Charouleau Gap Road #736 Scenic Drive

Area Status: Open

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This scenic route is for 4-wheel drive vehicles only. The road up and over Samaniego Ridge is rough and rocky and requires good ground clearance as well as excellent traction. People who don’t have that type of vehicle have made this trip on foot, on horseback, pedaled it on mountain bikes and ridden it on dirt bikes or ATV’s. No matter how you manage to get here, you’ll be impressed by the views, the interesting rock formations in the high country, and the desert oasis at the end of the drive. Before you get to the gap and after you pass over it, the views are broad and expansive. The country you’ll pass through is mostly rolling, grassy hills covered with Upper Sonoran, open oak woodland vegetation. That includes some cactus, more yucca and still more oaks and juniper, with a few ponderosas scattered among more sheltered locations. After passing through Charouleau Gap, the road drops into the upper reaches of beautiful Cañada Del Oro. This canyon is home to the same ephemeral stream you crossed at the beginning of your climb, several miles and one huge U-turn downstream of where you’ve ended up. In contrast to the broad, sandy riverbed in which you started, these upper stretches of the cañada are filled with big cottonwoods and sycamores and extensive mesquite groves, or bosques. A number of primitive roads branch off the Charouleau Gap Road and offer excellent ATV and trail bike riding. (Vehicles must stay on roads.) In addition, the road provides access to two Coronado National Forest trails for hikers and horseback riders, the Samaniego Ridge Trail #7 and the Cañada Del Oro Trail #4.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: Flash Flood Danger
Open Season: Year-round
Restrictions: Vehicles must stay on designated roads. View Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM)
Closest Towns: North of Tucson and east of the town of Catalina.
Operated By: Santa Catalina Ranger District

General Information

Directions: Drive north from Tucson on AZ 89 (the Oracle Road) about 23 miles to Golder Ranch Road. (This intersection is marked by a traffic light). Turn east about 1 mile to Lago del Oro Road, then north on Lago del Oro about 2 miles to a dirt road (FR 736) that turns east toward the riverbed. Follow this road, bearing left at a private property sign, through the river bed and up Samaniego Ridge to Charouleau Gap.


Scenic Driving

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
40 miles

  Elevation : 
3,000 feet - 5,400 feet