The Forest Service has a new trail in Sabino Canyon, but agency officials aren't encouraging you to use it - at least for now.
Known as the Connector Trail, the route begins about a half-mile up the main canyon road northeast of Tucson and leads to a large parking lot adjacent to offices of the Southern Arizona Rescue Association.
"We anticipate eventually providing additional parking for the public in the Southern Arizona Rescue Association complex," said Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. "The trail would connect the parking area and the road into Sabino."
Schewel said it's still not certain when, or if, the parking lot - about a half-mile from the often-full main parking lot at the canyon visitor center - will be opened to the public.
"So we're not encouraging visitors to use the trail at this point in time," she said.
The parking lot at the end of the trail is now gated and blocked to public vehicle access from Sabino Canyon Road - with entry permitted only to Rescue Association members and forest workers.
Jim Upchurch, supervisor of the Coronado National Forest, declined to go into detail on plans for opening the parking lot to canyon visitors - which would give purpose to the new trail that leads to the lot.
"It's on the radar, but not high on the radar," Upchurch said.
Richard Kunz, a member of the Rescue Association, said the lot, with about 150 parking spaces, was built in 2011 on the site of a former shooting range, with funding from the Friends of Sabino Canyon.
Opening the parking lot to canyon visitors could help alleviate frequent problems with lack of parking at the main canyon lot - especially in the busy winter and spring seasons. Some frustrated visitors have parked along Sabino Canyon Road outside the parking lot and faced fines for doing so.
Forest officials didn't comment on possible reasons the lot hasn't been opened to the public.
Kunz said it's his understanding that one holdup could be a lack of funding for required facilities such as accessible restrooms.
The Connector Trail, less than a mile in length, was marked this week with a sign at the trailhead saying "Caution: Trail Construction Ahead." The sign didn't say the trail was closed.
Work on the trail appeared to be essentially complete, and no crews were at work when a reporter walked the route Tuesday morning.
The trail extends north of the canyon road, dips through an arroyo and then winds across open desert terrain toward the parking-lot site.
Views include the craggy ridges above Sabino Canyon and points higher in the Catalina Mountains.
On StarNet: Explore the new trail by video at azstarnet.com/video
• The canyon visitor center is at 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road.
• Visitors pay a $5 per vehicle fee for day use of the area.
Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz