From the lowest official trailhead on the mountain Soldier Trail #53 starts with a steep ascent thru Saguaros and Prickly Pear as it climbs up to better and better views into and across Soldier Canyon. After the steep ascent the trail flattens out, crosses Soldier Canyon and winds thru the Mesquites before making the final climb up to the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site on grassy hillsides.
- Hike Type: Out and Back
- Hiking Distance: 5 miles
- Elevation Gain: 2,000'
- Elevation Loss: 2,000'
- Highest Elevation: 4,850'
- Lowest Elevation: 3,250'
- Location: This hike is located in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, Arizona.
- Start/End: Soldier Trail Trailhead (Lower Highway Hikes)
- Driving Distance from Speedway Campbell: 15.2 miles
- Driving Time from Speedway Campbell: 30 Minutes
- Vehicle Access: Paved Roads/Passenger Car (Mountain Road - be careful of weather conditions!)
- Fee: No
- Dogs: Yes
- Bikes: No (Pusch Ridge Wilderness)
- Drive East on Speedway (5.0 miles)
- Left on Wilmot and continue on Tanque Verde (4.3 miles)
- Left on Catalina Highway (5.9 miles)
- The parking for this trailhead is a pullout on the down-mountain side of the highway - there are signs that will help you find the pullout.
The mileages and elevations below are approximate (don't expect the values below to match your GPS exactly).
- 0.0 miles, 3250′: A sign marks the start of the trail at the Soldier Trail Trailhead. [Waypoint thso]
- 0.6 miles, 3890′: Cross a wash on a rocky slab. [Waypoint SO01]
- 1.5 miles, 4360′: Enter Soldier Canyon – as the trail crosses and follows the canyon you may have to look carefully to find it. [Waypoint SO02]
- 1.6 miles, 4390′: Leave Soldier Canyon – head east onto the grassy hillsides. [Waypoint SO03]
- 2.3 miles, 4870′: A well-worn side trail splits off to the left to a great highpoint/vista. [Waypoint SO04]
- 2.4 miles, 4810′: Continue to the right at a sign for the Soldier Trail – the trail to the left is an unofficial trail into the bottom of Soldier Canyon frequently used by climbers. [Waypoint SO05]
- 2.5 miles, 4810′: The Soldier Trail ends at a junction with the Molino Basin Trail at a sign under a large tree – right on the Molino Basin Trail takes you towards the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site, Shreve Saddle and the Sycamore Reservoir Trail are to the left. [Waypoint so-mb]
- To return to the Soldier Trail Trailhead hike back down Soldier Trail – longer hikes are possible by using the Molino Basin Trail.
This trail has a long history. In Look to the Mountains Suzanne Hensel identifies the ‘Old Soldier Trail’ as a route believed to have been created by soldiers from Fort Lowell. In the early 1900s this trail became one of several paths that were used to travel from Tucson to areas high on the mountain. In The Santa Catalina Mountains, A Guide to the Trails and Routes the authors give a few more historic details:
The lower portion was made into a dozer road by Trico Electric Cooperative … for the construction and maintenance of a powerline to the Federal Prison Camp near Milepost 8 … The camp was abandoned … The line and conductors were removed and the power poles were cut off above ground level and left where they lay.
Right: Grassy hillsides on the Soldier Trail. February 2016.
- Coronado National Forest
- Soldier Trail Hiking Guide – Back 0′ Beyond
- Tucson Hikes – AZDean
- Tucson Trail Runners – Soldier/La Milagrosa Loop – an interesting loop if you are interested in a longer hike/run and don’t mind some miles on the highway.
- (Printed Map) Green Trails - Recreation Map - Santa Catalina Mountains.
- (Printed Map) Southern Arizona Hiking Club Maps
2014 March Soldier Trail
2013 August Soldier Trail
2007 March Soldier Canyon
- 2017/8/15 – HikeLemmon posts added to Resources, Added a link for a Back o’ Beyond post on Soldier Trail
- 2016/2/16 – New pictures, update GPX (hand edit, elevation smoothing), update trail description, add links
- 2016/2/8 – Fix broken images
- 2014/11/2 – Small Waypoint rename, typo fix, added PDF Trail Map with Description, added several history notes
- 2014/9/23 – Tweaked GPX file and added downloadable PDF Trail Map
- 2014/7/29 – Format Update
- 2014/3/24 – Added picture set and fixed picture set typo
- 2014/3/20 – Updated map waypoint info and added waypoints to hiking notes
- 2014/3/17 – Added pictures
- 2014/3/16 – First barebones version of the page added