Wasson Peak via King’s Canyon Trail: An awesome way to start a Tucson day!GUEST BLOGGERS, USA MAINLAND, WALKING/HIKING — By Nicole Mullins on September 27, 2013 at 18:20
By guest blogger Nicole Mullins. Photos Copyright © Nicole Mullins.
TUESDAY, MARCH 12 was a very physical day.
I was already sore when I awoke, thanks to all of the wonderful amenities for physical activity at the Voyager RV Resort in Tucson, Arizona. As an exercise physiologist based in Ohio, it’s like a Western heaven for me! One can swim, lift, cycle, play tennis, pickleball, volleyball, golf. . . .
So, upon waking to some considerable soreness, I decided to just take an easy walk around the Voyager grounds. However, as the gorgeous morning sun warmed the air, my muscles started to loosen and I quickly switched to Carpe Diem Gear.
While I always hike when in Tucson, I had yet to plan a route, so I logged onto to Trails.com and Localhikes.com to see what I could see. I quickly found a trail that looked right up my alley, and off I went (of course well-nourished and well-supplied with water).
I easily found the King’s Canyon trailhead, as directed by various websites. King’s Canyon Trail is the most direct route towards Wasson Peak, the high point of Saguaro National Park West, located in the Tucson Mountain Range. A gravel parking area and the trailhead are located just off Kinney Road, directly across from the popular Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
With slight variations among sources, the estimated out-and-back trip duration is 4-5 hours, the distance 6.5-7 miles, and the elevation gain somewhere in the vicinity of 1,750-2,000 feet.
As all hikers should do, I signed the trail registry, started my watch and my climb. The first 0.9 miles was gradual, though quite rocky, with small rocks largely covering the dirt surface. This section ends in a wash, where walking in the sand is challenging, but brief. At this point, I felt uncertain about which way to go, despite having made clear mental notes of the map. I stayed to the right, as the map indicated, which was correct, but I would have preferred validating signage.
Later on, during my descent, I encountered ascenders with similar uncertain sentiments. They were happy for my route validation.
The next 1.4 miles presented a nice incline. I was puffing, but also moving very quickly. The trail winds around the mountain, providing ever-changing views that made, I felt, the time and the miles fly by. At the junction of the Sweetwater Trail, I was happy to see some signage to indicate that I was 1.2 miles from Wasson Peak.
The next section was my favorite, climbing through steep switchbacks, with spectacularly situated Sonoran vegetation, including cacti galore – saguaros, barrel, prickly pear, and cholla. My personal favorite plants were the little, yellow Mexican poppies that somehow spring abundantly amongst the rocks.
When seemingly near the summit, there is one more sign, indicating another 0.3-mile jaunt to the peak. This section seemed largely flat . . . somewhat like a bridge connecting two peaks.
At the summit, the 360-degree views were spectacular, and well worth the trip. I didn’t stay long, as I am kind of a quick mover. I made the up-trek in 1:09:00 (not a run, but a brisk clip), and the descent in 57:00 (part jog/park walk).
My calves and feet did let me know how they felt about the pace, as they were quite sore at the end. Again, the trail is quite rocky and I would be concerned for anyone with balance challenges or osteoporosis. Otherwise, I highly recommend this trail.