Short. Steep. Stupendous.
That's a nutshell sum-up of the Blackett's Ridge Trail in Sabino Canyon northeast of Tucson.
A round-trip ramble up and down the trail totals only 6.2 miles. But here's the thing: That "up" part involves nearly 1,700 vertical feet of often steep climbing.
Happily, the "stupendous" part - comely cactus forests, shapely rock formations and OMG vistas in every direction - will help take your mind off that feeling of being trapped on a StairMaster.
So far from Fairbanks
"What beautiful country! And I love this sunlight - it's so warm!" raved Robin Sims, a visitor from Fairbanks, Alaska, as she trekked up the trail one day recently.
Sims - saying she chose the sol-kissed ridge trail as perfect therapy for a sun-starved Alaskan - noted much else to like about the route. Such as:
• Gargantuan saguaros.
• Sheer-drop views into Sabino Canyon from a rock outcrop at the high point of the trail.
• A hawk wafting high above the ridge.
• Dazzling vistas of the heights of the Catalina Mountains and the sprawling Tucson Valley.
SO MANY SWITCHBACKS
After a flat, leisurely start, the trail turns into what casual walkers might call "the little hike from hell."
Midway on the route, hikers encounter a series of almost absurdly steep switchbacks.
Hustle right up these rocky hairpins if your goal is a great cardio workout. Otherwise, slow down and perhaps find lots of reasons for "photo stops" that let you catch your breath.
• Be sure to carry plenty of water, even in cool seasons, to stay well-hydrated.
• Take care as you make your way up the steep switchbacks, where loose rocks can pose a hazard.
• Use extreme caution in the summit area at the end of the trail. It's a place with sheer, dangerous drop-offs - and a place to keep a close watch on young hikers in your party.
GET TO THE TRAILHEAD
Take Sabino Canyon Road north to the canyon visitor center and parking lot at 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road. You'll pay a $5-per-vehicle fee at the canyon.
Start at the east end of the parking lot and follow a broad, flat path 0.4 of a mile to a road. Turn right on the road and follow it 0.4 of a mile, across a bridge, to the signed start of the Phoneline Trail. Hike 0.6 of a mile on the Phoneline Trail to a junction with the Blackett's Ridge Trail. From there, it's 1.7 miles to trail's end at the top of the ridge. The one-way hike totals 3.1 miles.