Saguaros and barrels and chollas – oh my!

Dateline 2 February 2015

Six of us set out to try a new (to us) loop in Saguaro West while the weather was still cool. It was an interesting outing as none of us had taken these particular trails before. Armed with a map and Circuit Hikes of Southern Arizona we set out on what the author described as the Belmont Road loop. As described, the hike is two loops joined in the middle.

We followed the route (mostly) as described and across the connector to the second loop where we chose to go counterclockwise rather than clockwise as described. This may have been a mistake. The area is riddled with “social trails” or non-authorized routes and many of them are more obvious than the authorized trail which is only marked at official junctions. The route we took did not match the trail as marked on the map but we came to the correct junction signs. It’s away from the junctions that we had difficulties.

We passed a signpost and turned up the Coyote Pass Trail which winds westward between two hills. As we followed what appeared to be a clear trail we came to a prominent “trail closed” sign. We followed the wash a bit farther in hopes of finding the trail again, without success.  I consider myself to be a good map reader and general way finder and there really wasn’t much room between the two hills so the proper trail had to be parallel to the wash somewhere nearby but we never found it and decided to turn back. We later checked at park headquarters and a surprised  (but helpful) ranger said he had hiked the trail himself the week before and it was not closed. Thus nature guards her mysteries :).

After crossing the connecting trail we returned to the first loop and the directions in the book were very helpful in keeping us to the authorized trail which was often less obvious than the other routes.

Overall it was an interesting outing with some amazing cactus forest as you can see in the photos. While loops can be more interesting than an out and back journey, if I were to do this hike again I would chose out & back for the first portion as the return journey on the Animal Wash Trail was primarily in a sandy wash which I find to be tiring footing. If you want to train for walking in a wash – this is your trail!

I’d like to return from a different direction to see where we lost the Coyote Wash Trail, but only on a cool day. This would be great territory for showing your winter visitors the cactus forest, but it’s all exposed and heats up quickly.

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