“A quick, fairly sandy loop at Catalina State Park with a few extension options.”
— Stephen Woodall
One of the great benefits of this trail is that it's very close for Oro Valley residents. The ability to connect with other trails and make multiple different routes and loops will also keep bringing you back. For those nervous about getting out too far in the wilderness, this is a great trail as it's pretty heavily used. Additionally, this trail has some short, reasonably steep uphill sections to get your heart rate up.
Need to Know
Seasonal water in the washes may necessitate some rock hopping or after big rains getting shoes wet to cross at several points.
There is an entry fee for Catalina State Park of $7 daily fee or $75 for a yearly pass.
The Canyon Loop Trail
is an extremely popular pedestrian trail that serves as a quick trail getaway without heading far from town. The trail itself is largely pretty sandy and crosses several different washes which will have water in them during monsoon season and after winter storms/snow melt runoff. Most of the times, the smaller wash crossings allow for rock hopping to avoid getting wet.
From this loop, there are several connecting trail options which can lengthen your route, including the Nature Loop, Birding Loop
, Sutherland Trail
, and Romero Canyon Trail
which shares some of this loop's path. This loop, along with the Nature & Birding loops are used twice a year for the Everyone Runs trail races (5.2 & 10.3 mile options), which has participants travel in both directions.
Begin at the Catalina State Park main trailhead and head on the asphalt towards the road's roundabout end and you'll catch the trail straight ahead. The trail is very intuitive and largely doubletrack with the only a few sections of singletrack to navigate. This route (that I've mapped) uses the horse path trail instead of the steps at the 1.1 mile point heading this direction. The horse trail is seldom occupied by horses and allows for an ascent of the hill with more rhythm than taking the steps. There is a bench and nice view point at the top of this hill at the 1.2 mile mark.
Heading back downhill, you'll be on a generously wide doubletrack that is often fairly sandy unless you catch it right after some rain. At the 1.75 mile mark this route heads up towards the Romero Pools
singletrack entrance point, just as used in the Everyone Runs events.
Heading up this path makes for a sandy, gentle, ascent and brings the total mileage of the loop to just about 3 miles when complete. Bomb back down this out and back section and continue down the hill until reaching a steep downhill section. Heading straight at the base of the hill takes you to the Birding Loop
, while a right turn takes you across the major wash and to the trailhead and parking lot. This wash might not be crossable without getting your shoes wet, especially after heavy rainfall or during snow melt season.
Flora & Fauna
Snakes and other desert wildlife may be present. From time to time mountain lions have been sighted in the park area, so keep an eye out especially at dawn and dusk.