Find your way to the Esperero Trail in Sabino Canyon this month and prepare for a heaping helping of natural beauty.
Among the scenic attractions along the first mile of the trail:
A remarkable little saguaro — a unique specimen that has curved its trunk to fit through a narrow niche between rocks.
Towering saguaros, prickly pears and cholla cacti in brilliant spring bloom.
Doves nesting. Hawks soaring. And — yes, be careful — rattlesnakes slithering here and there in the canyon northeast of Tucson.
A short hike on the Esperero Trail — best undertaken early in the morning during hot weather — also offers expansive views of upper reaches of Sabino Canyon, peaks of the Catalina Mountains, and the Tucson valley.
Begin by following a broad path that starts at the southeastern end of the canyon parking lot at 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road, where visitors pay a $5 per vehicle day-use fee.
Walk a short distance east, pass a signed turnoff for the Bajada Loop Nature Trail, and continue briefly to a signed left turnoff for the Esperero Trail.
The first half-mile of the trail is mostly flat and easy going. Along the way, you’ll get big views of high ridges of the Catalina Mountains towering over the canyon. Watch on either side of the trail for saguaros and other cacti in bloom.
The trail crosses a service road and the Bear Canyon Road before intersecting the main canyon road. Just across the main canyon road, the Esperero Trail traverses more flat terrain before reaching a steep uphill stretch.
The route continues to a broad ridge with an overlook point affording splendid views down at the watercourse of Sabino Creek and up at steep cliffs above the canyon.
Between that overlook point and a junction with the Rattlesnake Trail at the 1.1-mile point in the hike, watch for the small, quirky saguaro doing a sort of cactus contortion to fit in its niche.
It’s on a rocky slope on the left side of the trail and easy to miss if you aren’t watching for it.
Energetic hikers can continue beyond the Rattlesnake Trail junction on an upper 5.8-mile segment of the trail, but it becomes more challenging as it climbs into the Catalina Mountains.