Ventana Canyon Hiking Trail to Window Rock
★★★★☆ Moderate / Tucson Area:
From the gargantuan stone “window” sitting atop Ventana Canyon, breathtaking views of this unspoiled valley, its treelined canyons and glistening ancient stream will make your heart soar. Following a gently cascading mountain stream, the Ventana Canyon Hiking Trail first ascends a craggy lower valley followed by a lushly treelined upper valley – before ultimately spilling out onto the windswept spires of the summit. Whether you choose to hike the full trail, or only part way (to the more frequented Maiden Pools or neck craning view of Window Rock) the untouched natural beauty of this region is stunning.
TRAILHEAD: intersection of n. kolb road and N. resort drive (parking behind the loews ventana canyon resort), tucson • DIFFICULTY: MODERATE TO slightly DIFFICULT in spots • DISTANCE: 6.4 MILES (13.8 MILES RT) • APPROX. TIME: 12.5-14.5 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 2,760 FEET (197 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 2,070-2,350 RT • BEST TIME OF YEAR: sept.–APR. • PETS: not allowed • KID FRIENDLY: Nope • FACILITIES: No • FEES: NONE
Parking for the Ventana Canyon Hiking Trail is clearly marked at the back of the Loews Resort. From the lot an easy, access-trail winds between private properties, for a half-mile, to the trailhead at the canyon base. Fences demarcate private areas and Ventana Stream babbles alongside the path. Once into the canyon, the trail widens and the landscape becomes dramatic: surrounded by steep, Saguro lined canyons offering glimpses of distant peaks. The trail criss-crosses the stream a few times, on plentiful stepping stones, and begins its slow ascent up the lower valley. A couple of steeper (but still moderate) ascents lead to the popular Maiden Pools, located about two and a-half miles into the hike. Although not crowded, this first portion of the trail gets the most use – much of it from the nearby resort.
Maiden Pools, in-and-of itself, makes this a worthwhile hike. Over the centuries Ventana Stream has exposed the canyon’s base granite, and then smoothed and carved it into a series of small pools which ultimately cascade over the crest. The tranquility of this spot (with its trickling water and wildflowers) is wonderful, making it a popular resting place. Take caution around the pools – as the silky smooth rock is slippery and difficult to hold onto.
Beyond Maiden Pools, the Ventana Canyon Hiking Trail enters the shaded and treelined portion of upper Ventana valley, taking on an almost Colorado-like feel: with deciduous trees, high grasses and lush vegetation. Birds, butterflies and lizards are plentiful. The stream continues its trail accompaniment, sometimes directly to the side and sometimes dropping off into shallow canyons, or small waterfalls, below. The shade and mountain breezes in this section (along the western slope of the valley) are refreshing. And, besides a couple of brief scrambles, the ascent keeps to a moderate incline.
At about four miles into the Ventana Canyon Hiking Trail, the shade trees diminish and the trail becomes more exposed. Large boulders and sporadic pines flank the path, while mica, glittering underfoot, creates disco-like sparkles. The “window” makes an appearance on the right, and huge windswept spires speckle the landscape. At 5.2 miles the Ventana Canyon Hiking Trail ends at the Espero Trail. A right turn takes you the final 1.2 miles to the hike’s pinnacle – Window Rock. Standing within this 25 foot wide natural wonder, at the center of a football field wide solid granite cliff, is a rush. The incredible views of the impeccable valley below and Tucson, looking miniature in the distance, are unforgettable.
At 25′ x 15′ Window Rock is one of the largest natural “windows” on earth. Big Horn Sheep are protected and often seen in this canyon.
Directions From I-10 outside of Tucson, take exit 248/Ina Road. Drive 7.1 on Ina Road to where it becomes Skyline Drive. Continue 1.9 miles on Skyline Drive to where it becomes East Sunrise Drive. Continue 3.2 miles on East Sunrise Drive to Craycroft Road. Turn left/north on Craycroft Road and drive 2.3 mile to where it becomes Kolb Road. The trailhead is located at the back of the Lowes Ventana Canyon Resort Parking lot, on the left side of Kolb Road. There are signs indicating which portion of the lot is for hikers.
- Arch, Dayhike, Santa Catalina Mountains, Southern Arizona, Stream, Tucson, Window
- March 28, 2015