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Aspen Loop from Marshall Gulch

Santa Catalina Mountains

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Total Length3.7 miles
Highest Elevation:8000 feet
Lowest Elevation:7440 feet
Elevation Change:560 feet
Difficulty Rating:C
Best Seasons:Spring Summer Fall
Hiking Time:1.5 hours
Dogs:Dogs allowed

This trail is open again as of 30 July 2004. The description and pictures are from before the Aspen Fire. I will not get a chance to visit and prepare a revised description for many months, so please email me a report and/or pictures if you do this hike.

This hike is just about the best way to beat the heat in the summer. Its short enough that anyone can do it, it only takes an hour and a half, and, most importantly, it is cool and shady even on the hottest days. The only drawback to this hike is that parking is extremely limited at Marshall Gulch, so you have to get up there pretty early on the weekends to absolutely sure of a space.

Directions to Trailhead

•From the intersection of Tanque Verde and Kolb/Grant, head east on Tanque Verde until you get to the Catalina Highway, about 5 or 6 miles.

•Turn left on Catalina Highway (the only way you can go), and drive towards the mountains. After a few miles the road begins to climb into the Catalinas. You will stay on the main Catalina Highway for most of its length.

•You will have to stop at the U.S. Forest Service toll booth located near Molino Basin and pay $5 per car. These fees for recreational use will hopefully allow the Forest Service to continue to subsidize grazing leases and timber sales at their present generous levels.

•Thirty one miles or so after you left Tanque Verde you will enter the tiny town of Summerhaven. Remain on the Catalina Highway, and drive straight through town. The road continues for another couple of miles, until it deadends at a turn-around where there is some parking spots and restrooms. This is a popular picnic area, so you may have trouble parking if you arrive later in the day on the weekend. Park anywhere near here. The trailheads are all signed, and leave from very near the end of the road.

Trail Description

Marshall Gulch Trail, FS #3
(Marshall Gulch to Marshall Saddle)

Length: 1.2 milesHiking Time: 0.5 hours
Highest point: 8000 feetLowest point: 7440 feet
Trail goes uphill

This trail climbs from the end of the road in Marshall Gulch up to Marshall Saddle through dense pine/fir forest. The trail is in very good condition.

The trail starts on the west side of the parking area at the end of the road, about 10 yards to the right of the restrooms. There is a trail that begins right at the restrooms, but that is not the Marshall Gulch Trail. You can identify the Marshall Gulch Trail because it has a sign, and it takes off straight up the hill from the parking lot.

After the short steep stretch at the beginning, the trail contours up a valley on its right hand slope through dense pine/fir forest. The stream in the valley almost always has water in it, though in the driest months it may only be occasional pools.

The trail crosses the stream a couple of times, and then heads up and away from the stream to the left. The trail then climbs up and comes to Marshall Saddle.

Marshall Saddle is a signed trail junction of a number of trails. One sign indicates that the Aspen Trail, FS #93, takes off to the left and the right (north and south), and the Wilderness of Rocks Trail, FS #44, continues straight ahead (west). Another sign says that the Mint Spring Trail, FS #20, takes off to the right (northeast).

Turn left on to the Aspen Trail, FS #93, at Marshall Saddle.

Aspen Trail, FS #93
(Marshall Saddle to Marshall Gulch)

A view of the Wilderness of Rocks from the overlook down the side trail..

A fairly typical section of the trail.

The view from an overlook rock near Marshall Gulch

Length: 2.5 milesHiking Time: 1.0 hours
Highest point: 8000 feetLowest point: 7440 feet
Trail goes downhill

This trail segment goes through areas of thick pine/fir forest and open ponderosa forest, and is shady and cool even on the hottest days. The trail is in good condition.

From Marshall Saddle the trail is a mixture of level and gradual downhill segments, with a couple of short uphill sections right at the beginning just for some variety. There is a short path off to the right leading to a rock overlook with views to the west about 5 minutes after Marshall Saddle.

About 15 minutes after Marshall Saddle there is a large side trail which takes off to the right. About 4 minutes down this side trail is a rock outcropping with great views of Cathedral Rock and the Wilderness of Rocks. There is a waterless campsite next to the rock outcropping.

After the turnoff to the outcropping the trail curves to the east and continues it gradual descent as it contours along the slope through open ponderosa forest. The trail then has a short section where is descends steeply to the east, followed by a gradual descent to the north as the trail heads up the valley towards Marshall Gulch. There is a nice open rock area with views of the valley.

The trail ends at the Marshall Gulch parking area at the end of the road beyond Summerhaven. There are pit toilet restrooms here, but no other facilities. The trailhead is about 20 yards to the left of the restrooms as you are facing them.

At the end of the parking lot opposite where the road comes in there is a sign for the beginning of the Sunset Trail, FS #90

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