Santa Catalina Ranger District Trail Planning

Final Santa Catalina Trail Plan

The Coronado National Forest has crafted a plan for the future of recreational trails in the Santa Catalina Ranger District including Mount Lemmon, along the Sky Islands Scenic Byway, and in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. 

The overall goal of the plan is to create a trail system that is ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable. The plan seeks to balance the growing public demand for accessing nature with good stewardship of the land.

The plan includes projects to diversify trail opportunities, improve sustainability, create new trail connections, and boost trailhead access.

  • 23 trail development projects including highlights like the Tucson Vista Trail, Finger Rock-Pontatoc Connector, and Bug Junior
  • 13 access or trailhead projects such as improvements to Hirabayashi, Molino, and Palisades
  • 8 supporting projects such as visitor information upgrades

All projects in the plan are conceptual. Before they are completed, the projects would be studied for their environmental impacts or benefits consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act. Tribes with a connection to the area will also be engaged for input and guidance.

Final Santa Catalina Trail Plan
Draft Santa Catalina Trail Plan
Public Meeting Presentation for Draft Plan (Nov. 2022)

FAQs and Additional information

Why does the Santa Catalina Ranger District need a trail plan?

The Santa Catalinas and Mount Lemmon, along with Redington Pass and the Rincon Mountains, are a big part of what brings people to the Tucson area. A comprehensive trail plan for the Santa Catalina Ranger District has never been completed.

Trail use is a major part of the region’s quality of life and outdoor recreation tourism industry. Hundreds of thousands of people use trails in the Santa Catalina Mountains each year. We want to make sure people from all backgrounds and of all abilities have great experiences with nature. Seventy percent of forest visitors report using trails during their visit to the Coronado.

The Bighorn Fire in 2020 impacted over two thirds of the trail system, leading to erosion and an increased need for vegetation removal and maintenance. Additionally, there are over 100 miles of unauthorized, user-created trails that are not part of the official Forest Service trail system.

What helped inform the draft plan?

We built the plan through open and thoughtful collaboration. The first step in this process was a 70-day sensing period using an interactive map. That opportunity generated over 3,000 comments and responses. Throughout 2022, the CNF hosted focus groups, partnership discussions and virtual and in-person collaborative meetings with recreation users and other partners. Over 100 individuals and organizations submitted comments on the draft plan in November 2022, and numerous adjustments were made as a result.

The Forest Service has deep and rich partnerships with community and trail organizations such as National Forest Foundation, Tucson Off Road Cyclists and Activists, Arizona Trail Association, Santa Catalina Volunteer Patrol, Pima County, Friends of Santa Catalina Trails and many others. Partnerships with these groups will be critical to implementing trail projects in the future.

See what was submitted during public sensing:

Read the full Public Engagement Report here

View the Interactive Story Map

  • View our Interactive Story Map
    • Note: This site is best experienced in a Firefox or Chrome browser.
    • Visit the website directly: View Map

    Interactive Story Full Map

What's next? 

Before they are completed, all projects would be studied for their environmental impacts or benefits consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act. Keep an eye on our Schedule of Proposed Actions for the latest information. Tribes with a connection to the area will also be engaged for input and guidance.

Some projects in the trail plan have already been approved and are funded through the Great American Outdoors Act Legacy Restoration Fund. Use our interactive map to learn more.

What to help? Consider volunteering with one of several trail organizations active in the Santa Catalinas.