Stunning light at the top of the cliffs - another great day in the Santa Catalina Mountains. November 2012.
The Pontatoc Ridge Trail is amazing, but going to the official end of the trail is likely to leave you wondering about the top of the cliffs towering above you… While it is unofficial, steep and not maintained there is a route to the top – if you are comfortable with the (essentially) off-trail hiking this trail requires it will take you up to a spectacular location! Note that the unofficial trail to the top of the Ridge is closed from January 1 to April 30 due to the restriction on travel more than 400′ off of designated Forest Service Trails in the Bighorn Sheep.
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!
Bighorn Sheep Restrictions: January 1 to April 30: Travel more than 400′ off of designated Forest Service Trails is prohibited. All year: Dogs are prohibited (except for seeing-eye dogs and handi-dogs), the maximum day use group size is 15 and the maximum overnight group size is 6.
Pusch Ridge Wilderness: Motorized and mechanized vehicles and equipment, including mountain bikes, are not permitted in Wilderness.
Cross the road and walk north, several signs mark the beginning of the trail just after the entrance to a gated community.
The trail climbs a short hill to a signed junction [Waypoint pc-fr] – take a right (left for the Finger Rock Trail) – the trail wanders thru the desert towards Pontatoc Ridge crossing several washes.
0.7 miles, 3250′: Cross Pontatoc Canyon [Waypoint PT01] (there are a number of wash crossing before crossing Pontatoc Canyon) – the trail begins to climb steeply.
0.8 miles, 3450′: Signed junction [Waypoint pr-pc] – take a right (left for the Pontatoc Canyon Trail) – in a few more minutes there is a nice rocky area just off the trail is a good spot for a break with nice views over Tucson [Waypoint PR02].
The trail continues to climb – at 1.4 miles, 3550′ [Waypoint PR03] walk up a section of rocky slab – there are often several cairns to help you find the trail.
1.9 miles, 4100′: Saddle – great views! [Waypoint PR04]
2.0 miles, 4200′: A few minutes after the saddle look for a well worn trail the splits off to the right – the route to the right is the unofficial route up to the top of the cliffs (left continues to the end of the Pontatoc Ridge Trail. [Waypoint pr-pd]
The trail continues climbing steeply up the hill side – the trail is indistinct in places – and eventually follows the ridge on the west side (near the cliffs) to the top – the best part of the trail! Don’t be fooled by the false summit as you come up the hill… The top will be at about 2.4 miles, 5045′. [Waypoint prdend]
Looking up the ridge towards the top! November 2012.