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Name: Rice Peak Loop Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (Easy 4WD)
Time: 2 - 4 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 8.4 miles (one way) Elevation gain/loss/change: +2225 / -2080 ft / +145 ft (one way)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 5500 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter (snow may be present in the winter) Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: July, 2012
Short Description: An easy 4WD trail along a shelf road in the Catalina Mountains
Offroad Passport Forum: Click here to join the discussion on Offroad Passport
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Lady Bug Peak; Cinn#1; Arizona Trail - Beat Feet
References / Contact Information: Rice Peak Trip; Peppersauce Campground; Agave
Points of interest: Rice Peak, Peppersauce Campgrounds, Peppersauce Cave.
Special Considerations: Easy, but lightly used road. Can be hazardous during summer monsoons or in snow.
How to get there: Take Oracle Road north out of Tucson. Oracle Road turns into State Highway 77. Follow Highway 77 past Oracle Junction to the town of Oracle. Turn right on American Avenue (just past mile marker 100) and follow it through the town of Oracle for 2.4 miles until reaching Mt Lemmon Road. Mt Lemmon Road becomes a dirt road after a few miles. Bear left at a major junction shortly after the road becomes dirt. You are now on the Mount Lemmon Control Road. Continue for 5 miles until reaching the turnoff for the 4wd road to Rice Peak, which is on the right, directly across from Peppersauce Campground. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

The Rice Peak Loop trail is located in Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The Rice Peak Loop trail combines a portion of the Rice Peak Trail and FR4429 (taking the loop bypasses the more difficult ascent up to the top of Rice Peak). This trail is a scenic, easy 4wd trail that is now one of my favorites in the Catalina Mountains. There are numerous other four wheel drive trails to explore as well as hiking trails (the Oracle Ridge segment of the Arizona Trail intersects and follows Rice Peak road for a couple of miles).

Google Maps and Google Earth

GPS tracks for this adventure were recorded with My Tracks software on my Android cell phone. This is an awesome piece of free software that allows you to record GPS tracks, waypoints and historical data. It will tell you things like elevation gain, time history, average speed, etc. It will also let you take a tour (similar to playing a time accurate movie) of your track on Google Earth. You can send your tracks to friends or upload them to Google.

Google Maps
Click here to view this adventure's track on Google Maps.

Google Earth
You can also download a Google Earth movie (called a tour) of this adventure (must have Google Earth on your computer). Right click here to download the .kml file, then select "save target (or link) as..." For help on how to play the movie on Google Earth (not very intuitive), click here.

General Information and History

The road begins in the bottom of a shady canyon at 4600’ near the Peppersauce Campground and exits just above Peppersauce Cave. If you do the loop, you will bypass the tougher portions of the Rice Peak Trail by not going to the peak. The views from the top of Rice Peak are awesome, but I enjoy this trail more than going up to Rice Peak. The shelf road is easy and very scenic. There are many places that I want to go back to explore. I think some of wash crossing would be interesting with a good rain and fun to cross (just not during a flash flood).

During the July 4, 2012 trip, it was raining the first half of the morning, which made this trip outstanding. The colors were bright and the agave's yellow flowered stalks were out in force. It was amazing.

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The Trail

The trail begins just opposite the Peppersauce Campgrounds at Waypoint 001. The first portion of the trail is relatively flat and smooth. As you progress up the trail you are in a large canyon. There are numerous primitive campsites in this area. The trail follows alongside and then crosses a usually dry creek bed. Along the way, there are some large trees which provide some nice shade. After crossing the creek bed, the trail begins to climb steeply (this portion of the trail has recently undergone improvements by the Forest Service).

After approximately 2.1 miles, turn left at Waypoint 002 and begin to go down the hill toward an old mine. This section of the trail is probably the rockiest (except for another short section near the end). After about 0.3 miles, you'll come to the wood head frame at Waypoint 0002a. There are three open shafts (mostly horizontal) just beyond the head frame. One on the right seems to go a long way (though I did not go in very far). There is a small parking area next to the head frame, the trail goes up the small switchback hill on the left. If you have problems making the turn, you can go right and turn around next to the head frame, then go up the hill.

Continue on this trail until you reach Waypoint 003. There's a large pond/dam off to the right and a bunch of trails leading off in all directions. The one you want is an almost 180 degree turn, up the hill on your left. The others go back to the Rice Peak Trail. You are now on FR4472.

The trail winds its way along a shelf and in and out of washes and small tree-lined canyons. There are a few faint trails here that may need exploring in the future :-).

Near Waypoint 004, you'll head down into a canyon with big trees. There's a cattle tank and some nice camping on your right. Continue straight ahead to keep on the trail.

After another 1.8 miles, you'll come to a pull out on the right next to small hill and saddle. Very nice views of the valley floor to the east.

Continue along the main road as you wind your way up and down a series of hills. A few of the washes in the area have nice big trees and large rocks (none that required driving over).

Near Waypoint 006, there are other faint trails leading off in both directions. Keep on the main trail unless you want to explore these.

Soon, you'll come to the Mt. Lemmon back road (Waypoint 007), just above Peppersauce Cave. Take a left to go back down to where you started, or right to go up and over Mt. Lemmon.

Have fun and be safe.

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