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Name: Sweetwater Preserve Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Hike Difficulty: to (Novice to Beginner)
Time: 1 - 3 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: Varies (you can make it about as long as you want - loop) Elevation gain/loss/change: +400 / -400 ft / +0 ft (example loop)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 2600 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: December, 2010
Short Description: A preserve on the west side of Tucson for hikers who want to get a quick hike in, but nothing too exciting for hikers. Trail made more for bikers and equestrians.
Geocaches: Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Chiligoat 1; Stop to Smell the Cactus;
References / Contact Information: Women's Bike Talk; Pima County NRPR; SDMB
Points of interest: Beautiful saguaro forest; close to town
Special Considerations: Watch out for bikers and equestrians. This is a popular trail and can be busy during the weekends.
How to get there: From I-10, head west on Ruthrauff Rd and keep going as it turns into El Camino Del Cerro. After 2.8 miles, turn left onto Tortolita Rd. Drive south for 1 mile until you come to the large parking area. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is one of Tucson's dedicated trail systems west of Tucson. Although it's well-maintained and marked, it's more aimed toward mountain bikers and equestrians than hikers. I can see people who want to get out for a quick hike after work using this more than hikers looking for an exciting adventure. Bottom line: It's a nice place to get out for a walk.

Note: This trail was originally done as a mountain bike ride but is a great hiking trail. Many of the pictures and video are from my original ride.

General Information and History

Sweetwater Preserve is a 700 acre preserve located in the eastern foothills of the Tucson Mountains, west of Tucson. The preserve is run by the Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation (NRPR) department. It is used by mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians.

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The Trail

I am not going to go into detail on each on of the trails within the Sweetwater Preserve in this adventure. A few reasons for this.

One, the trail system is vast and there are many short trails. Trying to detail each one would be counter productive. Instead, I will give general views on a few of the trails I've run.

Two, the trail system is by far the best marked I've ever been on. Each intersection is well-marked with a map that locates where you are on the trail. A GPS, map or detailed directions shouldn't be required (though I do give a few waypoints for some major intersections if you think you'll need some). Use the NRPR map provided and you should be okay.

The trail system looks bigger on the map than it truly is. Many of the trails are very short and most people do multiple loops. The set of trails shown on the Topo map are only a little over 5 miles long.

Here's some general information on some of the trails.

You can start on Saguaro Vista that takes you through some nice saguaro forests and rolling hills.

Sun Circle and Black Rock are easy hikes with shallow climbs as you go around the loop.

Lost Arrow has a little bit more of a climb when hiking south from Saguaro Vista. After you make a few small wash crossings, you'll come to a few short rocky sectionsalong the climb to The Spine.

The Spine, as the name implies, takes you along one of the ridge lines.

Homestead trail connects to the Ocotillo Hill and Red Tail Ridge trails. You can also hike the Red Canyon Trail on your way around the south end of the preserve. The Ocotillo Hill Trail to connect back to The Spine.

Once back on The Spine, take the Wildflower Ridge Trail back to the parking area. This is probably my favorite trail in the preserve.

Have fun and be safe!

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