Hikers and mountain bikers are flocking to a recently completed trail in Oro Valley — never mind that trailhead signs, bike racks, a restroom, a drinking fountain, an information kiosk and other planned facilities aren’t yet in place.
The 1.2-mile Big Wash Trail, a cooperative project involving Pima County and the town of Oro Valley, officially opened in December. It winds through scenic desert terrain along the wash and is open to all forms of nonmotorized travel.
“Appreciation of the environment is the top value identified by our residents again and again — and that’s one reason we’re very proud of this new trail,” said Bayer Vella, planning and zoning administrator for Oro Valley. “It was a joint effort. Everyone came together to get it done.
“We did our best to site it with respect for the environment and for the neighbors” with property near the route.
Vella said plans and funding sources are in the works for the signs and visitor facilities at the trailhead.
“We are planning amenities including signs, a restroom, bike racks, garbage receptacles, a drinking fountain and improvements to the parking area,” he said. “These amenities aren’t just an idea. There’s a funding source to make sure it happens.”
The facilities will be installed over the next two to five years, Vella said. He couldn’t immediately provide a cost estimate for the work.
“The trail will be part of an overall regional trail system,” he said. “We plan to take it from the trailhead south to Tangerine Road and then extend it south from there.”
From the trailhead, which is south of Ranch Vistoso Boulevard and west of a bridge over Big Wash, the route traces the wash amid classic Sonoran Desert terrain.
Enormous cholla cacti frame views of the distant Catalina Mountains, and still-standing skeletons of dead desert trees flank the trail here and there.
The path is mostly flat and quite sandy but easy to follow.
Mountain bikers zipped along the curving trail one day recently while hikers set a more leisurely pace.
“Essentially, the trail ends at the border between what is now Pima County property and state land,” Vella said. Most trail users turn around there, but Vella said some have continued beyond the end point onto state land, which requires a permit from the state.