Tanque Verde Ridge to Juniper Basin Campground, Saguaro East - Rincon Mountain District: Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Tanque Verde Ridge to Juniper Basin Campground - 13.6 miles

Saguaro East - Rincon Mountain District: Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead

Sunrise on the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail to Juniper Basin

Sunrise on the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail to Juniper Basin

Round-Trip Length: 13.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 3,120' - 5,962'
Elevation Change: 2,842' net elevation gain (+3,514' total roundtrip gain)
Skill Level: Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Tanque Verde Ridge to Juniper Basin Campground - 13.6 Miles Round-Trip

The Juniper Basin Campground is located 6.8 miles from the Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead in Saguaro National Park. This remote campground is situated in a thick pine-oak forest deep in the Rincon Mountains.

Juniper Basin is one of only six backcountry campsites in the Saguaro Wilderness, and a popular destination for strong and prepared day hikers.

The Tanque Verde Ridge Trail touches 4 distinct biotic communities on the variously steep, rugged climb into the backcountry. Visitors will enjoy terrific views, varied landscapes and good wildlife viewing throughout:

The trail begins on a level grade through a rich collection of saguaro, barrel cactus, prickly pear, ocotillo and various cholla. It passes the official trail registry and climbs steadily for the next 1.25 miles. The trail levels briefly after gaining 700' in just 1.4 miles, but soon resumes an aggressive pace up the ridge.

The landscape changes noticeably beyond 2 miles and 4,000', where dense saguaro stands are gradually replaced by grasses, sotol, creosote, agave, mesquite, shrub oak, cottonwood and juniper.

The trail drops and rises steeply along consecutive saddles beginning at 2.5 miles. This rugged section is highlighted by views of the Santa Catalina Mountains (north), Santa Rita Mountains (south), and west across the Tucson Valley.

Trees are more varied and abundant through 3 miles and 5,000', with omnipresent prickly pear and manzanita filling out the hillsides.

The trail scales another steep saddle around 4 miles and moderates through what is now the Pine-Oak Woodland community. Look for deer, bear, bobcat and mountain lion at these higher elevations.

Travel moderates through dense juniper, pine and oak up to the Juniper Basin Campground (6.8 miles : 5,962'). The campground is located in thick timber supported by nearby springs.

Tanque Verde Peak, the highest point on Tanque Verde Ridge, is located 2.1 miles and 1,087' beyond the Juniper Basin Campground.

The return hike is not without its challenges, as the trail climbs several steep saddles, and your knees will endure significant pounding over many downhill miles.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N32 09.930 W110 43.420 — Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The trail passes through 4 biotic communities: Desert Scrub, Desert Grassland, Oak Woodland and Pine-Oak Woodland. Look for jackrabbit, coyote, quail and javelina at lower elevations, and signs of deer, bear, bobcat and mountain lion at higher elevations.

  • Off-trail travel is not permitted below 4,500'. Be mindful of delicate vegetation and varied terrain; missteps and stumbles can be harmful to both plant and human. Rattlesnakes and scorpions inhabit this area. Remain on designated trails at all times, and never place your hands or feet where you can't see them.

  • Bottled water is longer for sale in Saguaro National Park. Water bottle filling stations have been installed at both visitor centers and the Rincon District bike ramada for visitors to refill reusable water bottles.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • A permit is required for all overnight backcountry stays in Saguaro National Park. There is a $6 fee per campsite per night.

  • The maximum number of people allowed per campsite is 6. The maximum size of any one group is 18.

  • There are no guaranteed water sources in the area. Backpackers should plan to carry all of their own.

  • All water sources in the Saguaro Wilderness are intermittent streams or springs. In dry seasons, water is often unavailable. Do not rely on finding water at campsites. If you're exiting on the same trail you entered, consider caching water along the trail. This will ensure a source of water on your way out. Label water caches with your name and date.

  • Campfires are permitted at Juniper Basin within designated areas, but rules are subject to change based on current conditions. Consult a Ranger Station prior to heading out.

  • There's a privy at the Juniper Basin Campground.

  • A small population of bears inhabit this area. Bear boxes are provided to secure food.

Directions to Trailhead

From the Park Headquarters and Visitor Center on Old Spanish Road, bear right on Cactus Forest Drive and follow it to the Tanque Verde Ridge Trailhead.

Contact Information

Saguaro National Park Headquarters and Rincon Mountain District
3693 South Old Spanish Trail
Tucson, AZ 85730-5601

Saguaro National Park - Tucson Mountain District
27 North Kinney Road
Tucson, AZ 85743

Trip Reports

There are no trip reports on this trail.


"Great trail, but due to the need to carry in water, very arduous even for experienced backcountry backpackers like us. After we finally made it into Juniper Basin, we debated about continuing on to Grass Shack for second night on trail as planned. That would mean a 14 mile hike out. Amazing views and great experience, but be prepared to feel as if the miles stretch forever. "
MarioSmario  -  Midwest  -  Date Posted: April 8, 2016
"NO DOGS. Dogs are strictly prohibited on trail. There are three signs at the trailhead that state this prohibition. Rangers will issue tickets for violations."
U.S. Park Ranger Steven Bolyard  -  Saguaro National Park Ranger Office  -  Date Posted: March 4, 2012


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