Tuesday, March 4, 2014

We Discover the Fabulous Tortolita Mountains

Our brief stay at Catalina State Park is coming to a close; we move on to Lost Dutchman State Park today. But first I must tell you about an awesome hike we did in the nearby Tortolita Mountains.

The Tortolitas are a small range just North West of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Currently there are 29 miles of trails, many of them starting from the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Resort. The Dove Mountain Civic Group provides excellent detail and maps here, and the actual trails are very well marked. (Tucson Mountain Park should take lessons from this group on how to present trails to the public!)

We did an 8.5 mile loop consisting of these trails: Wild Burro, Upper Javelina, Wild Mustang, Wild Burro. This loop had some steep sections (both up and down), lots of rocky stretches of trail, AND amazing views, wonderful rock formations, lovely desert flora including crested saguaros!

The flowers are starting to pop in these hills.
We will zig zag our way up the hill on the left.

It was a gorgeous day to be on the trail.


Our first crested saguaro sighting on the hike.

Our second crested sighting!
Looks rather tortured doesn't it!

Here's a view from the back...

On the right you can see a saguaro that seems to be starting to crest.
Long distance views into Oro Valley from here.

We ascended to just over 4,000 ft., that's Mt Lemmon in the distance;
at over 9,000 ft it's one of the tallest peaks around Tucson.

This bizarre crested saguaro was right next to the parking lot!

We highly recommend hiking the Tortolita's! In fact, it's become a new favorite trail system in the Tucson area for us. We were fortunate to hike on a Monday, on the weekend the trails are probably pretty busy.

During our stay at Catalina we were fortunate to hook up once again with Dennis and Sheryl. We last saw them at their home in Kalispell, MT. They are currently in the process of selling that house and have recently relocated to Oro Valley. We had a fun dinner with them and their friends Bob and Carol and enjoyed touring their community.

Hans, Sheryl, Bob, Carol, Dennis

Last but not least, I'll share a couple more photos of the ground squirrel action we've had around here. As I mentioned in my last post, the squirrel population seems to have exploded this year. We can look out one side of the RV and see six or seven, then look out the other side and see another half dozen! They are frolicking around like puppies!

Rosie gets to stalk them, while I make sure she can't actually catch them!

I caught these two as they were wrestling.


  1. We'll definitely check out that trail system next time we're in the area.
    Our cats would go nuts watching those squirrels!

  2. Great photos! Rosie better be careful, those guys might just gang up on her ;-)
    Enjoy Lost Dutchman. I'm bummed that we didn't climb Flatiron. Mike wussed out!

  3. Do you not love the ground squirrels? They are just beyond cute. We rode the Santa Cruz trail this morning, and our progress was heralded by the squirrels squeaking their alarms. They sound like dog whistles!

    1. They are adorable! I was surprised we didn't see lots of hawks hanging around to get their fill! I loved watching their antics!

  4. love the photo of the Phainopepla, one of my favorite SW birds

  5. Wow! Wow! I guess I am the only one totally impressed with all those crested saguaro besides you, Lisa. I can hardly wait to take this hike.

    Boy is the desert ever beautiful. Things are so green. I hope next winter is as nice but a little cooler.

    1. The Wild Mustang Trail was supposed to have 6 crested! I don't know if we missed some or if the 2011 freeze killed them and they are now on the ground. I knew you would love this!

      Yes, agree...a little bit cooler next year would be perfect.

  6. The desert looks like it is starting to bloom in your pictures. One of my favorite times in Arizona is when the desert flowers start showing up. Have you seen any of the mountain goats up there in Catalina state park yet?. Years ago there was a couple of herds up there. It looks like the weather is better this year for your visit than last year and you are still having a good time RVing . Take care and safe travels.

    1. Hi Leila, Yes, quite a few blooms already and more to come! No, we have not seen any mtn goats, nor the big horn sheep that have been released in the area recently.

      Yes the weather has been great this year, but in reality we do like cloder temps...it's more comfortable for hiking!

  7. As I was reading and saw those gorgeous crested saguaro and thought of Pam right away. And was right she got excited and so was I!
    We will surely check the trail out.