“From cactus to the pines, this trail climbs through a variety of vegetation with several overlooks.”
— Steven Terry
From the Florida Canyon Trailhead, this trail climbs 3600' to Florida Saddle and returns for an 8-mile round-trip run with views to the surrounding mountain ranges to the east and west.
Features: Birding — Spring — Views — Wildlife
Need to Know
Take enough water for several hours. Unless you visit a spring, there are no known water sources along the route. This is bear country with a sighting in summer 2017 that was non-confrontational.
More info can be found from the Forest Service's website
This is a true "spines to pines" route in the Southern Arizona mountain range of the Santa Ritas. The trailhead is easy to locate and any vehicle can get to it. The trail is easy to find and pretty basic to follow. You spend the first 4 miles climbing to an elevation of nearly 8000' elevation at Florida Saddle.
The first miles are on typical loose rock and hardpack found in the area's trails. You'll pass through some bear country with plenty of bushes and a few great spots to stop and check out the views to the west and of McCleary Peak (if you continue on past the saddle, you can scramble up to the top of the peak).
The trail passes through some scrubby pines and then works into what's left after a 2005 fire in the area that burned many of the towering Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs. Those that are left (even the charred remains) are mammoth and worth checking out.
The trail tops out at Florida Saddle, and you can enjoy views to the east towards Sonoita and the west towards Tubac. Take a minute to refuel and catch your breath. You can continue in a few different directions and head to a spring or two, up to McCleary Peak, or even make it up to the Mt Wrightson at well over 9000' elevation.
There is not much opportunity for water on the trail, although there is a water pipe that takes water down to the UofA Research Station at the trailhead, and it has been known to have breaks in it with plenty of water flowing. This is a great trail to get away from the heat of Tucson and the crowds of Madera Canyon and Mt Lemmon.
History & Background
The Florida Research Station at the trailhead is operated by the University of Arizona and one of the oldest continually in operation in the USA and provides a base for researchers working in the surrounding Santa Rita Experimental Range