There are so many hiking trails to explore in and around Tucson. But having so many options also makes it kinda hard to decide where to go, especially for the casual weekend hiker.
That's where I come in. (Hi!)
I'm going to hike some of these trails and tell you what they're really like, from the perspective of a fit-ish mom who loves to get outdoors. I'll let you know how hard a trail is, if it's kid-friendly, too creepy to do alone, where to park and if there are bathrooms and water.
I had heard about the Bowen Homestead, AKA stone house, for years but had never been there.
So, when it came time to pick a trail for this month's hike it was easy to choose. I really wanted to see this place! Plus, the desert is so gorgeous right now with all of the spring flowers and GREEN-ness, I was like, let's do this.
The Bowen House was built by Sherry Bowen, where he and his wife, Ruby homesteaded 2,000 acres in the Tucson Mountains. Fun fact: Bowen was a news editor for the Arizona Daily Star.
They later moved away and the house became part of Tucson Mountain Park in 1983.
The house still sits in that remote part of the Tucson Mountains but doesn't have a roof or windows. The stone walls and the foundation are in great shape though.
My coworker (and friend) Johanna Willett and I hiked to the house Thursday morning so we could tell you all about the trail. It was a great experience and I highly recommend this hike to anybody who is able.
The trek to the stone house is about 2 miles round trip on the Yetman Trail in the Tucson Mountains, west of downtown. We accessed it from the Camino de Oeste Trail Head off Speedway.
You can make it a much longer hike if you do the whole trail, which is about 12 miles out-and-back.
The route takes you through a canyon where you're surrounded by majestic saguaros, prickly pear cactus and yellow brittlebush flowers. The sides of the mountains are painted with splashes of yellow, orange and green. It was breathtaking.
While you're hiking, even though it's not far, you might start to wonder where the house actually is, but be assured you can't miss it.
It was pretty exciting when it first came into view. It really is in the middle of nowhere!
Make sure to read the plaque to learn more about the history of the house. There are pictures of the Bowens and a floor plan of what the house used to look like.
I've never been much of a desert hiker to be honest. I like hiking along water and trees. So, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I truly loved this trail. It's simply beautiful.
It's easy to follow and is marked with signs. But you can miss one if you're not paying attention. We almost did that a few times.
The trail is mostly flat, but kinda rocky. If you're clumsy like me you have to watch where you're walking. ;)
You will be walking in a sandy dry creek bed part of the way, FYI. It's not hard, just thought you'd want to know so when you get out there you know you're on the right track.
While this was super pleasant and lovely right now, I imagine this to be terrible during the summer because there's no shade or water, so if you want to explore this one, do it now. The prickly pears look like they'll be blooming any time and there were A LOT of buds. It's going to be so beautiful.
Also, watch for cholla. They're sneaky and get in places you can step on them.
The trail wasn't very populated when we went on Thursday morning, which made it so peaceful.
This part of the Yetman Trail is pretty easy, although I hear it gets harder if you continue on. There were a couple rocky stair type climbs but they were small.
I was definitely not huffing and puffing or sweaty.
Exploring the house! This place was so cool it needs its own hashtag. Or, maybe it has one. I'll have to check.
Also, it's so fun to hike TO something. Johanna and I hung out and took photos and imagined what life out there was like. I think the consensus was that it was VERY quiet.
The view from the house wasn't too shabby either. Gazing at the mountains across the canyon from the stone picture windows was glorious.
We both decided it would be a lovely place to spend some time reflecting or doing something creative like writing or drawing.
Definitely take the kids on this hike. If you have toddlers that are still wobbly you may want to put them in a pack because of all the rocks, though. This wouldn't be a good trail for strollers. My editor says her kids have been doing this hike since they were about 4.
They'll LOVE the stone house. Pack a picnic and hang out for a while when you get there.
Dogs are not allowed. There are some websites with reviews of this trail that say dogs are allowed, but Pima County's Natural Resources website says they are not.
Does it feel safe to go alone?
So, here's the thing. It felt safe enough. It wasn't creepy or totally deserted. But, it's pretty remote and cell phone reception is spotty at best. So, if you do choose to go alone, make sure to be extra cautious, keep your ears and eyes open and bring first aid stuff just in case.
There are no bathrooms or water fountains. So, make sure to bring plenty of water and use the restroom before you head out.
Also, wear sunscreen or a hat. It's bright.
Parking, fees, etc.
There's a small parking lot when the dirt road dead ends. It looks like about 10 cars could fit there. It was empty when we went. :)
There are no fees to hike here. Yay!
Take Speedway out west until you get to Camino de Oeste and turn left there. When the pavement ends keep driving on the narrow dirt road until it dead ends at a small parking lot. That's where the trail head starts.
You'll probably try to walk straight once you see the trail head sign, but that's private property, so veer right instead. You'll see a sign there too. :)