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Discovering Bridal Wreath Falls

By Shannon Higgins

From any given point in Tucson, it’s hard to miss the beautiful mountains that surround the city. Within these mountains, there are numerous hiking trails to take full advantage of the natural side Tucson has to offer. Nestled away in the foothills of the Rincon Mountains is the secluded Bridal Wreath Falls, a quiet and enjoyable hike to experience the slower side of life.

After spending over two years in Tucson, I realized I’ve never explored these mountains I had been taking for granted. I heard about Bridal Wreath Falls from one of my friends and decided this was a perfect opportunity to discover the mysterious beauty hiding within the mountains. I wasn’t sure what to expect when my two roommates and I woke up early that Sunday morning, but I did know we were in for an exciting discovery.

The Rincon Mountains are one of five mountain ranges that encapsulate Tucson and can be reached with a 30-minute drive from the University of Arizona campus by heading east on Speedway Boulevard. The road ends at the Douglas Springs trailhead, the main trail that leads back to the falls. Once we parked our truck, we set out in search for the falls we knew little about.

The trail started off gradually while simultaneously winding back into the mountains. These earlier moments of the trail provided great scenery of the foothills where cacti were in abundance, per usual of the Tucson scenery. The light green cacti were complimented by the beige soil and crystal-clear blue skies, creating a picturesque desert scene. We ran into a few other hikers on the trail who greeted us with good mornings and friendly smiles. There were horseshoe marks on the trail, but we were disappointed when we didn’t run into any horses on our way into the mountains.

I could tell the sun was rising by the sweat that was accumulating on my forehead. As the trail progressed, so did the difficulty. My roommates and I had to stop a few times to catch our breath, but the anticipation of getting to the falls kept our spirits high and gave us motivation to keep trekking back through the mountains. We even thought we could hear the water cascading long before we were close to it from pure excitement and anticipation knowing we were getting close to discovering the mysterious falls.

After following the trail for about 1.5 miles, we came to a junction with a few other trails including the Carrillo trail. We turned left on to this trail that led us over a dry wash. This added to our excitement because we thought, “A wash means we can’t be too far away!” A little further down the trail we noticed that the vegetation started to change. Instead of just the tawny dirt surrounding us, we saw vibrant, verdant green grass and also noticed a slight drop in temperature. This made us believe even more that we couldn’t be too far from the secret within the mountains.

We came across another junction and began our final leg to the Bridal Wreath Falls. Our hallucinations of hearing the water turned into reality as we came across a small pond on the ascent to the falls. We encountered large boulders stacked upon each other, which turned out to be our final obstacle before we reached our destination. We were tackling and scaling the boulders as though we had been doing it all our lives: efficiently and effectively. Nothing could slow us down now that we could hear the water trickling from the falls. Once we passed the rocks, we saw the beautiful grotto that the mountains kept secret.

The falls were shaded due to a 20-foot canyon wall the water trickled over. The only noise we could hear was the water splashing on the rocks below and the rustling of the wind in the bushes behind us. We were completely cut off from the city, not even a glimpse of it could be seen from where we were.

The three of us were almost dripping with sweat from the hike up and decided it would be refreshing to take a swim in the falls. I dipped my toes in the water to test it out and immediately jumped back because the shock of the coldness scared me! Luckily it was chilly enough in the grotto itself that we were able to cool off just from that alone. There wasn’t an abundance of water coming over the ledge when we found it, but I imagine that during monsoon season it would be even more of a spectacle to see. The canyon wall showed signs of erosion that hinted at powerful water rushing over it in the past. We were alone at the falls for the majority of the time we spent there. Others reached the destination as we were heading back down the boulders.

We followed the same path we took up to return to the Douglas Spring Trailhead. The hike down held new views that we weren’t able to see on our way up. We were granted with expansive sights of Tucson and the desert we had our backs to on our way to discovering the falls. We also saw something we didn’t have the chance to experience on our way up: horses! The riders were friendly and were curious about Bridal Wreath Falls like we were. After petting the smooth horses, they let us take pictures of them. After that, we felt as though our hike was now complete: from the falls to horses, we experienced it all. The quietness that we experienced at the beginning of the hike translated into anticipation of reaching the mystifying falls. We all agreed it was a Sunday well spent discovering what the Rincon Mountains has to offer.

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