Since I was bringing my son home from ASU for Passover, I decided to extend the trip and enjoy some hiking around Arizona. Originally, I had planned to visit Organ Pipe National Monument, do some hiking and camp overnight, then continue to Tucson and visit the Pima Air & Space Museum. Afterwards, I would climb some of the peaks on the Six Pack of Peaks Challenge – Arizona Winter edition. But as I worked out the timing, I had to drop the visit to Organ Pipe. Instead I drove straight to Tucson and spent the afternoon exploring the museum. The next morning I woke very early to reach the trailhead at dawn for Wasson Peak in Saguaro National Park. It was a short 30 minute drive from the hotel. As I pulled into the parking lot, a single car was parked there. I gathered my gear, tossed on my fleece, and set off toward the summit. There was a warning sign about hiking in the desert, but I did not need to worry about the heat today. The rocky trail was nice and wide and lined with beautiful ocotillo, prickly pear, and saguaro, of course.
Reading the trail guide on socalhiker.net, I was keeping my eye out for one junction that could be missed. However, as I reached it, rocks were laid out across the wash that I had been walking and the stone steps were very visible. It felt odd to be hiking in the desert on a maintained trail, as so much of what I have been doing lately has been open desert hiking. I almost did not know what to do! After about a mile, I stashed my fleece in my pack and continued on.
The King Canyon Trail finally reaches a saddle and intersects with the Sweetwater Trail. Turning left toward the summit, a trail sign informed me it was a “Foot Trail Only: No Stock” allowed from this point on. So, those using a burro, you will have to end your journey here. It was too bad, a burro might have made the upcoming steep switchbacks a bit easier, although they were not really that bad. Part way up, I did find a closed mine entrance, which I stopped and peered into for a bit before continuing on. It was near here that I met the hiker from that car in the parking lot. We chatted for a bit before each continuing on our hikes.
The trail then intersected with the Hugh Norris Trail around the 3.1 mile point. From here, I followed the ridge out to the top of Wasson Peak. Atop the summit I had some great views. I could see all of the Tucson Mountains, the city of Tucson, the Santa Catalina Mountains, the Rincon Mountains, and Picacho Peak with its distinct shape, out to the northwest. I found one reference mark, but none of the other marks. There was a register box, but its pages were filled, so I could not add my name. Since this was to be the first of two peaks today, I did not linger too long at the summit.
Once back at that first intersection, I debated taking the Hugh Norris Trail back down instead. Often this peak is done as a loop. That would have added an extra mile or so to the hike and I wanted to save as much energy as I could to climb Picacho Peak. As I made my way down, I passed more hikers making their way up to the summit. Soon, I was back at the car, having covered 6.75 miles in 3:18 with an elevation gain of 1,850 feet. Now for the 50 minute drive to Picacho!