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.


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.


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.