| Home | Warning | Gear | Books | Photography | Hikes | Links | Flora & Fauna | Etiquette | About Me | What's New |


Italian Spring to Mica Mountain (the full tour), Saguaro National Park East

Summary: This hike takes you up an infrequently traveled path to the top of Mica Mountain (the tallest point in Saguaro NP East) via the Italian Spring Trail, then takes you on a looping tour of all the natural features of the mountain before returning the same way. Those wishing to do a shorter hike could just do an up and back to Spud Rock. 
Directions: From I-10 near Tucson take the Grant Road exit #256 and head east. Follow Grant east and turn left on Tanque Verde Road. Stay on Tanque Verde until it eventually turns into Redington Road. After a few miles, Redington becomes well graded dirt and climbs up into the hills. Watch the side of the road for green mile marker signs which are posted every 2 miles. Drive 0.5 miles past mile marker 12 and turn right onto Forest Road #37 (which is rough and requires 4-WD). Zero your odometer here if you'd like to follow along with my directions. Less than a tenth of a mile in on FR #37, you'll come to what looks like a 4-way intersection - stay straight heading down a rough hill. At the 1.5 mile point you'll pass right branching Forest Road #4424 - stay straight on FR #37. At the 2.2 mile point, and again at 2.5, you'll pass through barbed wire fences and shortly afterwards (at 2.7 miles) the road drops into a wash. The Italian Spring Trail begins on the other side of the wash and is marked by a plastic sign. Park under the big tree on the right.
Road Conditions: 4-Wheel Drive
Navigation: Easy
Length: Out and back hike to Spud Rock - 16 miles
The full tour - 21 miles
Date Hiked: April, 2005
Weather Conditions: Sunny & warm
Required Skills:
Hike Description: From the dry wash (0 miles), walk up the trail and soon you'll step over a metal hitching post and reach a sign for Italian Spring Trail #95 which informs you that the official Park boundary is 4.5 miles ahead. The trail follows an old road, up through rolling hills covered with grass and mesquite trees, towards the mountain. After 2.2 miles you'll cross a wash (flowing when I was here) to reach a barbed wire fence and an old sign indicating the Park boundary is now 2.3 miles ahead (2.2 miles). The path becomes more trail-like at this point and climbs steadily through the foothills of the mountain into an area with interesting rock formations. You'll also begin to notice that the path is marked with orange metal disks nailed to the trees (though you won't need them, the trail is obvious).  As you ascend steeply you'll pass through several areas that have been burned by wildfire and up a few sections of trail that are badly eroded into deep gullies. At higher elevations, oak and juniper become more prevalent, and provide some occasional shade. Eventually, you'll pass through a shiny gate at the Park boundary (4.5 miles). There is a trail register and sign indicating that Italian Spring is 2 miles ahead. Continue climbing steeply up the hill, passing through an area heavily damaged by fire. When the path bends right, it levels off somewhat as it traverses the side of the hill, entering a pine forest with occasional views north of Mt. Lemmon before arriving at Italian Spring and a 'T' junction with the North Slope Trail (6.5 miles). The spring is right next to the trail and is little more than an algae filled puddle. Turn left on the North Slope Trail towards the Fire Loop Trail and continue climbing. The path soon enters a healthier pine forest and tops out at a ridge at a 'T' junction with the Fire Loop Trail (7.1 miles). Turn right towards the Bonita Trail and stay right again (towards Spud Rock) at the next two junctions with the left branching Bonita and Mica Mountain Trails (7.4 miles). It's easy walking for the next 0.6 miles as you pass over the top of Mica Mountain which has a few concrete blocks remaining from an old lookout tower, but little in the way of views due to the tree cover. The path then descends (first time this trip) to a junction with the left branching Spud Rock Trail (8.0 miles). Stay straight towards Spud Rock which you'll reach in 0.2 miles. There is a short spur trail on the right that leads up to the top of the rock, which features good views in all directions. Interestingly enough, there is another Spud Rock on the east side of Mica Mountain at the top of the Turkey Creek Trail. Either those who named the formations on this mountain were not terribly good at coming up with new names, or, it's possible they just had an unusual fascination with potatoes. At any rate, Spud Rock makes for a good destination and can be used as a turn around point for those wishing to do a 16 mile hike. We, however, are going for the full tour and when finished soaking in the view from the Spud, will continue our progress west along the Fire Loop Trail which continues its descent through the pines to a junction with the Cow Head Saddle Trail (8.6  miles). Stay straight (or to the left) towards Manning Camp which you'll arrive at 0.4 miles later (9.0 miles). The camp consists of a few buildings, a trail register and has water available year round.

Here's the story on Manning Camp if you're interested:
"The Manning cabin was built in 1905 by Levi Manning, Surveyor General of the Arizona Territory and Mayor of Tucson. Levi and his family spent several summers here raising vegetables and cattle, and escaping the heat of Tucson. He abandoned the cabin in 1907 when the Rincon Mountains were added to the Coronado National Forest. In 1933 this area was made part of Saguaro National Monument which was renamed Saguaro National Park in 1994. The National Park Service uses the cabin for fire and trail crews, researchers and rangers. The cabin provides an important base for prescribed burn operations. Pack mules deliver supplies to this remote cabin which is on the national register of historic places."

From the camp, go straight on the Manning Camp Trail towards the Devil's Bathtub Trail as it leads past the front of the building towards a post that holds a sign reading "Manning Camp, Arizona". A short distance later you'll reach the Manning Campground which has a toilet and several camp sites with bear vaults. The path continues to descend to cross a stream, which it follows for a short distance before the stream bends off to the right. The path contours around the hill to the junction with the left branching Devil's Bathtub Trail (10.0 miles). Turn left on the Devil's Bathtub Trail towards Heartbreak Ridge and in 0.5 miles you'll reach a small sign on the right for the Devil's Bathtub. The bathtub consists of a spring, trickling waterfall and plunge pool. The trail continues past the tub at a fairly level grade for another 0.7 miles to a 4-way junction (10.7 miles) with the right branching Heartbreak Ridge Trail. The East Slope Trail heads straight. Turn left at this junction and follow the path (not sure of the trail name) up the hill towards the Fire Loop Trail. The path climbs up to a ridge and continues up to a junction with the right branching Switchback Trail (11.1 miles). Continue straight towards the Fire Loop Trail which you'll reach, after a steep climb, 0.7 miles later (11.8 miles). Turn right onto the Fire Loop Trail and walk past the rock formation of Man Head to the junction with the left branching Mica Meadow Trail (12.3 miles). Mica Meadow is easy flat walking and a peaceful area of fields, pines and rocks and makes for a nice lunch spot. Stay straight at the junction with the Mica Meadow Trail and straight again where the Bonita Trail branches left. Soon you'll reach Reef Rock which lies just off the trail to the right. The escarpment offers some nice views east of forests and hills and south of Rincon Peak. The trail continues to wind its way north on the side of the hill, eventually passing another reef-type rock, after which point the trail climbs up to a field with several old boxes containing 5-gallon water bottles (for fire fighters I assume), then reaches the junction with the right branching North Slope Trail which you had walked up earlier that day  (13.9 miles). Turn right, and follow the North Slope Trail 0.6 miles down to Italian Spring (14.5 miles). Turn right on the Italian Spring Trail and retrace your steps back to your vehicle (21.0 miles).

Rating (1-5 stars):
The author completed this hike solo, at fast pace, in 8.5 hours. 
Maps: National Geographic Trails Illustrated - Saguaro National Park
Books: None used
Photos: Click picture for larger view, click your browser's 'Back' button to return to this page.
The start of the hike. Rocky area ascending the mountain.
Burned trees. Marker on top of Spud Rock.
The Devil's Bathtub. View of Rincon Peak from
Reef Rock.