You might — or might not — see a bear in Bear Wallow.
But even without an ursine sighting, the forested glade high in the Catalina Mountains offers a scenic, soothing escape from the summer heat of Tucson.
The air, at elevations between 7,000 and 8,000 feet, is a zillion degrees cooler than Tucson. OK, make that 20 or 25 degrees cooler.
Lying in a shallow, verdant canyon with an often dry watercourse, the wallow looks like a place where bears might like to, well, wallow in wetter seasons.
An unofficial but popular trail traces the canyon bottom and brings pleasing sights around every bend.
- Wildflowers in hues of yellow, blue and white in brilliant bloom at this time of year.
- A canopy of towering conifers and other trees, including maples with bright green leaves.
- Dense clumps of emerald green ferns.
- Birds of the forest, flitting here and there and producing a pleasing soundtrack of birdsong.
- Colorful butterflies fluttering from flower to flower.
A WORD OF CAUTION
It’s unlikely that you will encounter a bear in Bear Wallow, but it’s possible. Here is advice from state wildlife officials:
If bears are seen from afar, hikers should change their route and avoid contact. If a person is approached by a bear, he or she should discourage contact by standing upright, waving the arms overhead, making loud noises, throwing objects on hand and giving the bear an opportunity to leave the area.
If the bear doesn’t leave, stay calm, face the animal and back away slowly. Never run or play dead, and if attacked, fight back.
GET TO BEAR WALLOW
From Tucson, take Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway and follow the highway to mile marker 22. Take a right turn onto an unpaved road that traces the wallow. There are no parking lots, but it’s possible to park carefully along the side of the road less than a quarter-mile from the turnoff.
There is no official trailhead. Most hikers simply find a convenient spot to descend into the bottom of the wallow and then follow a mostly flat trail in either direction.