Starting at Catalina State Park, look for signage for the Sutherland Trail and Canyon Loop Trail
. The two trails overlap each other as you begin your hike. Shortly after leaving the parking area, and depending on the season, the trail will either cross several intermittent streams or several dry washes.
After about an eighth of a mile, the Sutherland Trail breaks off and heads N/NE and the Canyon Loop Trail
continues east. As you continue on the Sutherland Trail, you'll leave Catalina State Park and enter the Coronado National Forest. At this point, dogs are prohibited within the Coronado National Forest due to the protection of desert bighorn sheep.
The trail gently climbs and offers sweeping views of the Sonoran Desert to the west and south. To the east are views of the rugged western flank of the Catalina Mountains. Just before the Sutherland Trail comes to a junction with a link trail, the trail crosses the Cargodera drainage, which might have seasonal running water and a pool.
At approximately, 2.6 miles, the Sutherland Trail intersects with a link trail. The link trail takes you NW to the 50-Year Trail
. The Sutherland Trail continues east and overlaps with Forest Service Road 643 (FR 643). FR 643 is an old power line road with lots of loose rocks. Even though the Sutherland Trail continues along an old road, the "road" is hardly used by mountain bikers or vehicles due to numerous amounts of large loose rocks.
After traveling for a couple miles along the Sutherland Trail/FR 643, any visible signs of a road disappear as the Sutherland Trail climbs steeply into the higher elevations of the Catalina Mountains. The trail is not well used in this area so portions of the trail might be overgrown and hard to identify. Keep your eyes out for rock cairns. The trail continues climbing through pine trees, tops out on a ridge, first intersects with the Samaniego Ridge Trail at approximately 8,000 feet, and then continues a little further east and connects with Mount Lemmon Trail #5
Depending on how far and high you hike on the trail, you could encounter saguaro cacti, ocotillo, desert grass land, agave, alligator juniper, manzanita, and pine trees. The lower section of the Sutherland Trail will have plenty of wildflowers in the spring.