The Sycamore Trail is just right

Moderate-terrain hike to old reservoir site is not too hot or cool
2012-04-19T00:00:00Z The Sycamore Trail is just rightDoug Kreutz Dkreutz@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
April 19, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Midspring is a perfect time for those betwixt and between hikes - in terrain that's somewhere above the sweat-sucking desert and below the chilly mountain heights.

One route that fills the bill: the Sycamore Reservoir Trail.

The trail - at elevations between about 4,400 and 5,000 feet in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson - weaves its way for two miles in a rich mix of moderate terrain to an old reservoir.

"Beautiful! Just right for today," declared hiker Jeanette Gorman, a visitor from Idaho, as she trekked the trail one day recently with David Holladay of Utah.

Sunshine and shade

From a trailhead at Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site, the route passes through a zone of juniper trees as it descends to a junction with another trail in a sandy wash.

The Sycamore Reservoir Trail follows the wash for a half-mile or so and then ascends an old roadbed to a saddle, or broad ridge, at an elevation of about 5,000 feet.

A sign at the saddle reminds hikers that the trail to the reservoir serves as a segment of the cross-state Arizona Trail.

Don a hat and slather on sunscreen for the mostly shadeless stretch on the roadbed and the ensuing mile-long descent on a rocky, here-and-there steep trail to the reservoir.

Views along the way take in big skies, rocky ridges, craggy canyons and distant summits.

About the time you're feeling a little sun-seared even on a mild spring day, you will find relief in lush green glades and sycamore shade at the reservoir site.

Don't, however, expect to find an actual reservoir of any consequence - unless the area has been doused with plenty of recent rain.

The reservoir was mostly dry earlier this month, but enough water remained to send a steady flow over a rock dam at the site.

Press on or kick back

Once you arrive at the reservoir site, you have options.

If you're up for an extended trek, you can continue on connecting trails to Sabino Basin or Bear Canyon. Just keep in mind that - unless you've lined up a vehicle shuttle at the base of Bear or Sabino canyons - you could have a fairly long return hike to the trailhead.

Another option - oh, so appealing on a balmy spring day - is to settle in for a while at the reservoir before making the return trek. You might nibble a picnic, try a bit of bird-watching or devote yourself to doing absolutely nothing in the soothing sycamore shade.

Get to the trailhead

Take Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway and follow the highway 4.5 miles to the base of the mountains. Mile markers begin there. After passing Milepost 7, turn left into the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site. A parking area and trailhead are at the end of the recreation-site road.

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