TOUR DESCRIPTION

This diverse and exciting four-day adventure features 70 miles of flowing singletrack trail through oak and juniper forests, across golden grasslands and finishing among stands of giant saguaro cacti. While some parts of the terrain are rocky and challenging, the majority of the route is ideal for trail running. Most days feature moderate distance with one marathon day to test your endurance. The Santa Rita Mountains are incredibly biodiverse, and are one of the only places in America where you might share the trail with a jaguar or ocelot (both have been documented here in recent years). This is the only AZT Expedition where you can spend time underground, and a walk through Colossal Cave will reveal the incredible world that exists underground. Ending in Saguaro National Park, this four-day itinerary is about as much fun running long distance in southern Arizona.

We created this trip for those who don’t want a guide, don’t want to be supported during the week and generally just want their own self-serve adventure with a bit of logistical assistance. Each day we relocate a very deluxe camp setup (provided by Ready Camp) of (2) 10×10 canopies, full kitchen, dry firewood, camp chairs, fresh water, coolers of food and beverages (you purchase prior to trip) and all your personal gear like tents, bags and clothing. You can go as cheap or deluxe as you want on food, beverages and amenities!!

Arrival day

 

Our meeting point for this trip is Tucson, AZ at the Super 8 on Starr Pass Blvd. The day before the trip starts you can pick up a cooler (if needed) from us to do your shopping for the week.

 

Day One

 

Ascending into the heights of the Santa Rita Mountains is no easy task. The day’s run begins on a wide dirt road that eventually becomes trail, climbing 2,000 vertical feet over 7 miles. You’ll see and feel the biotic communities transforming around you as the grasslands give way to forest. After your highpoint near Bear Spring, the trail descends and begins its picturesque journey along the canyons, ridges and hidden corners of the Santa Ritas. Keep an eye out for black bears, coatimundi and other critters along this seldom-traveled segment of trail. The final six miles of this route are trail running bliss, and you’ll splash through ephemeral creeks as you approach Gardner Canyon Road. Run length is about 15 miles.

 

Day Two

 

Run and walk up a short, steep series of switchbacks before descending toward historic Kentucky Camp. Old adobe structures and rusting mining equipment help tell the story of when this area was bustling with hopes of riches in the dirt. The trail rises and falls through a series of canyons, testing your legs and lungs throughout the day. This area is a bird watcher’s paradise and you’re likely to see everything from tiny grassland sparrows to elegant trogons. Today’s scenery alternates between dense forests of juniper, oak and manzanita to grasslands and agaves with inspiring views to the east. Camp is in a remote valley in the foothills of the Santa Ritas. Run length is about 16 miles.

 

Day Three

 

Continuing north along the Arizona Trail, today’s route is mostly fast and flowing with a lot of elevation loss between the start and finish. But the marathon distance will challenge even the most seasoned trail runners. The terrain makes the first few hours a challenge as you run through the accordion-like ridges of the foothills. But soon you’ll feel like you’re flying as you sail through formidable terrain on recently-built trail. There is a bail-out option at mile 21 where the AZT crosses Sahuarita Road. The miles pass quickly as you descend toward Cienega Creek Nature Preserve, a perennial source of water in an otherwise dry desert. Soak your feet in the cold creek water before running north toward Colossal Cave. Camp is in a lush mesquite and cottonwood forest within La Selvilla Campground. Run length is about 27 miles.

 

Day Four

 

The day begins with a rocky, gentle climb north out of Colossal Cave Mountain Park. Limestone dominates the landscape, which makes for challenging running, but soon eases as you descend into lower elevations. The trail seems to get easier with each passing mile, rolling downhill toward Rincon Creek. Sometimes flowing like a creek and other times just a trickle, Rincon Creek a pleasant change from the prickly pear and ocotillo forests nearby. Climbing out of Rincon Creek the Arizona Trail enters Saguaro National Park, first on singletrack then on an old doubletrack road that allows you to soak up the inspiring views of the massive Rincon Mountains. Healthy forests of saguaros surround you and Gila monsters and rattlesnakes are commonly seen here. Where the Arizona Trail enters the Saguaro Wilderness area, you follow the Hope Camp Trail toward the Camino Loma Alta Trailhead. Looking south toward the distant Santa Rita Mountains, you’ll hardly believe how far you’ve run over the past four days. Run length is about 12 miles.

What’s Included

 

  • Shuttle Van and driver
  • Luggage, gear and cooler/food relocation
  • Ready Camp kitchen and general gear

 

Not Included

 

  • Alcoholic Beverages – we can haul and keep them cold though!
  • Lodging
  • Breakfast, Lunch or Dinner
  • Weather Control – Mother Nature has a mind of her own

Tucson International Airport has plenty of flights each day.