Ironwood Forest Loop, Saguaro West - Tucson Mountain District: Ringtail Trailhead, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Ironwood Forest Loop - 3.6 miles

Saguaro West - Tucson Mountain District: Ringtail Trailhead

The Ironwood Forest Loop

The Ironwood Forest Loop

Round-Trip Length: 3.6 miles
Start-End Elevation: 2,389' - 2,389' (2,564' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +175' net elevation gain (+237' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Easy
Dogs Allowed: No
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: Yes
Related Trails:

Ironwood Forest Loop - 3.6 Miles Round-Trip

The Ringtail Trailhead is located in the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park. It accesses a well-marked trail network through diversely vegetated washes, bajadas and foothills.

One compelling route follows the Ironwood Forest, Picture Rocks Wash and Ringtail trails on a 3.6 mile loop through a rich Desert Scrub community.

Hikers will enjoy mild grades, diverse flora and several options to extend travel on the loop. The following description travels counter-clockwise:

The Ironwood Forest Trail trail begins in a sandy wash past the Cam-Boh Trail junction (.1 mile) to a split where you'll bear left to remain on track (.35 miles).

The sign is partially concealed, but a cairn lies in the wash just before the sign to mark it. The trail bends south past the Mule Deer Trail (.4 miles : 2,418') and narrows on a mild climb above the wash.

Saguaros in all growth phases are joined by palo verde, mesquite, creosote, various cholla species and omnipresent prickly pear. Look for javalina and deer activity in this area.

The trail can lose clarity beyond the first mile, especially after heavy rain. Horse prints and droppings - common along this trail network - offer reliable guidance.

Views of Amole Peak and Wasson Peak emerge as you reach the trail's highest point (2,564') and drop to the Picture Rocks Wash Trail junction (1.8 miles : 2,517). Turn left in the wash to continue counter-clockwise.

The wash is wide and lined by thick vegetation. Travel slows through deep sand past the Coyote Pass Trail (2.15 miles : 2,480') to the Ringtail Trail (2.5 miles : 2,446'). Turn left out of the wash onto the Ringtail Trail.

The final mile rises above the wash and levels through a diversely vegetated flat back to the trailhead. Views north of Panther Peak, Safford Peak and Contzen Pass are well lit in the afternoon on this final stretch.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N32 19.655 W111 07.835 — Ringtail Trailhead

Worth Noting

  • The Ringtail Trailhead's network is similar to, though not as extensive as, the Rincon District's Cactus Forest trail network. Bring a detailed map to navigate the area and create your own route. Though well marked, sections of these trails can be indistinguishable, especially after periods of rain or overgrowth.

  • Rattlesnakes inhabit this area. Remain on designated trails, and never place your hands or feet where you can't see them.

  • Cam-Boh is the Tohono O'odham word for Camp.

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Backcountry camping is not permitted in the Tucson Mountain District of Saguaro National Park. Backcountry camping is permitted in the Rincon Mountain District (east of Tucson). Reservations and permits and can be obtained at the visitor center.

Directions to Trailhead

From Tucson take the Ina Road exit off I-10 and head west for a few miles on Ina Road. Turn left onto Wade Road which quickly becomes Picture Rocks Road and begins to head west through the Tucson Mountains. Shortly after the Saguaro National Park sign, you'll head downhill into a true hairpin curve and at this curve in the road there is a paved yet unmarked pull-out area to your right on the north side of the road. Park here and the trails begin just across the street on the south side of Picture Rocks Road. Because this trailhead is technically unmarked, pay close attention to the directions.

Contact Information

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

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