Doug Kreutz, the Star's outside expert, shares his favorite summer hikes.
The Palisades Trail
Bright yellow wildflowers show off shamelessly amid the otherwise buff-brown hues of the forest floor.
Ferns unfurl their fronds in the shade of tall pines.
A skinny little stream sometimes slithers down a deep-cut canyon.
Such are the sights on a late spring or summer ramble on the Palisade Trail in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson.
INTO THE WOODS
From a trailhead at 7,850 feet, the route begins in pine-forest terrain and gradually descends into an open mixed woodland of pines and oaks.
You'll pass near cabins of summer camps during the first 0.6-mile of the hike.
Rugged rock formations and wooded ridges dominate the view in some directions. But you might also see standing dead trees and fire-scorched logs along parts of the trail affected by the Aspen Fire in 2003.
A SMALL STREAM
An unsigned side trail, about half a mile from the trailhead, leads to the bottom of a canyon where a small stream forms pools after rains.
Tread carefully if you descend this steep and uneven trail segment.
ON TO MUD SPRING
OK, a water source known as Mud Spring might not sound enticing, but many hikers use the spring site - 2.9 miles from the trailhead - as a destination and turnaround point for a day hike.
The spring, at 6,400 feet, often produces quite clear water despite its name. It's still important to filter or treat the water if you intend to drink it.
The Palisade Trail continues down, down and more down to a junction with the East Fork Trail at 4,100 feet. The one-way distance from the trailhead to that junction is 6.8 miles.
Connecting trails lead to Sabino Canyon.
TO THE TRAILHEAD
Take Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway and follow the highway to a left turnoff for Organization Ridge Road. It's between mileposts 19 and 20. Drive about a half-mile on the road, which leads to summer camp sites, and watch for the signed trailhead on the right.
Some names are misleading, but here's one you can believe: the Super Trail.
The trail — leading from Madera Canyon to the 9,453-foot summit of Mount Wrightson south of Tucson — is long, easy to follow, moderately graded and strikingly scenic. All in all: pretty darned super.
"We absolutely love this trail — the gradual switchbacks and the beautiful views," said one hiker as she trekked the route with her husband.
First, full disclosure: If you want to hike the entire Super Trail, you'd best be in pretty good shape and have a full day available.
The route — much less steep than the nearby Old Baldy Trail up Wrightson — meanders in no particular hurry for 8.2 miles from trailhead to summit, gaining 4,000 vertical feet along the way. The 16.4-mile round-trip trek will leave you, well, super tired.
But here's the thing. You don't have to go the entire distance.
In fact, one of the most pleasing segments of the trail is the first mile, which follows a trickling stream and passes through a beautiful woodland of oaks and junipers.
For a good, but not grueling, day hike, follow the trail 3.7 miles to Josephine Saddle and back for a 7.4-mile excursion.
Continuing all the way to the top of Wrightson will test your stamina — but you'll be rewarded with a soaring hawk's view of Southeastern Arizona.
To get to the trailhead from Tucson, go south on Interstate 19 to Green Valley. Take the Continental Exit, follow signs southeast to Madera Canyon, and drive to the end of the road. A signed trailhead is at an upper parking lot.
Visitors pay a $5 per vehicle fee in the canyon, which is about 40 miles south of Tucson.
Mint Spring Trail
See wildflowers, raspberries, greenery on Mint Spring Trail hike
Wild raspberries grow in red splendor along a winding path and tempt the taste buds of passing hikers.
Wild mint wafts subtle fragrance into the air around a mountain spring.
Wildflowers celebrate summer in hues of yellow, purple and red.
All kinds of things are growing high and wild at this time of year along the Mint Spring Trail in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson.
OF FLOWERS AND FIRE
The 1.6-mile trail, which connects with other routes in the area, takes hikers past thick clumps of ferns and colorful clusters of wildflowers and berries.
Some effects remain from a wildfire in 2003 ago that burned almost all of the trees along parts of the trail. Aspen and locust trees have come back in force, but the tall conifers that once shaded the route have yet to reach their former splendor.
APTLY NAMED SPRING
Mint Spring, about a mile from the trailhead, is one of the more reliable water sources in the Catalinas, and it nurtures a wonderful wild garden of pungent mint.
A small wooden box collects water issuing from the spring. It might be inviting to sip water directly from the spring, but it's important to filter or treat the water to avoid contaminants and disease.
Hikers who follow the Mint Spring Trail 1.6 miles to Marshall Saddle can pick up other routes, including the Marshall Gulch Trail and the Aspen Trail.
GET TO THE TRAILHEAD
Take Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway and follow the highway past mile marker 24 to the village of Summerhaven.
Drive south through the village and watch for a right turnoff for the Carter Canyon Road. Follow the road to a broad turnaround area and park there. Find the trailhead on the left before you reach a boundary with private property.
The essentials of hiking
10 essential items to bring on a hike
1. Navigation: map, compass, GPS.
2. Sun protection: hat, sunscreen, long sleeves.
3. Insulation: extra clothing such as a jacket, fleece.
4. Illumination: headlamp, flashlight.
5. First-aid kit.
6. Repair kit and tools: multi-tool, whistle, signal mirror.
7. Nutrition: extra food.
8. Hydration: extra water.
9. Emergency shelter: Large plastic bag, space blanket.
10. Communication: Cellular phone for emergencies (be aware of coverage limitations in remote areas).
It's fire season
Be aware that mountain trails can be closed because of forest fires or other dangers. If you have questions, call the Coronado National Forest at 749-8700.
As of Monday, fire restrictions were in place in the Catalina Mountains, Sabino Canyon and Redington Pass that included no smoking.