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Matt Marine

Matt Marine is an Arizona resident who loves exploring Arizona's wonderful outdoor adventures. To find out more about Matt, click the link below.

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Sara Harelson

I’m Sara! I’m 21, a senior in college, and a journalism major.  I love to read, write, travel, and listen to music.  I’m always on to my next adventure.


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Name: Butterfly Trail Author's Rating: (see note in trail information for reason)
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Bike Difficulty: (Advanced)
Time: All day Region: SE Arizona
Length:Approximately 5 miles out-and-back (for the portion I did), 12 out-and-back miles for the entire trail Elevation gain/loss/change: +2231 / -1997 ft / +234 ft (one way for the entire length of the trail)
Type: Through Trail Avg Elevation: 7500 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, summer Fees: Requires pass to Mt. Lemmon.
Fitness rating: High Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: July, 2010
Short Description: A difficult, strenuous bike ride through some beautiful scenery.
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Log Reel; Marshall Gulch.
References / Contact Information: Coronado National Forest
Points of interest: Awesome scenery, portions of an F-86 fighter jet, wild raspberries (in season) and great views.
Special Considerations: Although the Forest Service rates this as an Intermediate trail, I would say it's difficult at best for most weekend riders.
How to get there: The trailhead (Waypoint 001) almost to the top of the Catalina Highway that winds its way up Mt. Lemmon. There’s a small parking area off to the right (and another to left nearby if this one is full). Click here for directions..

Trail Description

This is listed as an “intermediate” mountain biking trail by the Forest Service. Yeah, right. And I look like Jason or Jacob or whoever that guy is from Twilight with my shirt off. The only people for who this might be an intermediate trail are professionals or those who eat, drink and sleep mountain biking. Not only is the trail steep, strenuous and has many technical challenges, but a large portion of it is narrow and on the side of the mountain. One small miscalculation can send you for a ride to the ER or worse.

Advanced riders may rate this trail much higher than me. The reason for my low rating is only due to the difficulty of the trail at my skill level. This would not be a fun trail for me to ride.

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.

General Information and History

Most likely, the “real” mountain bikers out there will call me a wimp, but unless you do this for a living, I’d check it out on foot before I’d haul my bike up there and decide after half a mile to turn around and go back.

Given all this, I have not biked this trail. I recently hiked a portion of it and it was extremely beautiful. For hiking. If you decide to bike it, besides the trail’s beauty, there’s plenty of challenges. And don’t forget to watch out for the hikers! You can also visit the site of an F-86 fighter jet crash in 1957.

NOTE: I did not complete the entire trail. The “red” trail on the map is the portion I was able to hike. The “blue” portion is the part of the trail I was able to draw by looking at other maps and reading other hiking blogs .

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The Trail

November 2013 Update: I received the following information from a hiker who tried to complete the trail this month. She started at the Butterfly Trail Head (Waypoint 001) as I did and found a couple of large trees had fallen across the trail. Negotiating them (especially with dogs) was difficult. Also the trail appeared to be overgrown near the plane wreckage (though she was able to make it to the plane). She was unable to find the trail after approximately Waypoint 006 and had to return to Waypoint 001. Remember to bring lots of water on this one. The climb out is difficult.

Remember: I only HIKED this trail. I have never biked it, nor do I plan on doing it. This post is only for those crazy enough to try it.

From the parking area, head north down the wide easy trail. But don’t be fooled. After about ¼ of a mile, this turns into the narrow, winding trail you’ll be on for the rest of the ride. You’ll ride on the side of the mountain for about a mile, then you’ll see a nice big rock with a great view (Waypoint 002). A little while later, you’ll come down into a open area with a fire pit (Waypoint 003).

At Waypoint 003, you’ll cross the Crystal Springs Trail. Keep going straight. I saw the Arizona Black Rattlesnake at Waypoint 004. He gave my dog a nice little rattle to make sure she understood he was there. After that, he just laid there and soaked up the sun.

I hiked down to Waypoint 005 before I turned around. This last part of the trail was fairly steep and had lots of switchbacks. I wish I had the time (and energy) to go the next half mile to the plane crash site, but I decided to head back to the car from here. Either retrace your steps like I did, or continue on.

NOTE: I did not hike this portion of the trail, but I am giving directions as I believe they should be (from reading other websites and blogs).

At approximately Waypoint006 is the turn off to the F86 crash. The crash site is at approximately at Waypoint007. Here's a site that talks about the trail and has pictures of the crash. Continue on the trail until Waypoint007 (Davis Spring), then keep going straight on Butterfly Trail. When you reach Waypoint 008 (at Catalina Highway), turn around and do it all over again, in reverse!

Have fun and be safe!

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