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Ventana Canyon to Maiden Pools

Santa Catalina Mountains

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Total Length4.8 miles
Highest Elevation:4240 feet
Lowest Elevation:2950 feet
Elevation Change:1290 feet
Difficulty Rating:C
Best Seasons:Spring Fall Winter
Hiking Time:3 hours
Dogs:Dogs not allowed

Ventana Canyon is a beautiful canyon that is still in a natural state, unlike Sabino Canyon. You can quickly get away from the sights and sounds of the city and experience the splendor of the Catalina canyons. For a long time Ventana Canyon had few visitors because you had to get permission from private land owners to get to the canyon. Now that the county has acquired an easement and built a trail to the canyon it is getting a lot more traffic. No dogs are allowed past a point that is about a half mile to a mile up the trail. This is to protect whats left of the bighorn sheep population.

Directions to Trailhead

•From the intersection of Tanque Verde and Grant/Kolb Rd head northeast on Tanque Verde. Turn left at the second light on Sabino Canyon Rd.

•Go about 3 miles up Sabino Canyon Rd. and turn left on Kolb Rd, which forks off Sabino Canyon Rd. to the left. Go up Kolb Rd. for a couple of miles and go straight through the first light, which is the intersection with Sunrise.

•After passing Sunrise you continue on Kolb about another mile or so until you see a sign for Loews Ventana Canyon Resort. Turn right into the resort. Be sure not to turn into one of the earlier entrances to residential developments with the word Ventana in the name; hold out for the resort.

•Take the first left off the entrance drive to the resort, which should be signed as the way to the Ventana Canyon trailhead. Go all the way to the back of the lot, behind the gates, to park. The front part of the lot is for resort employee parking, and you may get in trouble if you park there.

Trail Description

Ventana Canyon Trail, FS #98
(Ventana Canyon Resort to Maiden Pools)

The view downcanyon from on top of the ridge in the middle of the canyon.

Mariposa Lily

Waterfall at the lower end of Maiden Pools.

Sierra Club hikers at the waterfalls.

Length: 2.4 milesHiking Time: 1.5 hours
Highest point: 4240 feetLowest point: 2950 feet
Trail goes uphill

The Ventana Canyon Trail starts at Ventana Canyon Resort, and climbs up to Maiden Pools. The first stretch can be pretty busy on the weekends. On one hike no less than 3 or 4 groups asked me where the trail went! I didn't know exactly what to say since you can get anywhere in the Catalinas from Ventana Canyon with enough walking, so I said it went farther than they could go before nightfall.

The first mile or so of the trail is through a narrow corridor that Pima County obtained from the surrounding Flying V Ranch and is what one friend calls "junk hiking," i.e. hiking through unsightly areas on your way to something better.

At first you pass along a chain link fence separating you from a neighboring apartment complex. At a couple points there are lots of signs and warning tape to keep you from getting off the trail and trespassing on the Flying V Ranch. The trail then turns to the right, away from the fence, and towards the canyon mouth.

About 15 minutes from the trailhead the trail enters the mouth of Ventana Canyon, and another 5 minutes brings you to a barbed wire fence with a walk-thru gate, and signs informing you that you are entering the wilderness area. There is a sign here saying you are entering a Bighorn Sheep management area, and dogs must be kept on a leash, with no dogs allowed past maiden pools.

The canyon here is narrow, with steep rocky walls, and is very beautiful. The vegetation is your standard bajada mix, with saguaros, ocotillo, prickly pear, mesquite trees, etc.

From here the trail moves upcanyon, crossing the streambed a few times. Watch for where the trail continues when you enter the streambed since it is possible to inadvertently continue up the streambed if you miss the trail. After the third streambed crossing (since the gate), the trail climbs up above the streambed on the right hand bank (facing upcanyon) and then descends back down to the streambed.

The canyon at this point is still very narrow with interesting rock formations. About 25 minutes in from the gate the canyon forks, with the major drainage in the right hand fork (facing upcanyon). The trail climbs up the left hand fork a ways, and then steeply switchbacks up around to the front of the ridge that divides the two forks. The trail then switchbacks up the nose of the ridge between the two forks. There are great views downcanyon from this area, and the vegetation has started to change, now predominantly grasses with ocotillo and some agaves.

The trail levels out when you reach the top of the ridge that you have been climbing, about 30 minutes after the trail left the streambed. Now the main streambed is a bit below you to the right (facing upcanyon). After about 6 minutes of level trail there is a beautiful waterfall and pools area with large flat rocks for sitting and sunbathing. This spot would make a good destination for a short dayhike.

The trail continues upcanyon through oak trees and some pools and is pretty level. About 6 minutes above the waterfall area there is a sign which says dogs are prohibited above this point. I think this point is Maiden Pools.

To return just go back the way you came.

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