offers areas open to cyclists.

Description

Leading to the center of the northern Tucson Mountain District's trails, Brittlebrush is a winding path leading around a foothill and through a wash.

Brittlebrush begins just before Thunderbird hits the mile and a quarter point. It's missing the trail sign that marks most intersections in the park, so look for a rock cairn by an easy to spot singletrack heading uphill. The path is a narrower version of the rocky portions of Thunderbird, with similar issues of close-growing cacti.

Head around a small boulder pile on the left and push a quarter mile up to the crest of a hill. Thousands more saguaros cover the valley ahead, making for a vivid scene. The descent from the top is similar to the climb; relatively low grade but bumpy.

As Brittlebrush reaches the bottom, it'll cross a washout around the half mile point before joining it another tenth of a mile ahead. Most of the remainder of the trail will be in the wash. Users accessing the trail from the north side will find it about the same as Picture Rocks Wash: sandy, gritty, and tiring to hike through. Sticking to the firmer earth around the edges, at least where it exists, can help.

After making a distinct U-shaped curve around a raised section, some brief respite can be had on a hard packed segment to the left. It only lasts for a few hundred feet, heading right back to the wash before ending at the intersection with Picture Rocks Wash. A trail sign, facing northeast, marks the split. Turn right onto Picture Rocks for a few hundred feet to reach the hard-packed Ironwood Forest on the opposite side, a welcome relief from the sandy slog.

Flora & Fauna

With both desert and mountain areas, including the sky island of the eastern district, Saguaro National Park is home to an impressive number of plants and wildlife.

Over four hundred plant species call the Tucson District home. The most prominent are the saguaro cacti which give the park its name. Living well over a hundred years and growing forty to sixty feet tall, they live exclusively in the Sonoran Desert and can be seen by the thousands here. Arms won't grow until the plant is 75-100 years old. Ocotillos, cholla, prickly pear, creosote, mesquite, and palo verde are common sights.

Many animals associated with the desert can be found on the trails. Visitors may see roadrunners, horned lizards, Gila monsters, kangaroo rats, and collared peccaries. Owls and woodpeckers may fly overhead, with some making their home in the saguaros. Tortoises are uncommon, and give a wide berth if coming across one of the park's six species of rattlesnakes.

Contacts

Shared By:

Brendan Ross

Trail Ratings

  3.5 from 2 votes

#25747

Overall
  3.5 from 2 votes
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Trail Rankings

#869

in Arizona

#25,747

Overall
3 Views Last Month
216 Since Sep 30, 2015
Intermediate

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Photos

Narrow spot along the Brittlebrush trail.
Aug 23, 2016 near Flowing…, AZ

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Jun 10, 2017
Nick Lang
4.7mi