Another Trail in Picacho State Park, an Exploration of Ironwood Forest National Monument, and a Hike in Tortolita Mountain Park
We camped at Picacho State Park for a few nights due to it’s central location, plus we wanted to hike the Sunset Vista Trail, which is the other major trail in the park. The Vista Trail at Picacho starts near the opposite side of the mountains from the other trailhead and leads around the west side of the base before it ascends to the saddle and connects with the Hunter Trail. This side is much more gently sloped than the eastern face and thus contains more cactus and desert plants who are able to thrive on the run off. We followed the trail for only a couple miles on the afternoon of our arrival, but it was really quite beautiful with all the cactus set against the backdrop of the jagged, rocky mountains and outcroppings.
Another outing took us into the nearby Ironwood Forest National Monument, a totally-undeveloped area of public land administered by the BLM. We followed a few dirt roads through the Sonoran desert landscape, choosing to stop randomly at a place with views of the beautiful Silver Bell Mountains. Without a trail or other landmarks we decided to mostly follow a shallow brushy wash towards the base of the mountains before reaching some interesting outcroppings to climb up. We hiked for a few hours, zig zagging around cactus and Ironwood trees before ultimately we decided to not climb up any further and go exploring somewhere else.
Our last hike while we were camped at Picacho was at the nearby Tortolita Mountain Park. We didn’t quite know what to expect and so were surprised by the extremely well-developed network of trails there; we were also surprised that the trailhead was located inside the gated property of the Ritz-Carlton. From the parking area we started walking the broad, sandy wash of the Wild Burro Trail, took a side trail that wound through typical Sonoran desert, and then rejoined the wash before beginning an easy climb up the Lower Javelina Trail. This latter section was the most interesting since with a couple hundred feet of elevation we were able to really appreciate the beauty of the canyon and the stately saguaros dotting the rocky slopes.