After a very long break, it’s time for a quick post on Finger Rock Trail in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson. The end point of this trail is Finger Rock itself, located atop Mt. Kimball. The complete hike is ten miles roundtrip with a ~4200-foot elevation gain. We heard ahead of time about how punishing this hike is, so we only planned to do a six-mile roundtrip hike to Linda Vista point, which overlooks the city of Tucson. After doing the hike, I realized that you can actually see the funky finger-like rock formation from our apartment in central Tucson!
Now, you may remember my previous hike to Blackett’s Ridge, which gained 1400-feet of elevation in 1.9 miles. The ranger at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center referred to Blackett’s Ridge as the “stair-master.” Well, Blackett’s Ridge wasn’t too bad, so I didn’t think Linda Vista’s 1900-foot elevation gain in 1.9 miles would have been much different. However, friends had warned us to bring double the water we thought we would need and they were not joking. Somehow, this hike seemed exceedingly more strenuous compared to Blackett’s Ridge. The more you know..
We started out around 8:30am. The first half-mile of the hike was essentially through the backyards of wealthy Tucsonites – not quite wilderness but at least the houses were pretty. After passing the final house, the hike remained level until you entered the canyon.
After the fairly even first mile, the trail began to climb up into the canyon. It’s easy to continue walking along a false trail through a dry riverbed, so watch out. The real trail backtracks for a few feet before the switchbacks and climbing start up the right side of the canyon.
After the first few switchbacks, we were really feeling the strain. However, parts of the trail were still shaded in the morning, and we could see further and further into the canyon as we hiked.
Right about the sixth time I thought to myself how much this hike sucks, the trail started to level out. We were wary to get too excited, but the rest of the way to Linda Vista was only moderately uphill. Eventually we reached an intersection where the canyon widened. At this point we veered off to the right, surrounded by more grass and now oak trees at our new elevation. Once we turned right and started hiking along the new canyon, we saw a lower trail off in the distance. It’s worth noting that if you do hike all the way to Finger Rock, you can take Pima Canyon Trail back down and not repeat your hike. Just make sure you leave a car at the start and end points! Fortunately for us though, Linda Vista wasn’t more than a half-mile ahead.
After a few tenths of a mile, the trail switchbacks started up again. There were only two or three until we reached a split. You can turn left and quite obviously continue up the switchbacks, or you can cross a line of rocks on the right. Turning right takes you another quarter-mile to Linda Vista, which offers fantastic views of the city of Tucson and a couple-hundred foot tall cliff that looks like an excellent place for rock climbing.
After a quick snack and a bit of exploration around the area, we decided to head back down. We were uncomfortably low on water at this point, but looking forward to the quick return trip. We probably got down the trail in about a third of the time it took us to climb it, estimating we took about six hours total for the six-mile hike.
We ran out of water with about a mile of the hike to go. So in case I haven’t emphasized it enough, bring double or triple the amount of water you think you’ll need! Seeing the city and the houses again was quite the welcome sight.
If you’re desperate for water when you arrive back to the car, there is a water fountain in the parking lot that we gladly used. It was a great feeling to finally arrive home after this hike. Overall, the views were excellent and there were not many people along the trail, which was nice. I wouldn’t mind returning one day and trying to reach Finger Rock, so long as we came better prepared.
Stay tuned for future posts, the next trip takes us a couple of hours outside of Tucson to see some amazing rock formations!