March 17, 2015

Ringtail Trail Loop

May flowers always line your path,
And sunshine light your day.
May songbirds serenade you
Every step along the way.

~Irish Blessing

I’m chasing Mexican Gold Poppies a titch later than usual this year so I’m out of the valley floor and into the hills of the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park.  These trails along Picture Rocks Road are at their poppy peak right now, along with lupines, mallows, penstemons, and LOTS of brittlebush. A good place to start is the Ringtail Trailhead. When heading west along Picture Rocks Road, the Ringtail Trailhead is not well-marked, but there is a parking area on the righthand side of the street, just past the hairpin turns, with a large rock outcropping right above it.

Across the street from this parking area is the trailhead. You can do several loop hikes along here. The most popular is the 3.6 mile loop that starts with the Ringtail Trail and in a clockwise direction, circles right on Picture Rocks Wash, then right on the Ironwood Forest Trail, then finishing up right on the Mule Deer Trail. You can do a smaller loop, about 1 mile, clockwise from Ringtail, to Mule Deer, then back on Ironwood Forest.  There are large expanses of poppies on the west side of the Ringtail Trail, with many splinter trails heading out into the poppy fields; however, these are not the main trails so beware of fallen cholla on the ground.

Length: 3.6 or 1 mile loops
Elevation gain: 200 feet for longest loop
Time it took us: 2 hours with many poppy stops
Dogs: No
Fees: It’s a national park, but the pay station is in the other section of the park along Kinney Road. There was no signage to pay, the ranger was there and not collecting fees, and the other cars did not have parking permits so I’m going to say, it appears “no.”
Directions: From metro Phoenix, take I-10 east towards Tucson. Exit before Tucson at Ina Road and turn right onto Ina. Follow Ina to the end, and turn left on Wade Road. Wade Road will turn into Picture Rocks Road. The Ringtail Trailhead is the first parking pullout on the right, just over the hill.