★★★★☆ Moderate to Difficult / Tucson Area:
Crisp, clear pools and waterfalls are splash perfect, on Romero Hiking Trail. Beneath the sky-high peaks of the Santa Catalina Mountains, a stalwart stream has carved an splash-worthy playground into the surrounding granite. So kick-off your shoes. Take a dip. And chill for awhile.
TRAILHEAD: 11570 North Oracle Road, Tucson • DIFFICULTY: mostly MODERATE, steep in spots • DISTANCE: 2.8 MILES (5.6 MILES RT) • APPROX. TIME: 3-4 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 900 FEET (64 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 952-1065 • BEST TIME OF YEAR: OCT. – APRIL • PETS: no • KID FRIENDLY: Not so much • FACILITIES: YES • FEES: $7 Day use (or Arizona State Parks Annual Pass)
Right from the start, the Romero Hiking Trail hints at the refreshing oasis of pools and cascades that await, less than 3-miles in. Glimpses of a tenacious mountain stream, persistently carving its way through the canyon, appear and disappear along the length of this rugged trail.
Kicking off from the trailhead, the Romero Hiking Trail crosses Sutherland wash – a wide sandy expanse, with convenient stepping stones, that flows seasonally. Beyond the wash, the pathway remains wide, flat and easy for the next mile, as it heads into the canyon.
Just past a spur trail to Montrose Pools (a scenic, sometimes flowing, stream bed) the Romero Hiking Trail begins to climb in earnest. Here the path becomes rocky and rugged, enveloped in incredible canyon views.
As the trail zig-zags up craggy Romero Canyon, between larger-than-life boulder-scapes, a 180° turn reveals increasingly radical views of Marana, stretching all the way to the horizon.
From the highest point on the Romero Hiking Trail, sounds of the stream raging below precede incredible views over 50′ waterfalls and rapids. The trail heads down one boulder strewn slope and up another before beginning its final descent to Romero Pools.
Making the final descent, a cascade of small waterfalls and shallow pools begin to spread out below the trail, while the high peaks of the Santa Catalinas peer down from above.
Numerous small falls and distinctly gold toned pools splash down the canyon, every one of them worth exploring. The golden hue comes from the roots of the Mexican Oak trees which leak color into the stream. The Romero Hiking Trail continues another 4.4 miles, beyond the pools, to Romero Pass (miles not included above) for those who want to hike further.
Romero Canyon is in the heart of the Pusch Wilderness, where Bighorn Sheep have been reintroduced and are protected. Keep your eyes peeled, as they sometimes show up alongside the trail.
Click here to download a trail map.
Directions: From the 1-10 (north of Tucson) take exit 240 east onto Tangerine Road. Continue east on Tangerine Road for 13.91 miles, then turn right / south onto Oracle Road. Drive 0.71 miles on Oracle Road to the entrance to Catalina State Park. The trailhead is located at the end of Catalina State Park road, 0.87 miles further along.
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