This trail was a surprise to me! I had never read about it, heard about it, or seen it mentioned – I followed it because I thought it was going to take me to the top of Gibbon Mountain – so I was completely surprised and delighted that it took me to a completely new destination.
It is possible Point 4981 (or the trail) has a name that I am not aware of – or possible that this trail has another final destination… It would be interesting to know more about this trail/area, if you have information please email me!
Out and Back
1,500' Elevation Gain
1,500' Elevation Loss
Highest Elevation: 5,400'
Lowest Elevation: 4,800'
This hike is located in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona. Much of this hike is in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Off-trail hiking in the Santa Catalina Mountains can be hazardous and challenging - make sure you understand the skills you need to stay safe, be cautious and know your limits!
21.3 miles from Speedway and Campbell
45 Minutes from Speedway and Campbell
Vehicle Access: Most of the drive is Paved Roads/Passenger Car (Mountain Road - be careful of weather conditions!) - the drive to the end of the road parking area is on a dirt road that is generally in good condition and passenger car friendly.
Left on Wilmot and continue on Tanque Verde (4.3 miles)
Left on Catalina Highway (11.8 miles)
Signs mark the turn into the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site on the down-mountain side of the Highway.
If the gate is closed: park in the paved upper parking or one of the dirt pullouts and walk to the parking area at the end of the dirt road (this will add to the total mileage of your hike). If the gate is open: drive the 0.3 miles to the parking area at the end of the dirt road. Restrooms are located just before the parking circle at the end of the road (the restrooms may be closed seasonally) – no water is available.
Take the Molino Basin Trail west (towards Sycamore Reservoir)
0.5 miles, 4800′: Look for several old pipes on the left side of the trail, just after the pipes there is a small, but obvious, drainage coming in from the left – the trail to Point 4981 is just beyond the drainage (this picture shows the pipes and (just barely) the drainage coming in). The trail is well worn at this point. [Waypoint J MB P4981]
You are no longer on an official trail – while sections of the trail are reasonable possible to follow many sections are vague/non-existent – this is best considered an off-trail hike, certainly don’t attempt this unless you are comfortable navigating off-trail! There are decent stretches of good trail – if you are not seeing any sign of a trail it may be worth your time to backtrack/look for the trail – it is sometimes faster than traveling cross country.
1.3 miles, 5400′: After climbing the trail tops out on a ridge with views of Tucson – a lovely spot! This spot is the junction for one possible route to Gibbon Mountain. [Waypoint J Gib]
Continue along/near the ridge out to Point 4981. The last down and up to Point 4981 are steeper/looser than previous sections of the trail – use caution and take your time finding the best path.
2.6 miles, 4981′: Point 4981! Enjoy the views! [Waypoint P4981]
Trail to Point 4981. December 2013.
Tucson lights - enjoying warm May temps on Point 4981. May 2013.
It may be useful to have the more detailed USGS 7.5′ maps for this hike – the [Usgs75AguaCaliente/] covers all of this hike but the hike is on the western edge of the map so it is nice to also the adjoining USGS Sabino Canyon 7.5' Map.