|Name:Arizona Trail - Oracle Ridge||Author's Rating:|
|Author: Matt Marine||Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet|
|Type: Bike||Difficulty: (Challenging)|
|Time: 1 - 3 hours||Region: SE Arizona|
|Length: 6.0 miles (total out-and-back). The forest service trail sign states it is 3.7 miles to Oracle Ridge, my GPS showed it was only 3 miles||Elevation gain/loss/change: +1160 / -1160 ft / +0 ft (total out-and-back)|
|Type: Out-and-back||Avg Elevation: 5000 ft|
|Best time to go: fall, spring, winter||Fees: NA|
|Fitness rating: Medium||Educational Merit: Low|
|Danger/fear rating: Low||Scenic Beauty: Medium|
|Hours of Operation: NA||Last updated: November, 2010|
|Short Description: A fairly challenging trail to Oracle Ridge|
|Geocaches: Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. American Flag; Old Mt. Lemmon Road; Cody's Cache|
|References / Contact Information: Arizona Trail Association;|
|Points of interest: Oracle; American Flag; Nice boulders to climb on!|
|Special Considerations: Part of the Arizona Trail System.|
|How to get there: Oracle is about an hour north of Tucson. Take Oracle Road, which turns into SR 77 to American Avenue. Follow American Avenue through town and turn right at the sign for Mt. Lemmon. This is called the Mt. Lemmon Control Road, which also can be an interesting trip, but that post will be later. The road turns to dirt a short distance before you reach the trail head, but don’t worry, this portion is well-graded and passenger cars can tackle it easy (unless it’s really muddy). At American Flag, park in the small lots on either side of the street (Waypoint 001). Click here for directions.
July 2012 Update: The Forest Service has built a short bypass around American Flag (see the Control Road adventure). Access to the Arizona trailhead is no longer directly along the Control Road, you have to take the dead end road off the Control Road. As of this date, it is not signed. When I talked with the Forest Service, they told me they are thinking they would keep the trailhead where it currently is (no intent of moving it back to the Control Road).
This is a fairly challenging ride in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains northwest of Tucson. It takes you up through some nice granite rock formations to a 4wd trail called Oracle Ridge. At almost 5000 ft in elevation, this would be a great place to bike in the spring and fall to get away from the valley heat.
Note: This trail was originally done as a hike, but could be done as a mountain bike ride also. Many of the pictures and video are from my original hike.
The trailhead begins at a place called American Flag a few miles outside of Oracle. The trail described here (from American Flag to Oracle Ridge) is part of the Arizona Trail. The Arizona trail is a continuous 800-mile trail stretching across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. Click here for more information.
At the trail head is the old American Flag Post Office. From The Historical Marker Database: “Isaac Lorraine, discoverer of the American Flag gold and silver mine, built this adobe house about 1877. It served as his residence and headquarters for nearby mining and ranching operations. On December 20, 1880, it became the first post office in the district. Within ten years population had shifted to the Oracle area and on July 19, 1890, mail service was discontinued from American Flag. This is one of the oldest surviving post office buildings in Arizona and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”
From the Arizona Trail Association website: The Arizona National Scenic Trail is a continuous, 800+ mile diverse and scenic trail across Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It links deserts, mountains, canyons, communities and people. Currently 96% of the trail is complete.
The Arizona Trail is an 800+ mile recreation trail from Mexico to Utah that connects mountain ranges, canyons, deserts, forests, wilderness areas, historic sites, trail systems, points of interest, communities, and people. It serves day hikers, backpackers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, trail runners, nature enthusiasts, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and mule and llama packers.
See About The Trail page on the Arizona Trail Association website for more information.
From the trailhead, you can go east or west on the Arizona Trail. The portion of the trail described here takes you southwest (heading off to the right if you’re coming from Oracle). You will start climbing immediately once you head off. Along this part of the trail, there are lots of wood and stone steps making the ascent difficult.
At Waypoint 002, pass through a small, sandy wash and continue climbing. Keep winding your way up the foothills. The trail intersects Wildcat Trail Road at Waypoint 003, cross the road and continue going up the trail on the other side.
After another 1/10 of a mile, you’ll cross a second, less traveled road along the power lines (Waypoint 004). Cross and continue climbing. Now you’re beginning to get into the area of the nice rock formations. You’ll also notice some homes fairly close to the trail. Don’t worry, you’ll pass by them. On the way back down, you’ll get a better view of one of the homes built on top of a hill. What a great place. Super views!
The trails continues to wind through the foothills, rock formations and small washes. Every hill you conquer giving you an even better view of the valley below. There’s a cool rock formation at Waypoint 005. Cat-dog and I did some rock climbing and took a small break here. Keep going. It’s only a short distance to Oracle Ridge (you can see the road from this rock formation).
At Waypoint 006, you’ve reached the Oracle Ridge Trail. Look around. Awesome views in all directions. Look at the sign at this trail junction. You’ve got a ton of choices. I decided to turn around and retrace my path back to the trailhead.
Have fun and be safe!
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