“A quick and popular loop with day users and trail crushers alike.”
— Stephen Woodall
There is an entry fee for Catalina State Park of $7 daily fee or $75 for a yearly pass.
The Canyon Loop Trail is an extremely popular hiking trail that also can serve as a nice getaway without heading far from town. The trail itself is largely sandy and crosses several different washes which will have water in them during monsoon season and after winter storms/snow melt runoff. Most of the times the smaller wash crossings allow for rock hopping to avoid getting wet.
There are several connecting trail options which can lengthen this hike, including the Nature Loop, Birding Loop
, Sutherland Trail
, and Romero Pools
Trail which shares some of this loop's path. This loop (using the stairs instead of horse trail) also provides an extension to the Montrose Pools/Romero Pools
Begin at the Catalina State Park main trailhead and head out on the asphalt towards the road's roundabout. Eventually you'll catch the trail straight ahead. The trail is very intuitive and largely doubletrack for its duration, with only some sparse sections of singletrack. This route I've mapped uses the horse path instead of the steps at the 1.1 mile point heading this direction. The horse trail is seldom occupied by horses and allows for an ascent up the hill. There is a bench and nice view point at the top of this hill at the 1.2 mile mark.
Heading back downhill, you'll be on a generously wide doubletrack that is often sandy unless you catch it right after some rain. At the 1.75 mile mark, you'll come to the junction of the Featured Hike. Heading up this path makes for a sandy gentle ascent and brings the total mileage of the loop to just about 3 miles when complete. Make your way back down this out-and-back section and continue downhill until reaching a very steep downhill section. Heading straight at the base of the hill takes you to the Birding Loop
, while a right turn takes you across the major wash and to the trailhead and parking lot. During heavy snow melt or monsoon season, this wash might not be passable without getting your shoes wet.