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Tanque Verde Ridge
Saguaro National Park, Arizona
February 24, 2024

Distance: 9.9 km (6.2 mi)
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 486 m (1954 ft)

I became intrigued with Tanque Verde Ridge when I came across it on Alltrails. The round-trip 5 km hike was too short for us, nor were we prepared to hike 28 km for Tanque Verde Peak. So Dinah and I chose a compromise, hiking 10 km for a distinctive knoll seen on the map.

At first, the knoll was our main objective, but then I read a report about a cristate saguaro on Tanque Verde Ridge. The report included a photo, but I had to look up what a cristate saguaro was. It's possibly a rare mutation. It's estimated that 1 in 200,000 saguaro cacti grow a crest formation beginning at about 60 to 80 years old. However, the report failed to mention where the rare saguaro was on Tanque Ridge. Nonetheless, we intended to find it. Hopefully it would be before the knoll, and we would spot it among the hundreds of saguaros we expected to pass.

The hike begins in Saguaro National Park, so you'll need a park pass. The small parking lot affords few cars, but being a weekday, we found parking. We set off up the trail.

We followed the path as it first dropped down to cross a couple of streams before climbing to reach the southwest end of the ridge. About half an hour into the hike, we stopped a woman coming down and asked if she knew about the cristate saguaro. Fortunately, she did. She said it was about an hour up the trail. So after hiking for another 45 minutes, we started searching for the unusual saguaro.

As we climbed higher up the ridge, saguaros became scarcer, and I feared we had missed it. The high point we wanted to reach was now just minutes away, and we had no stomach to go higher up the ridge searching for what seemed to be a needle in a haystack. Just when we gave up all hope, we reached the saddle leading to the knoll when there ahead was the cristate saguaro!

After taking several photos of the unusual cactus, we turned to climb the knoll. This turned out to be a pleasant surprise. I was expecting a dull, dirt bump, but instead, it was an impressive rock knob. We climbed to the broad top. After relaxing and looking around, we returned to the saddle. We followed the trail back, satisfied we had both reached the knoll and found the cristate saguaro.

KML and GPX Tracks

Tanque Ridge seen from the trailhead

The trail crosses a depression before reaching the ridge

Barrel cactus with fruit

Starting up the ridge

Fairy duster

Looking back: Mount Fagan, Mount Wrightson, Mount Hopkins and Elephant Head (mouse over for a close-up)

Indigo bush

Fishhook cactus

The knoll appears ahead

Alltrails ends the hike here

Continuing up the ridge

Drawing closer to our objective

Going to the saddle. The knoll is on the right.

Dinah stands next to the cristate saguaro on the saddle

Close look at the crown

Rincon Peak seen from the saddle (mouse over for a close-up)

Heading to the knoll from the saddle

Dinah follows a trail

Standing on the top

View from the west end of the broad summit

Dinah walks back to the summit

Heading back down to the saddle

Driving back, I took a photo of Tanque Verde Ridge. Tanque Verde Peak is far left. The knoll we climbed is above the brown building.

Tanque Verde Peak (6.2 mi,4649 ft,1542 ft)

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