Tanque Verde Peak, Saguaro East - Rincon Mountain District: Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Tanque Verde Peak - 18.0 miles

Saguaro East - Rincon Mountain District: Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead

Saguaro forests on the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail

Saguaro forests on the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail

Round-Trip Length: 18.0 miles
Start-End Elevation: 3,120' - 7,049' (7,049' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +3,929' net elevation gain (+4,600' approximate total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Tanque Verde Peak - 18.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Tanque Verde Ridge Trail leads deep into the Rincon Mountains and touches 5 biotic communities en route to Tanque Verde Peak (7,049'), the highest point on the ridge.

Hikers will enjoy a dynamic landscape, terrific views and good wildlife viewing opportunities throughout:

The trail begins on a level grade through a rich collection of saguaro, barrel cactus, prickly pear, ocotillo and various cholla. It passes the official trail registry and climbs steadily for the next 1.25 miles. The trail levels briefly after gaining 700' in just 1.4 miles, but soon resumes an aggressive pace up the ridge.

The landscape changes noticeably beyond 2 miles and 4,000', where dense saguaro stands are gradually replaced by grasses, sotol, creosote, agave, mesquite, shrub oak, cottonwoods and juniper.

The trail drops and rises steeply along consecutive saddles beginning at 2.5 miles. This rugged section is highlighted by views of the Santa Catalina Mountains (north), Santa Rita Mountains (south), and west across the Tucson Valley.

Trees are more varied and abundant through 3 miles and 5,000', with omnipresent prickly pear and manzanita filling out the hillsides.

The trail scales another steep saddle around 4 miles and moderates through what is now the Pine-Oak Woodland community. Look for deer, bear, bobcat and mountain lion at these higher elevations.

Travel moderates through dense juniper, pine and oak up to the Juniper Basin Campground (6.8 miles : 5,962'). The campground is located in a thick forest enhanced by seasonal springs.

The trail remains level and shaded for .5 miles beyond the campsite, a particularly good stretch to find wildlife. It breaks into open space and crosses open rock slabs around 8 miles, where cairns offer useful guidance.

The final mile steepens considerably through the heart of the Pine-Oak Woodland and Pine Forest community, and an interesting landscape marked by large boulders and rock formations (8.5 miles).

The trail levels in thick timber high along the ridge up to the marked spur for Tanque Verde Peak (7,049'). A 100 yard spur leads to the peak's registry, where a short scramble is required to reach the true summit.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N32 09.930 W110 43.420 — Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The trail passes through 6 biotic communities: Desert Scrub, Desert Grassland, Chaparral, Oak Woodland, Pine-Oak Woodland and Pine Forest. Look for jackrabbit, coyote, Gambel's quail and javelina at lower elevations, and deer, bear, bobcat and mountain lions at higher elevations.

  • Layers and full sun protection (regardless of season) are essential. Anticipate changing temperatures as you gain and lose elevation.

  • Be mindful of delicate vegetation and varied terrain; missteps and stumbles can be harmful to both plant and human. Rattlesnakes inhabit this area. Remain on designated trails at all times, and never place your hands or feet where you can't see them.

  • Bottled water is longer for sale in Saguaro National Park. Water bottle filling stations have been installed at both visitor centers and the Rincon District bike ramada for visitors to refill reusable water bottles.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • A permit is required for all overnight backcountry stays in Saguaro National Park. There is a $6 fee per campsite per night.

  • The maximum number of people allowed per site is 6. The maximum size of any one group is 18.

  • There are no guaranteed water sources in the area. Backpackers should plan to carry all of their own.

  • All water sources in the Saguaro Wilderness are intermittent streams or springs. In dry seasons, water is often unavailable. Do not rely on finding water at campsites. If you're exiting on the same trail you entered, consider caching water along the trail. This will ensure a source of water on your way out. Label water caches with your name and date.

  • Campfires are permitted at Juniper Basin within designated areas, but rules are subject to change based on current conditions. Consult a Ranger Station prior to heading out.

  • There's a privy at the Juniper Basin Campground.

  • A small population of bears inhabit this area. Bear boxes are provided to secure food.

Directions to Trailhead

From the Park Headquarters and Visitor Center on Old Spanish Road, bear right on Cactus Forest Drive and follow it to the Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead.

Contact Information

Saguaro National Park Headquarters and Rincon Mountain District
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730-5601

Saguaro National Park Tucson Mountain District
27 North Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ 85743

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"NO DOGS. Dogs are strictly prohibited on trail. There are three signs at the trailhead that state this prohibition. Rangers will issue tickets for violations. "
U.S. Park Ranger Steven Bolyard  -  Saguaro National Park Ranger Office  -  Date Posted: March 4, 2012


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