There are good views along both of these trails and plenty of evidence of mining activity left over from the days when the Santa Catalinas were the focus of extensive mineral exploration. At one time the Pontatoc Ridge Trail was even called the Old Spanish Mine Trail, but don’t look for lost mines here. The reason these mines were abandoned is because they didn’t “pan out.” Do be careful around these dangerous old digs which can present a number of hazards for unsuspecting travelers or those too willing to take a risk. Of the two trails, the Pontatoc Trail goes up the canyon of the same name, climbing in and out of the canyon bottom as it becomes more rocky and narrow. This trail presents good views of the Pontatoc Cliffs that form a deeply weathered and pockmarked face on the northeastern horizon. Extensive trampling of the area between the trailhead and Pontatoc Canyon has made it difficult to pick out the trail from all the incidental paths that have developed here, but once the trail enters the canyon it becomes easier to follow, at least for a while. Farther up in the canyon, it again becomes difficult to follow before disappearing entirely just beyond a point where it leaves the canyon floor. The Pontatoc Ridge Trail branches south off the canyon trail about 0.8 mile from the trailhead. It then climbs to the ridge top and changes direction to follow the ridge north to Pontatoc Saddle. At the saddle you’ll be rewarded with excellent views of Tucson lying at the foot of the Catalinas and stretching toward other mountain ranges across the basin. You’ll also get a closer look at the Pontatoc Cliffs and see a trail that leads to the base of those cliffs. Take care if you follow this trail; or better yet, don’t follow it at all. It takes a steep and rocky course above a precipitous cliff. Better to enjoy the views from the more solid footing of the saddle.
At a Glance
Flash Flood Danger
Motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment, including mountain bikes, are not permitted in Wilderness. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.
Purification of water is recommended prior to use.
Santa Catalina Ranger District
Directions: Drive north from Tucson to the Oracle Road (US 89) to Ina Road. Turn right (east) on Ina and drive about a mile to Skyline Road which branches off to the south (right). Follow Skyline (have to make a left to stay on Skyline) to Alvernon Way and turn left (north) to the trailhead and parking lot at the end of the pavement.
Views of tall cliffs and Tucson. Canyon or ridge top route. Historic area. 3.7 miles of the Pontatoc Trail and all of the Pontatoc Ridge Trail are in Pusch Ridge Wilderness. When hiking in remote areas, go with a companion whenever possible. Always tell someone where you’ve gone and when you expect to return. USGS Map(s): Tucson North