Near the start of the Soldier Trail. March 2014.
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.
Out and Back 5 miles 2,000' Elevation Gain 2,000' Elevation Loss Highest Elevation: 4,850' Lowest Elevation: 3,250' 15.2 miles from Speedway and Campbell 30 Minutes from Speedway and Campbell Vehicle Access: Paved Roads/Passenger Car (Mountain Road - be careful of weather conditions!)
Driving Directions from the Speedway and Campbell intersection in Tucson -
Soldier Trail Trailhead:
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.
Left: Fall colors in the Desert Cotton near Soldier Canyon. August 2017. Right: Water and carved rock near the Soldier Trail in Soldier Canyon. August 2017.
A short section thru the Mesquites near Soldier Canyon. March 2014.
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.
Left: Grassy hillsides on the Soldier Trail. February 2016. Right: Old power poles along the Soldier Trail - this line used to supply power to the Prison Camp. February 2016.
Left: A short section thru the Mesquites near Soldier Canyon. March 2014. Right: Sunset from the Soldier Trail. March 2014.
Ghosts on the Soldier Trail. August 2013.
2017 August Soldier Trail
Some sort of Woolly Bear maybe???
1708 Desert Cotton 01
1708 Desert Cotton 02
1708 Desert Cotton 03
1708 View from the Soldier Trail
1708 Water in Soldier Canyon
1708 Desert Cotton Flower
1708 Western Spotted Orbweaver
1708 Desert Cotton 04
2016 February Bug Spring and Soldier Trail
1602 Grassy hillsides on the Soldier Trail
1602 Old Power Poles along the Soldier Trail
1602 Richard on the Soldier Trail
1602 Soldier Trail
1602 A Road Runner waits for Richard on the Bug Spring Trail
2014 March Soldier Trail
1403 Mesquites near Soldier Canyon on the Soldier Trail
1403 Sunset from the Soldier Canyon Trail
1403 Lower section of Soldier Trail
2013 August Soldier Trail
1308 Shapes 4
1308 Shapes 3
1308 Shapes 2
1308 Shapes 1
1308 Together in the Tucson City Lights 2
1308 Together in the Tucson City Lights 1
1308 A Deer in the Sunset near Prison Camp
1308 Alison off the Soldier Trail
1308 Alison in the Mesquites on the Soldier Trail along Soldier Canyon
1308 Old utility pole along the Soldier Trail
2007 March Soldier Canyon
2017/8/31 – Img Srcset update, added two new pictures, added new flickr photosets
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