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Name: Secret Waterfalls, Hidden Pools, Scenic Canyon and Bathtub Tank at Catalina State Park Author's Rating: (varies per trail)
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Hike(s) Difficulty: Varies (see description)
Time: 1 - 3 hours each Region: Southeast Arizona
Length: Varies (see description - does not include Canyon Loop trail) Elevation gain/loss/change: Varies (see description)
Type: Varies (see description) Avg Elevation: 3,000 ft
Best time to go: summer, fall, winter, spring Fees: Catalina State Park fee required
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low/Medium Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: See Catalina State Park website for hours Last updated: September, 2014
Short Description: A couple of easy hikes to lesser known spots in and around Catalina State Park
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. Dripping Springs; Water's View; Brown's Creek Trail
References / Contact Information: Catalina State Park
Points of interest: Bathtub Tank, Secret Waterfalls, Hidden Pools, Scenic Canyon
Special Considerations: These are not official trails in Catalina State Park and you should be aware of all park regulations before attempting. During the spring season (January through April) hikers are not allowed to go "off trail" along the Sutherland, Romero or Canyon Loop trails due to the bighorned sheep mating season. Dogs are not allowed in the bighorn sheep closure area, many of these places reside near or within that area. Click here for Catalina State Park and here for Coronado National Forest land maps. Be careful: a large beehive is near the Bathtub Tank. Fee required for entering Catalina State Park.
How to get there: Take Oracle Road north from Tucson (highway 77) and into Oro Valley. Make a right when you get to Catalina State Park. Drive the main road all the way to the end and park in the large parking area (Waypoint 001). A large sign/map denotes the trail head. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

Here are a couple of the lesser know, but very beautiful locations within Catalina State Park and the Coronado National Forest. You will not find these trails on any of the maps and during certain portions of the year, you are not allowed to hike on them. Doing so can result in a stiff fine. This is due to the recent addition of the bighorn sheep in the area. Click here for some information and here for a better map and the closure document from Coronado National Forest.

The best time to visit is when there's ample water running. During the right time of year, these are special places you can go to get away from the crowds and view some spectacular scenery.

Note: I visited many of these before the big monsoons during the summer of 2014. I know these changed some topography of the washes below these areas. I do not know how the storms impacted these places. Most of these areas are within the bighorn sheep closure area and dogs are not allowed.

Secret Waterfalls
This waterfall is not a high, free-falling waterfall, but a series of inclined falls or slides with one 20-30 foot free-fall at the upper falls. The trail is easy to follow to the bottom of the falls. From there, you need to bushwhack to the top, which can be difficult and a little dangerous. We climbed up to the bottom of the upper falls directly along the falls. The way to the top of the falls is a little more challenging and you need to make your way around the cliffs on the right (south).

Scenic Canyon
This is a beautiful canyon that has some scenic pools, small waterfalls and big trees to cool off in (and under). You can also climb up boulders to see what's around the next corner. It's a great place to sit, relax and enjoy nature.

Hidden Pools
This is another set of wonderful pools that are fairly close to the Canyon Loop Trail. Finding your way to these pools can be a little challenging, especially route finding. Accessing the trail from the Secret Waterfalls trail will involve some determined bushwhacking, luck or a GPS to find your way. Getting there from the Canyon Loop is easier, but the recent storms may have destroyed large portions of the trail. There's a nice canyon shelf you can walk up on the left (northwest) side of the pools. The view is spectacular up there.

Bathtub Tank
There is a well-defined trail to this awesome natural feature: a pool that looks like an elongated bathtub. It's located in a small canyon with a few small waterfalls nearby. Be VERY CAREFUL here. There is a large beehive in a crack in the wall about 30 feet from the tank. From everything I've heard about wild bees, they are probably KILLER BEES. When we went there, they left us alone. Another time, one stung Mike and we quickly left. If you get attacked by Killer Bees out here, it would be bad news. Very bad. If they "bump" you or you get stung, leave ASAP, if not sooner.

General Information and History

I don't have any official history on these places, but there is lots of evidence of ancient Indian communities in the area. If you take a few moments to look around at the fairly obvious places where these people would have lived (flat ground and rocks), you will find lots of pottery shards and grinding holes. We have also found stone tools and arrow heads in the area.

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The Trail

Secret Waterfalls

(Beginner - to the bottom of the falls)
(Challenging - to the top of the falls)
Distance: ~ 3 miles including the side trips to Hidden Pools and Scenic Canyon, not including Canyon Loop (out and back or modified loop if combined with Hidden Pools)
Elevation Gain: ~+480 ft (one way)

Park at the end of the road in Catalina State Park (Waypoint 001) for the Canyon Loop trail. The most efficient way to the waterfall is to hike counterclockwise around the Canyon Loop trail. Click here for more information on the Canyon Loop trail.

From Waypoint 001, go across the road, walk to the turn around and head up the trail toward Waypoint 004. Continue hiking along the Canyon Loop trail for about 0.8 miles from the parking lot to Waypoint 004. Waypoint 004 is the intersection of the Canyon Loop and Sutherland trails.

Take a left at Waypoint 004 onto the Sutherland trail. Hike up the two or three sets of stairs until you're on top of the canyon, then continue northeast. At about 0.6 miles from Waypoint 004, you'll take a right onto an unmarked trail at Waypoint Secret001.

Hike southeast for about 0.28 miles until you reach Waypoint Secret002. There MAY BE a faint trail on your right leading to the Hidden Pools. Or there may not be. It depends on use and overgrowth. To get to the falls, continue straight at Waypoint Secret002.

After a little more than a tenth of a mile, take a left onto a path at Waypoint Secret003. Follow this trail along the base of the hill on your right to the waterfalls. The trail ends at the bottom of the falls near Waypoint Secret004.

There are a series of waterfalls here. Getting to the top can be difficult and dangerous. We climbed up the middle and left sides of the falls to reach the bottom of the uppermost falls. To get to the top of those, you need to do a fair amount of bushwhacking along the right of the falls. There's a nice pool at the top of the falls if you're feeling adventurous.

I believe these falls are dry most of the year and would be best viewed after a nice storm. When you're done, retrace your steps back to Waypoint Secret003.

Scenic Canyon

(beginner)
Distance: ~0.25 miles roundtrip from Waypoint Secret003
Elevation Gain: ~-50 ft (one way)

From Waypoint Secret003, head southeast on a spur trail off the main Secret Waterfall trail. After about a tenth of a mile, you'll come to Waypoint Secret005. There may be a faint trail to the left, keep straight. Very soon you'll come to an overlook on your right.

Keep walking straight and you will begin to go down into the canyon. Route finding here can be difficult and you may have to climb over some rocks and boulders to reach the bottom near Waypoint Secret006. Make sure you note where the trail enters the canyon bottom for your return trip. We walked up the canyon just a bit to find some nice pools and small waterfalls. Feel free to enjoy and explore the area. It's an awesome place when there's water. When you're done, retrace your steps to Waypoint Secret002. You can either return the way you came in (easiest route) or try to find the Hidden Pools described below.

Hidden Pools

(beginner)
Distance: ~1 mile from Canyon Loop trail (roundtrip)
Elevation Gain: ~75 ft (one way)

You can try to access the Hidden Pools directly from the Canyon Loop trail or from the Secret Waterfall (Scenic Canyon) trail. Route finding from Canyon Loop is easier than the Secret Waterfall route.

From the Canyon Loop trail at Waypoint Secret008, head off the main trail on a faint secondary trail to the northeast. This trail can be difficult to follow at times and I have not been on it since the wash was flooded by the 2014 summer storms. For the most part you follow the wash to the northeast. You can see from the map the trail used to bypass a portion of the wash along the last half of the way to the pools.

The distance to the pools is around 1/3 of a mile or so (my distance varied greatly since we got lost a few times and explored a bit). The pools are located at Waypoint Secret007. You can access them from the southwest and if there's some good water, you may either have to do a short scramble on the left of the water or get a little wet to reach it.

You can also head around the pools to your left (northwest) to reach the cliff above them. There is a faint trail leading up to the top of this area. This is a very pretty area, but be careful, although the drop into the canyon bottom isn't super high, the rock is a little crumbly and can be dangerous if you slip.

If you want to do a little bushwhacking you can make your way from here to the Scenic Canyon/Secret Waterfall trail about another 1/3 of a mile away at Waypoint Secret002.

If you're coming from the Scenic Canyon trail, you'll have to bushwhack until you reach the Hidden Pools at Waypoint Secret007.

When you're done, head back to the Canyon Loop trail.

Bathtub Tank

(beginner)
Distance: 1.35 miles (one way)
Elevation Gain: +337 ft (one Way)

Note: There is a large beehive in a crack in the wall about 30 feet from the tank. From everything I've heard about wild bees, they are probably KILLER BEES. When we went there, they left us alone. Another time, one stung Mike and we quickly left. If you get attacked by Killer Bees out here, it would be bad news. Very bad. If they "bump" you or you get stung, leave ASAP, if not sooner.

From the Romero Ruins trail head parking lot (Waypoint Bath001), cross the street and begin hiking on the Romero Ruins trail. After crossing the wash and about 0.1 miles from the trail head, keep straight (bear right slightly) onto the Bathtub Tank spur trail (unmarked) at Waypoint Bath002. The Romero Ruins trail is a left.

Continue hiking up this shallow grade for another 1.2 miles until you reach the side of a small canyon on your right at Waypoint Bath003. There is a small overlook here and you can hear the water running (if there's good water flowing in the canyon) from here.

The trail gets a little faint here as it heads down into the canyon (not a long distance). You will also notice a sign on your left before going down into the canyon that you are entering the bighorn sheep management area if you continue on the trail on your left. It could also be for the canyon too, it is right on the edge of the management area. It is not clear from the signs where this pertains to.

Once down into the canyon, head down the canyon on your right. This will involve a small amount of climbing over some smooth and slippery rock. Please be careful.

After a short distance, you will come to Bathtub Tank at Waypoint Bath004. The beehive is in the canyon wall beyond the tank on your left. If you're so inclined you can climb down the ten feet to the bottom of the tank's outlet falls. There are also some interesting rocks and falls just beyond (downstream) this. If the water is flowing and you're warm, take a quick dip in the tank or a shower under the falls. It's wonderful!

When you're done, head back to the parking area.

Above all, have fun and be safe!

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