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Guindani Ridge
Kartchner Caverns State Park, Arizona
March 2, 2024
Distance: 8.6 km (5.3 mi)
Cumulative Elevation Gain: 334 m (1096 ft)

For something different, Dinah and I drove an hour south from Tucson to Kartchner Caverns State Park. We weren't there to visit the caverns but to hike Guindani Loop Trail. Specifically, I wanted to climb the unnamed ridge that the trail circles. I called it Guindani Ridge.

We also chose this area to escape the hot weather expected in Tucson that day. The trailhead was higher than any peak we had climbed around the city, and the higher elevation guaranteed cooler temperatures. Also, the higher elevation meant a change in scenery. While cacti dominate the slopes around Tucson, here, trees and grass prevail.

We started down the trail through a forest of bare trees. After walking 600 m, we reached a fork, the beginning of the loop, and turned left. The trail soon began climbing a grassy slope. Behind us, far-reaching views revealed mountains in Mexico.

After going through a cattle gate, we saw the pass, the highest point on Guindani Loop. It was also where we would leave the trail and climb Guindani Ridge. We followed the trail to the pass.

On the pass, we started up the ridge, going around trees and the odd cactus, and hiking over rocks. But Dinah didn't like the off-trail hike, so she turned around. She would continue down the loop. I pushed on to the summit and soon reached it. The ridgetop provides better views than anything found along Guindani Loop. I viewed nearby Cottonwood Peak and The Cap, peaks in the Whetstone Mountains. I took several photos before turning around.

I followed most of the ridge back before veering off our ascent route hoping to find a shortcut. It wasn't shorter, but I found a trail leading back to Guindani Loop where it passes through another gate.

Back on the loop, I followed it as it dropped down to a valley before turning and entering Guindani Canyon. The trail was rougher here and crossed a shallow stream a few times. I continued to the fork and caught up to Dinah just before the parking lot. We enjoyed the landscape here, not to mention the cooler temperatures. It's an area worth exploring further.

KML and GPX Tracks

Starting down the trail with Guindani Ridge in front of us

Vermillion flycatcher

Cholla with fruit

We turned left at the fork, the beginning of the loop

We passed agaves on the trail

The trail switchbacks up the slope ahead

Looking back

Looking south from a viewpoint: left of Dinah, 75 km away, is Cerro San José in Mexico. On her right, 50 km away, is Miller Peak in Arizona (mouse over for a close-up).

The sharp peak in the centre is The Cap

At a cattle gate, the pass came into view

Dinah passes a tall agave

Behind me are emory oaks (mouse over to see the leaves)

On the pass looking for the best way up the ridge

Looking back after starting up the ridge

Cottonwood Peak appears above Dinah

The summit is on the left

The summit is straight ahead. Fortunately I didn't have to climb over the barbwire fence.

I spotted this Arizona rainbow cactus near the summit

Standing on the summit

I'll retrace my steps most of the way along the ridge to the trail

Back on the trail which drops down to the valley below

The trail leads to Guindani Canyon

At the junction of Cottonwood Saddle and Guindani Loop. Notice the signpost in the middle.

A rough trail follows the canyon

The trail crossed a stream a few times

Looking back up the canyon

The trail nears the end of the canyon

Back on the flats, the white roof of the visitor centre appears straight ahead

Apache Peak and McGrew Spring (5.3 mi, 5787 ft, 1079 ft)

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