Friday, December 19, 2014

Catalina State Park - 12/19/14

Today we visited Catalina State Park located north of Tucson. It is next to the Coronado National Forest on the western slopes of the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. The park is 5,500 acres where camping, picnicking, hiking, and birdwatching. There is also an equestrian center located in the park. We were looking for a place to do some hiking after a few rainy and overcast days here in Tucson and this turned out to be the perfect place to do so.

An admission tag (that you hang from your rearview mirror) can be purchased at the information center/gift shop. We also picked up a map of the park that includes information about the hiking trails. With that in hand we proceeded to the Romero Ruin Interpretive Trail (.75 miles).  Parking is on the left side of the road and the trailhead is well-marked across the road. No horses or mountain biking is permitted on this trail.

Sutherland Wash.

The trail is easy to follow and steps have been built into the incline.

We loved the views of the Santa Catalina Mountains as well as the plant life along the trail.

Staghorn cholla fruit.

As we explore the Sonoran Desert we continue to be amazed at the diversity of the saguaro cacti. This one has the most "arms" I have ever seen. It is an amazing, healthy, huge, specimen. Wow!

Barrel cactus.
View from the ridge.

Sadie was very curious about a bird in this tree...

Fifteen hundred years of history is on this ridge. For nearly 800 years, an ancient Hohokam village existed here. They relied on the water from the wash below and the desert vegetation of mesquite, saguaro, cholla, and prickly pear for their survival in this arid land.

Around 1150 AD, the Hohokam village had built a large enclosing wall of earth and rock that stood 5 feet tall. Approximately 200 people likely lived within the enclose space on the ridge. Below are remains of that wall.

Below is where the ball court was located.

In the mid-1800s, a Mexican rancher, Francisco Romero, built his home on the ridge. He raised cattle but only remained in the area a short time due to Apache raids. Below are foundations of two of the buildings on the ranch.

At the end of the Romero Ruins trail, we saw this huge tree.

Anxious to see more of this beautiful park, we drove the short distance to the trailhead of the Canyon Loop Trail (2.3 miles). Other trails in the park are also accessible from this area.

At this part of Sutherland Wash, water was flowing due to the recent rainy weather. We crossed this creek multiple times on the trail.

Sadie was excited to run around in it!

As we hiked up the canyon, the creek with the saguaro cacti in the background seems so contradictory.

Loved these views of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

A water break with Sadie.

There were yucca plants everywhere! These where used by Native Americans to make baskets.

Much of the Canyon Loop Trail continue along the Sutherland Wash. It was so picturesque with water flowing over the rocky wash.

Water doggy, Sadie.

Man and his best friend (besides me, of course).

Another water break as we near the end of the trail. These saguaro seem very happy with this location!

Near the parking lot, we saw this amazing growth of green grass...due, again, to the recent rains here. It reminded us of spring in PA!


There are various other programs available at Catalina State Park including a concert series occurring the first Saturday of the month, planned nature trail and group hiking, equestrian trips, biking, and other activities. We met several groups of people on the trail that have annual passes and visit the park frequently. Check out their web site for additional information on these and other activities.

Also, in November of 2013, the park introduced 31 Bighorn Sheep to the park and another 30 in 2014, with the hopes that these can re-establish these beautiful mountain mammals to the area. They were inhabitants of the area for centuries, but disappeared in recent years. To protect the herd, dogs are now restricted on many trails. Needless to say, we did not see any as we only hiked the Romero Ruins and Canyon Loop Trails, where dogs are permitted.

Admission to the park for the day is $7/vehicle. Our Tucson Attractions Savings Book got us in for 1/2 price admission. We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon here.


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