You enjoy looking at the mountains around SaddleBrooke, but have you tried seeing them up close? Hiking into the mountains reveals that what looks like one uniform set of vegetation from your house or the golf course is really a wonderfully diverse desert flora. SaddleBrooke’s Hiking Club has trails up to Dome Rock or Picnic Rock (both great places for a picnic!) that different groups hiked on two occasions in September. These beginner-rated hikes on Arizona public trust land are slightly more difficult than other “C” hikes because of some steep sections. That didn’t stop us!
Starting early in the morning at 6 a.m. from a street in Unit 21, we headed to Dome Rock, got off the pavement right away, crossed the Canada del Oro wash, and looked for the cairns (little piles of rocks) that would take us southwest to the Dome Rock trail. Once on the trail we stopped frequently to catch our breath and look back at SaddleBrooke as it grew smaller; eventually we could see all the way to Biosphere 2. Some parts of the trail were steep and rocky, so poles were useful. We walked through patches of cholla, paddle and barrel cacti, agave, ocotillo, and many other plants that live in the land of monsoons and little rain otherwise. Once we reached Dome Rock at about 3,800’, we greatly enjoyed the view. Special to this hike is a good view of a rare double crested saguaro, visible on the way up and the way down.
One week later another group, led by the same hiking-club guide, hiked to Picnic and Dome Rocks using a trail that splits off the Dome Rock trail to go south and then west into the Santa Catalinas. On the way up, we were treated to a lovely sunrise, and some of the group stopped to take photos of a coiled rattlesnake and lovely yellow trumpet bush flower. We did not see any evidence of the recent fires on the trail. Once at the top, we took a short spur to Picnic Rock, a very nice place for a stop indeed. After a short stay, we headed west along a 4-wheel drive road for a short distance, then found the cairn marking the trail north and up to the backside of Dome Rock. It was a different view from the previous week, and a real treat to climb over the top and again see SaddleBrooke before us. On the way down, we stopped again at the double-crested saguaro.
While there are many lovely hikes in the Tucson area, and indeed, in all parts of Arizona, this one is special because you can walk out your front door and in a short time treat yourself to a restorative hike in the natural world. The hiking club lists its hikes on its website at saddlebrookehikingclub.com and the easier-rated hikes can easily be done with masks as we did on these hikes. It will make you appreciate our mountains even more!