Arizona is an incredibly luxurious, very diverse state with topography ranging from low-desert desert landscapes to high mountain peaks and alpine forest ranges. More than any other geological feature, Arizona is widely known for its many beautiful and remote rocky canyons, deep crevices, slots, waterfalls and pools scattered throughout the state. However, what is even more striking to me is that many of these wildlife canyons are reached via "non-technical" canyon-free hiking trails that are literally within a day's journey from Phoenix or Tucson. For a great trip from late summer to early fall and a hike, if you are ready for a more exciting challenge and an extraordinary and scenic day trip, then take a mountain slide, canyon hike to the Seven Cataracts and explore the Willow, Tucson Canyon.
It was Labor Day holiday, and early Sunday morning I left Phoenix, about 6 am, left the city on I-10 East and arrived in Tucson at 7:30 in the morning. At the exit of Ina Road, I turned off the highway and took the left, heading east for 8 miles and met with a TLC pedestrian group led and organized by Eric Kineman at the Westin La Paloma Resort and arrived at 8 in the morning. As it was said that parking was restricted to the walkway for this hike, we assembled it together and set off for the day hike and eastbound trip on Sunrise Boulevard. to 8:25 p.m.
The beautiful drive along Sunrise Boulevard through the northern stretches of Tucson and through the rolling foothills of the magnificent Santa Catalina Mountains has always been a favorite of mine. The Santa Catalina Mountains are Tucson's highest mountain range, reaching 9157 feet high at its summit, Lemon Peak. To get there and reach the trail for our hike, we zig-zagged it through Tucson, heading east on Sunrise Blvd to Swan Road, turning right (south), to River Road, turning left (east), then right to Sabino Canyon Road, left onto Tanque Verde Road, and head east on Tanque Verde Road, until we reached the Catalina Highway, also known as the Mountain Mountain Highway, then turned left again.
About 4 miles after you turn left on the Catalina Highway, you enter the Coronado National Forest and begin the winding climb up into the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains. Although it has been a long time since I was last there, I was still amazed at how beautiful and magnificent this disc really is. As soon as you step up into an elevation starting at 3,000 feet, the views are absolutely breathtaking with every curved curve and hairstyle, offering new and incredible rock formations or magnificent views of the canyon in the distance. If you like to stop and take as many pictures as I always love to do, you have many options to do because this disc offers many vistas to enjoy along the way. However, at about 5 kilometers, just past the Molina Canyon with a view, there is a payment where you need to purchase a $ 5 Coronado Day Break pass if you plan to stop anywhere along the way. We purchased the day passes for one use, one per vehicle, and walked another three miles until we reached the seven points of the Cataract Vista, just past the summit of Thimble Peak Vista and about 8 miles and about 1/3 of the way to Lemon Peak.
We entered the point of the seven cataracts of Vista, and our trail parked and began our day's hiking and canyon adventure by 9 in the morning. The view overlooking the Willow Canyon below was absolutely beautiful, but incredibly steep! Immediately, at the beginning, the descent into the Willow Canyon along this path for "daily use" was the least intense. It is estimated to be about 1000-1300 feet of descent straight down with 60% grade on all loose dirt, gravel and rocks, each of us had to literally land on our "asses" and from section to section, drag it down for about a mile until we got to the bottom. What a site it was to see too, really exciting and a lot of fun! However, this "unofficial" trail, used mainly by experienced canyons, is rated as very difficult, some even say treacherous or dangerous, so I wouldn't recommend doing this hike on your own unless you are an experienced canyon hiker or have experience Walking canyon guide with you.
After we all quietly slid down and reached the bottom, and after a quick group photo, Eric began leading our group in our canyon exploration, further down the Willow Canyon, rocking, rock climbing and Class 3, climbing partially running water. Truly magnificent and spectacular nature, all the way down! We continued for about a mile, where we reached a really pleasant run and enjoyed the opportunity to cool off, take a break and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of this remote and lesser known canyon of the desert. In the meantime, Eric, along with several other adventurous members, continued for 1/3 of a kilometer, and after further rocking, rock climbing and 3-4 grade climbing, reached a magnificent 100 feet water drop and a larger swimming hole, he said even with a 10m jump, they can't hit the bottom! Incredible!
After about an hour of rest, we decided it was time to start walking back. Now was the time for the most challenging part of our canyon adventure to bring it back! So, we started our hike back across Willow Canyon the same way we came, shaking, jumping rocks, making our way through pools, then climbing it back through the water's fall. It only took a short time, but in minutes we all made it to a safe place and back to the base of the side of the hill where we had initially "slid" down earlier. It was here that we met Eric, and then split into two groups. You could decide or make the climb to the same spot you landed with a 60-degree estimate on all the dirt and gravel where Eric said it was every 3 steps up, a slide one or two back. Or my friend Dan decided it looked like this, if you take it a little further down the left, you can more easily climb it straight up the rocks and rock and up. So I, along with several other members, followed Dan's lead and passed the leg, slowly and carefully climbing it, section by section, until we reached it safely to the top. Aunt, for me and someone who is scared of heights and not experienced in rock climbing, it was a challenging but very fun and amazing workout!
After returning to the summit and parking lot of Seven Cataracts Vista, we waited for the final members to return safely, then by 12:15. We got back in our cars to drive the rest of the way to Lemon Peak for Lunch at the Restaurant with iron doors. The road views were spectacular again as you make the 5,000-foot journey up the Lemmon Sky Valley, approximately 8,200 feet high. Although the signs of the devastating Aspen fire of 2003 were noticeable, it was still very beautiful and the temperatures at that time of day were low to mid-80s and very cool and refreshing.
However, with the wait of 2.5 hours at the restaurant since it was a weekend and also a holiday, we decided it was best to turn around and go back instead.
We arrived back in Tucson around 2:00 pm and after an excellent lunch at a small restaurant called Organic Oven by Renee on Tanque Verde Road, we returned to the Westin La Paloma Resort at 4:00 pm where those of us who had just left for the day, heading back to Phoenix from there to return home around 6:00 pm.
All in all, it was a truly extraordinary adventure for exploring canyons and waterfall tourism with the TLC tour group, carefully researched, well planned and thought through to the last detail by Eric Kineman himself. I really had everything, incredibly beautiful, exciting, but also very challenging. I think this hike is best summarized, though in Eric Kineman's own words, in which he quotes: "The Seven Cataracts Waterfall Adventure Hike is an incredible hike that I highly recommend to people. It will test your fears, give you an amazing workout, and guide you through magnificent canyons and a 100 foot waterfall and swimming hole, rarely seen by anyone. What more could anyone ask for! "