Simply a great hike in the Oro Valley area! Perfect for beginning hikers and seasoned veterans alike. This hike is overall quite smooth and offers fairly minimal elevation gain, with the first half being gradually uphill before descending on the second half. The trail conditions are largely packed dirt with some rutted areas from rain washout. There are a few slightly rocky sections that get a bit more technical but those are few and far between. You'll cross a number of washes but seldom will these have any water. It takes just over a mile from the beginning to reach the singletrack where the fun really begins. This total hike comes in at 21.7 miles with options to extend it even longer.
This is a very fun loop trail that offers a shorter 12.1-mile loop option too if you cut over to the left (west) at the 5.35-mile junction where you'll link up with the last part of the hike. There are also multiple extensions (Badlands Trail
and Tortolita Pass
Trail), with the Tortolita Pass
Trail linking up to the Dove Mountain trail system that is usually accessed at the Wild Burro Trail
. This hike is remote at the northern end of the loop so be very careful to bring sufficient water in the hotter summer months.
*UPDATE* - As of December 9, 2017 a NEW permanent trailhead access has been opened. To get to this trailhead start at Oracle & Rancho Vistoso Boulevard, heading west on Rancho Vistoso. Go past the light at Innovation, cross over the Big Wash Bridge, and make a u-turn at the first left hand turn lane. After the u-turn make an almost immediate right down a short hill and follow the dirt road to a large parking lot right by the bridge. There are currently no facilities but bathrooms, water, and paved parking are scheduled to come in the future to this trailhead. Other access points used previously such as through Sun City or Methodist Church are to be used at your discretion. This is the official access point though. There is also access still from Edwin Road further north off of Oracle but the washes are very sandy and the dirt road very rough. 4x4 vehicles highly recommended for the Edwin access.
UPDATE: An official trailhead has been created just south of Rancho Vistoso Boulevard right by the Big Wash Bridge.
From the parking lot head north under the Big Wash bridge. Follow this trail, which is fairly sandy, for 1.3 miles and then turn left through a cattle gate. Another 0.5 miles past this point, at 1.8 miles total, you'll see another gate but DO NOT go through it and instead veer just left of it and follow the singletrack path. At 2.25 miles you'll come to a "T" in the trail and here you'll turn left. This trail is the one which came from the church access path. After making the left continue until 4.15 miles where you'll intersect the Rail X Ranch / Honeybee Canyon Loop
right after passing some cattle tanks. Take a right (NW) at this four way intersection. After a half mile of singletrack, you'll reach the Powerline Road
(about 4.65 miles from the start). Cross the road and continue on the singletrack heading up the gradual ascent. At 5.35 miles from the start, you'll reach a "Y" in the trail. Stay right to complete this longer route (left will take you on the Honeybee Canyon Short Loop
At the 7 mile mark, you'll come to a dirt road (Edwin Road) and head across the road veering slightly to the right and back immediately onto singletrack. From about mile 8.1 through 10.4, you'll encounter some of the most steady but minor climbing of the day and probably the hardest section of trail. This is another pretty section of the trail though where you can take in the scenery at various points. At around the 10.15-mile mark, the path will merge with a dirt road. Follow this dirt road up the hill for approximately 0.4 miles, crossing two cattle guards, before turning a hard left back down a singletrack path (approximately 10.5 total distance mark). This is a fairly easy path to see, but it does cut back at a very sharp angle. **Note: The Badlands Trail
extension is about 0.2 miles before this turn off on the right-hand side of the road).**
From here, you'll gradually descend back towards a windmill and cattle tank, with a few rolling hills thrown in. Upon reaching the cattle tank, veer slightly right down through a wash and up the hill on the other side. This next 0.6 miles is a bit rocky and involves some of the steeper hill climbs of the day; however, they're still fairly minor. Once you crest the hill, it's pretty much all downhill thereafter. Just after mile 11.4, you'll be following along a fence line with some rolling terrain before opening onto a wider dirt trail and past a water hole. **Note: Those linking with the Tortolita Pass
Trail will stay on the dirt trail (crossing Edwin again) rather than crossing the cattle guard**
After hitting this dirt road at the 11.6-mile mark, take a left and cross the cattle guard, then take an almost immediate right down more singletrack. This will lead you past the remnants of an old corral with another scenic windmill. Just beyond the corral, you'll start heading to the right down a dirt road for a VERY SHORT distance before veering to the left down another singletrack path. Keep your eyes on the loose dirt here, and you'll see the mountain bike tracks leading you the correct direction. Enjoy the next few fast miles of gradual downhill!
From here on out, the trail crosses a few more dirt roads but the singletrack path is pretty visibly seen directly across the roads so just keep going straight on singletrack. The next major junction is at about 15.4 miles where you'll again just stay mostly straight (slightly right). This junction is where you would spill out if doing the Honeybee Canyon Short Loop
. Right at about mile 16.6, there's one last moderate uphill section with a steeper hill at the end for good measure. From here you'll descend down towards the Powerline Road
at which point you'll take a right and follow the Powerline Road
for 0.2 miles, then take a left back onto singletrack & follow for 0.35 miles. Turn right at this junction past the cattle tanks and back to the start.
It's the desert so you may encounter rattlesnakes, bobcats, coyotes, javelina, etc. Mountain lions do inhabit the area but are rarely sighted. Cows graze this land too but are pretty docile and are used to human traffic. Plenty of cactus so watch your step! You'll see a great variety of desert plants.