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Finger Rock Canyon to Mt. Kimball

Santa Catalina Mountains

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Total Length10 miles
Highest Elevation:7255 feet
Lowest Elevation:3100 feet
Elevation Change:4155 feet
Difficulty Rating:A
Best Seasons:Spring Fall Winter
Hiking Time:6.5 hours
Dogs:Dogs not allowed

This is a classic Tucson hike up one of the steepest trails in the area. Don't let the steepness scare you off though; Among hikes up to the summit of a mountain, this is one of the easiest, and the views along the way more than make up for the grade. The lower parts of the trail can be relatively crowded on the weekends, but not that many people go all the way up to Mt. Kimball. If you want to do a less ambitious hike, go up to Linda Vista, which has gorgeous views and makes a fine lunch spot. Dogs are not allowed on the trail.

Directions to Trailhead

•From the intersection of Tanque Verde and Grant/Kolb head northwest on Grant.

•Turn right (north) on Swan at the intersection of Grant and Swan. Go a number of miles north on Swan, past River Road and past Sunrise.

•Turn left (west) on E. Skyline Drive. Go a few miles down Skyline.

•Turn right (north) on Alvernon Way.

•Continue north on Alvernon Way until you get to a signed parking lot for the Finger Rock Trail on the left hand side of the road. This parking lot is gated in such a way that you can leave it at any time, but can only enter it during the day. You need a permit from the Pima County Parks and Recreation Department to park your car there overnight.

Trail Description

Finger Rock Trail, FS #42
(Trailhead to Finger Rock Spring)

A spot near the trailhead just after dawn.

Length: 1.1 milesHiking Time: 0.5 hours
Highest point: 3600 feetLowest point: 3120 feet
Trail goes uphill

From the trailhead parking lot, cross the street and head about 30 yards north on the road to the actual trailhead. There is a sign here saying that dogs are prohibited year-round. The sign also says that between January 1 to April 30 hiking is restricted to within 400 feet of established trails for the protection of Desert Bighorn Sheep.

A sign indicates that two trails start here; the Finger Rock Trail, FS #42 and the Pontatoc Trail FS #410. The two trails stay together for about 30 yards, but then there is a sign saying the Finger Rock Trail takes off to the left (north) and the Pontatoc Trail continues straight ahead (east). Turn left on the Finger Rock Trail.

The trail climbs gently towards the mountains through the bajada. The vegetation is typical for sonoran bajadas: saguaros, palo verde, ocotillos, prickly pear, and cholla, etc. Unfortunately, this first part of the trail passes behind a few houses which are located close to the trail.

About 5 minutes up the trail there is a small strip sign marking the boundary of the Wilderness area. Even though you have entered the wilderness area, there is at least one more house to pass ahead.

About 15 minutes up the trail it enters the mouth of Finger Rock Canyon. The canyon is very narrow at this point, and you can clearly see Finger Rock rising straight ahead of you. Another 10 minutes of hiking up the canyon bottom brings you to Finger Rock Spring, which is just a concrete tank in the creek bottom. From here the trail leaves the canyon bottom, switchbacking steeply up the east wall of the canyon.

Finger Rock Trail, FS #42
(Finger Rock Spring to Linda Vista)

Looking upcanyon towards Finger Rock near the top of the steep section.

Finger Rock.

Looking back towards Tucson from the upper part of the steep part.

A rock formation on the other side of the canyon.

The upper part of the canyon above the steep part.

Heading up the side trail to Linda Vista.

The view down from Linda Vista.

Length: 1.9 milesHiking Time: 1.3 hours
Highest point: 5520 feetLowest point: 3600 feet
Trail goes uphill

Immediately after Finger Rock Spring the trail leaves the canyon bottom and begins switchbacking up the right hand (east) canyon wall as it continues to head upcanyon. This is the beginning of the section where the Finger Rock Trail earns its reputation for steepness; for the next two miles or so it is a very rocky trail with a relentless grade. The trail works its way up the east side of the canyon as it climbs, so that by the end of this section the trail is high above the canyon bottom.

About 30 minutes after passing the spring the trail gets up near the top of the canyon wall and the vegetation changes. The saguaros are gone, grasses are starting to show up, along with amole (shindaggers), sotol, and some small trees; all indications that the trail has gained significant elevation.

Another half hour and Finger Rock is getting very close, perhaps only a quarter mile ahead, and the trail is very high above the canyon bottom. There is a tall rock cliff topping the canyon side just above the trail. Around here the trail is not quite so steep all the time, and some almost level spots show up intermittently. However, there are also some stretches where the trail slopes steeply up bare rock.

Another few minutes and the trail comes to a level grassy area high on the canyon wall, which makes a good rest stop. This point is about even with Finger Rock, which is on the other side of the canyon, but you can't see it because another rock formation is blocking the view. At this point the canyon bends to the east, and gets shallower and wider.

From this point on the trail runs along near the top of the canyon wall through grassland mixed with lots of small live oak trees. Another 15 minutes beyond the level spot brings you to the short side trail which cuts over to the right to Linda Vista. Linda Vista is a small saddle in the ridgeline where you can see down into the next canyon, and there are great views of Tucson from this point. The view is definitely worth the short time it takes to get to Linda Vista, so be sure to visit it.

Finger Rock Trail, FS #42
(Linda Vista to Pima Canyon Trail)

Up in the thin forest above Linda Vista.

Some of the rock formations after crossing the canyon bottom.

Length: 1.5 milesHiking Time: 1.0 hours
Highest point: 6880 feetLowest point: 5520 feet
Trail goes uphill

After the Linda Vista turnoff the trail continues to head upcanyon and climb higher. This part of the trail is not very steep, and there are some sections where the trail goes down for short stretches. The vegetation continues to change, with the first alligator junipers showing up about 10 minutes past Linda Vista.

About 15 minutes past Linda Vista the trail passes along the base of a tall rock formation, and then descends down a short downhill section a few minutes later. Beyond this point the trail is in thin forest made up of live oaks, alligator juniper, pinyon pine and occasional ponderosa.

At this point it is clear that the trail is getting near the top of the canyon. The canyon bottom has risen up so that it is not far below the trail, so the canyon is wide and shallow for the first time during the hike. Also, you can see that the terrain ahead climbs relatively gently.

About half an hour past Linda Vista the trail passes through a grove of ponderosas and then crosses the bottom of the canyon, which has risen up to the level of the trail. This is the beginning of a gentle climb towards Mt. Kimball up through forest mixed with some medium sized rock formations. As the trail nears the top of the ridgeline the forest gets thinner and drier as the trail levels out. The ponderosas disappear, and the vegetation is manzanita and live oak with grassy areas between trees.

At this point there is a signed trail junction. The signs indicate that the Finger Rock Trail, FS #42, goes off to the right, or east, and the Pima Canyon Trail, FS #62 continues straight ahead, or west.

Pima Canyon Trail, FS #62
(Finger Rock Trail to Mt. Kimball)

Cathedral Peak from Mt. Kimball.

Looking down to the northwest from Mt. Kimball.

Length: 0.5 milesHiking Time: 0.25 hours
Highest point: 7255 feetLowest point: 6880 feet
Trail goes uphill

From the trail junction with the Finger Rock trail the Pima Canyon Trail heads up towards Mt. Kimball, which is to the northwest. At this point the trail is at the top of the Front Range ridgeline, and off to the right you can see the rugged north face of the Front Range in the near distance, and the Wilderness of Rocks in the far distance. This trail segment climbs steadily, but not too steeply, as it makes its way to the top of Mt. Kimball.

When the trail gets near the top of Mt. Kimball there is a unsigned side trail off to the right which takes you to the actual summit. Mt. Kimball is perhaps one of the most unspectacular peaks in the Tucson area, since it is flat and forested at the actual high point. However, if you continue to follow the side trail past the high point you will come to a rock formation on the north side of the peak which has spectacular views of the north side of the Front Range, and to the north. You can see Biosphere 2, Picacho Peak, Mt. Lemmon and many other landmarks from this point.

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