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Name: Catalina Camp Trail Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Hike Difficulty: (Challenging)
Time: 4 - 7 hours (not including time to get to Rice Peak) Region: SE Arizona
Length: 7.25 miles (roundtrip) Elevation gain/loss/change: +2225 / -2225 ft / +0 ft (roundtrip)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 6500 ft
Best time to go: fall, winter, spring, early/late summer Fees: May be a Mt. Lemmon fee if starting the hike from around Summerhaven
Fitness rating: High Educational Merit: Medium
Danger/fear rating: High Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: September, 2012
Short Description: A challenging hike to an old mining cabin and mine in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson
Offroad Passport Forum: Click here to join the discussion on Offroad Passport
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. Catalina Camp; Dan Saddle; Reef
References / Contact Information: Hike Arizona;
Points of interest: Rice Peak, Catalina Camp cabin and Hartman Homestake Mine
Special Considerations: The route indicated here requires a 4WD vehicle to get to the top of Rice Peak. See Rice Peak adventure for more information. You can also reach Catalina Camp with a longer hike from the top of the Oracle Control Road along the Oracle Ridge hiking trail. See description for more information.
How to get there: Directions here are to get to the start of the Rice Peak Trail.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. Follow the Rice Peak trail almost to the top. Park at the T-intersection at Waypoint 001. The spur trail dead ends without a good lace to turn around at the end.

Trail Description

Portions of this trail are along the Arizona Trail, though at the time when we hiked it, the trail was very overgrown and sometimes a little hard to follow.

The first portion of the trail takes you along Oracle Ridge and you get awesome views both east and west at the same time. It gradually descends (with many short ups and downs along the way) to Dan Saddle.

From Dan Saddle, you will take an old 4WD road down to Catalina Camp a mile and almost 1000 feet below you. Ten years ago, this road was in pretty good shape and stock 4x4's could drive down to the camp. Not anymore. Even if you had access to the road, it is now impassible from washouts and rockslides.

The cabin and shed will be on your left after a few steep switchbacks. One of the Hartman Homestead Mines is on your right (marked by a rock cairn) just before you reach the cabin.

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

This area is rich in mining history, but I can't find much information regarding this camp yet. It is shown on the 1904 Topo map I was able to find.

The Hartman Homestead Mines are very close to the area and this may have been a cabin servicing those mines. Also, this area is full of Buffalo Bill history. He owned many claims in the area around Campo Bonito (which is close by) and some say this way part of those claims. So, you may be standing in a cabin that Buffalo Bill might have been staying in?

After hiked this I found out there's supposed to be a hand written history of the area in a sealed container near the door of the cabin. I didn't see this, but again, I wasn't looking for it. If anyone visits the cabin, I would appreciate sending me a picture of this document so I can share it with others.

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The Trail

Catalina Camp can be accessed a few different ways, each with their own pros and cons.

Rice Peak Route (the way we took):
Pros:
- Shortest hike (~7 miles roundtrip)
- Medium elevation gain/loss
Cons:
- Takes a 4WD vehicle to get to the starting point
- Trail can be hard to follow at times

Oracle Control Road:
I have not hiked this trail, the information below is what I have gathered from reading blogs and looking at maps
Pros:
- More defined trail
- Normal car access and parking (at the top of Mt. Lemmon)
Cons:
- Most elevation loss/gain
- Longest hike (~8.4 miles roundtrip)


Charouleau Gap:
I have not hiked this trail, the information below is what I have gathered from reading blogs and looking at maps
Pros:
- Only slightly longer than the Rice Peak route (~7.5 miles)
- Smallest elevation loss/gain
Cons:
- Required 4WD to access the starting point (longer 4WD trail than Rice Peak and it can be difficult)
- Trail can be very overgrown and hard to follow (lots of bushwhacking)

Assuming you're starting at Rice Peak as we did: Park your 4WD at the T-intersection at Waypoint 001. Taking a left at Waypoint 001 will bring you up to the top of Rice Peak, which has a very nice 360 degree view of the surrounding area.

From there, hike along the spur road on the right for about 0.4 miles until you reach a small clearing and gate on your right (Waypoint 002). If you want, you could also drive you vehicle to this point and turn around here. Careful, this spot isn't too big. It may fit two or three vehicles at most. The road continues for a while more, but turning around at the end of the road is dicey.

Go through the gate and start climbing to the top of the knoll. The trail along this portion of the route can be overgrown and difficult to follow at times.

The trail sometimes takes you along the very top of the ridge, and at other times along the right or left sides. When we went, there were bunches of yellow flowers along the trail. The views are incredible.

Usually you're out in the open, but every once in a while, you'll walk through some medium sized trees. A couple trees in this area were interesting shapes. Portions of the trail can be steep and fall away sharply on either side. I don't like heights and this didn't bother me, but if you're really bothered by heights and cliffs, this may not be the trail for you (you probably didn't like the switchbacks coming up Rice Peak Road either :-).

The trail drops steeply just before you reach Dan Saddle (Waypoint 003). You will be able to see a bunch of old roads cut into the mountains as you come up to the saddle. You used to be able to drive here from a few different spots, but the mines have closed off roads leading to this point.

According to the trail sign, you have a bunch of different choices here. Head down the very overgrown old road toward Red Ridge Trail. You won't be going 1.7 miles. It's only 1 mile to Catalina Camp.

The road is deceivingly flat along the first section. Don't worry it gets steeper. It's very overgrown, with large rock slides and washed out areas. Hard to believe this was drivable by a stock Cherokee only about ten years ago.

Hike Arizona recommends staying on the road and not going down any game trails you may find. I didn't see many of these, but I would agree. Stay on the road. You aren't doing yourself any favors by bushwhacking your way to the cabin. The shortest distance between two points may be a straight line, but it isn't always the easiest (or the best) way to go.

At about 0.8 miles, you can see the tin roof of the cabin down below you. Don't get too excited, the last bit is very steep and has many switchbacks.

A few hundred feet from the cabins, you will see a rock cairn on your right. This leads to a small mine shaft with some hand tools by it. A little further down the road, the main cabin will show up on your right.

There's lot of tools, wheelbarrows, parts of equipment, etc. around it. Over the door, the sign reads, "One Park Place." Maybe. It all depends on perspective, right?

Inside the cabin you will see the famous chandelier that someone hung to try and make the place a little more upscale. Also, you can see the cot and, old fridge, gas BBQ, stove and the stained glass window. Don't forget to log your visit in the log book.

Outside at the other end of the cabin you will see the tile floor from the old outside shower. I wonder if it had hot and cold water?

Once you're done exploring the cabin, you can visit the shed that's about 100 feet down and closer to the road. It's full of junk.

I thought one of the best things there were the two chairs. After 3.5 miles, they felt like a Lazy-boy to my tired old back. Problem was, they were so comfy that I didn't want to leave! There's also a piece of yard art that I found simple, but interesting.

According to my friend who had been their multiple time before, there's a larger mine opening with more equipment next to it. Like a frame, motor and transmission to an old Packard. We couldn't find it on this trip, but you may be more persistent and lucky than we.

When you're done resting and exploring, it's time to head back the way you came. That climb back to Dan Saddle is tiring, but I found it easier than I had anticipated. The hike from there back to Rice Peak however was not. It felt much longer than it actually was. On your way up from Dan Saddle, keep an eye out for the neat hiking sign on the tree to your right.

We made it back tired, but safe. All in all, a great hike!

Have fun and be safe!

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