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Pima Canyon Hikes, Santa Catalina Mountains

Summary: A gentle, then steep climb up a nice canyon to some view points in the Catalina Mountains.
Directions: From Phoenix drive south on I-10 to Tucson.  Take the exit for Ina Rd.  Drive east until you reach North Oracle Rd (U.S. 89).  Turn north (left) on North Oracle and drive a quarter mile to Magee Rd.  Turn right on Magee and follow to the car park at the end.
Road Conditions: Passenger Car - paved all the way
Navigation: First 5.6 miles are Easy after that the trail becomes Moderate to Difficult to follow.
Length: 6.4 miles for an easy out and back hike
10.2 miles to Pima Saddle
14.2 miles to the summit of Mt. Kimball
Date Hiked: April, 2000 & February, 2001
Weather Conditions: Lower 60's & sunny
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the parking lot hop on the Pima canyon trail which winds between fenced in private property for a while before entering the canyon.  Basically just follow the moderately ascending trail as it parallels the stream bed on one side or the other.  There are a few tricky sections to follow where the trail crosses the stream bed, but by walking up the stream you're bound to pick up the trail eventually anyway.  After 3.2 miles you will come to an area where a major drainage comes in from the right.  From this point on the trail becomes steep, so you can turn around here if you don't want to climb.  For those continuing onward, walk across the side drainage and pick up the trail as it ascends on the right side of the main Pima Canyon drainage.  For the next 2.4 miles the path is unrelentingly steep as you make your way to the head of the canyon.  Along the way you will cross the stream a few times as you enter a more forested area of oak and pine.  Near the head of the canyon the trail climbs the left hand ridge past shear rock walls to the signed junction with the short side trail to Pima Saddle.  Turn left at this junction if you wish to visit the saddle, which has nice views to the north (5.6 miles).  Those that haven't had enough climbing yet can continue another 1.5 miles along the Pima Canyon Trail to the summit of Mt. Kimball.  From the junction with the saddle trail, the path bends right bending around the head of Pima Canyon, then climbing a steep ridge and winding around to the right to enter a side drainage to the main canyon (all the while climbing steeply of course).  The trail climbs up the left side of this side drainage, bends to the right then hits a forested ridge line which it follows for the remaining distance to the summit.  This section gets little use and is fairly faint, though the author had no difficulty following it (the lower ends of the canyon which get tons of traffic and fading use trails is more difficult in my opinion).  Once on top of the mountain, look for the use trail branching left which leads to an outcropping of rocks with good views to the north of Window Rock, Cathedral Rock and Mt. Lemmon (7.1 miles).  When ready return the way you came (14.2 miles).
Rating (1-5 stars): if you're going to the saddle or summit, for lower Pima Canyon
Lower Pima Canyon is really sort of nasty and crowded (since it's very flat and easy no doubt).  Once you begin to climb up and away from the crowds, however, it's really quite nice.  The upper part of the canyon is quite rugged and pretty.  There are also good views from the summit (facing away from Tucson into the heart of the Catalina range).  When the author did this hike to Mt. Kimball in February, there was a foot of snow in the upper elevations, though the air temperature was quite pleasant.
Maps: Santa Catalina Mountains - Rainbow Expeditions Inc.
Books: 'Arizona Trails - 100 Hikes in Canyon and Sierra' by David Mazel
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
Typical view in
Pima Canyon