Sunset-Aspen-Marshall Gulch Trail Hike - part 1
This was a Lollypop Loop hike. By this description, I mean that I hiked from one point to a connecting junction. followed a trail to another junction, took another trail back to the original junction, and hiked back on the first trail going the other way. We parked at the Sunset trailhead.
The trail wasn't hard to find. The Sunset trailhead is on the main road to the top of the mountain (Genral Hitchcock Hwy). It's a well traveled trail, and there's never a doubt where the trail is located.
We found some information about this trail on hikearizona.com, It's the Arizona trails website, and it's a great resource for people who are looking for a hiking trail, especially near Tucson, Az.
This trail is between elevations of 7000 and 8000feet above sea level(ASL), and because of that it is about 16 to 17 degrees below the temperature in the valley on a still day, and cooler if there is a breeze with wind chill factor. Being in the desert southwest, it's important to always remember to take plenty of water, or bring a water filter if the streams are flowing to filter the water to make it potable.
It's not uncommon for the humidity to be in the range of about 10%, and a man can dehydrate relatively quickly in that dry air. For this hike one should have at least 2 liters per person. One should probably bring along some snacks for the hike to keep one's energy level up. Although the elevation gain/loss is only about 1,500 feet, it is about 7 miles long, so one is bound to burn some calories along this trail.
One thing to remember about hiking this trail in the summer is that it's located in the desert southwest, and although there is quite a bit of shade along the route, it's really too hot in the summer to do outside exercise without risking a heatstroke. Probably be mostly ok to great from about November to April. The summer wildlife such as rattlesnakes, gila monsters, tarantulas, scorpions, and other things come out in the summer, however they all go underground and into hybernation.
It's magical to hike in Arizona in the fall, winter and spring. Only risk in winter is that you can have rainstorms, which translate to snowstorms in the mountains from December- March. So, to avoid hyperthermia, one always needs to be vigilant in the mountains to carry along garments and shelter to avoid sudden cold. The temperature and go down 50 degrees farenheit suddenly, in the span of less than 1 hour. So be prepared. Many people who were not prepared have died in the mountains.
I was backpacking in these mountains last winter in February, and in the day in the sun, it was close to 80F, and at night with clear skies, the lows were in the teens.
Ice and snow on steep trails is the enemy of the mountain hiker. Low friction on steep smooth rocky trail surfaces are not good. Hiking poles and crampons are useful in dealing with snow and ice, but one still needs to be careful in ice and snow. But the rewards are definitely there for the winter hiker that performs careful planning and uses caution.
Some conditions require snowshoes, crampons, and poles. Know the conditions before you pack, and anticipate that the weatherman will get it wrong, and be prepared for anything, because invariably the weatherman will get it wrong at the worst possible time.
On the day when we hiked this trail route, we got a start on hiking early enough in the day at about 9AM. It takes a little more than an hour to drive up to this point on the mountain, then hiking about 6 hours including lunch, and another hour driving back down it takes until about 5PM to get back.
One should also always bring a headlamp in case one has delays or loses the trail, during the day on the trail, so that one can make ones way in the dark along the trail to ones destination safely without staying the night out on the trail in the dark, or attempting to walk along steep trails without falling over a cliff to ones' death or injury. With the days shorter in the winter and fall, it's a very important precaution to bring that headlamp along. Time can get away from you if you stay off the trail to take a look at something.
There's a lot to look at along this trail, and it's very tempting to explore. There's about 900 square miles in this mountain range, so always keep in mind where you're at by knowing the landmarks and be sure to take a compass and look at the maps before you leave home. Know that there's generally speaking very little or no cell phone coverage out there.
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Last Update: November 26, 2016
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