dog-friendly HIKE - Bug Springs Trail (Santa Catalina Mtns. - TUCSON)

Bug Springs is a newly constructed trail that apparently was just finished this March. It somewhat overlays an old route from the Prison Camp at Hirabiyashi Campground up to the Middle Bear Campground and picnic area. This new trail offers a nice dichotomy of midlevel basin type scenery typical of the Molino Basin area with pristine, unburned low pine forest typical of the lower Green Mountain trail.

The Hike: This hike can be done as an out-n-back about 3-5 miles round trip with about 600- 1000 ft. elevation gain OR as a shuttle hike of 4.6 miles with about 1300 ft. elevation loss. It will be up to each hiker to choose.

If it is to be out-n-back, the following description describes the route all the way to the Middle Bear campground. Probably nobody will do this route all the way out-n-back up to that campground (1300 ft. elevation gain . .. 9 miles).  Of course the shuttle hike would be done in reverse.

The Bug Springs trail leaves it's small parking area and almost immediately starts switch backing up the ridge just towering above the lot, at first heading east then sharply turning west and north to attain the ridge.

At first you have views up the canyon housing the old Bug Spring. You can see an old empty lot with the foundation of some old building. A small trail runs up the canyon floor from here, likely heading to the spring.

As the trail climbs away from this canyon you gain the ridge separating it from the next canyon north. The trail follows this ridgeline northeast for a while, passing through areas of recovering burn. There are nice views up the highway and you can see Cathedral Rock way in the distance.

As the trail runs the ridgeline, it starts to head over to the canyon on your left and eventually crosses over it at about 1.35 miles from the trailhead.

It then climbs up the north wall of that canyon to gain the next ridgeline separating this canyon from the next one north again. Again, you run the ridgeline northeast. There are periodic views of Airmen Peak to your right. Many nice rock formations and progressive greenery. There are huge views out over the Rincons as well, especially Rincon Peak looming in the distance.

As you run the ridgeline you can see you are heading towards a forest, beautifully untouched from any recent flames. The views down either side of the ridgeline get nicer. There are nice mossy rock formations here and there that are quite reminiscent of Green Mountain. The trail is running right towards a prominent spire. At 2.5 miles you hit the base of the spire and the trail turns sharply left and begins to descend.

This is really part 2 of the hike. As soon as you descend down towards the canyon floor, you enter a 5800 hundred foot plus forested paradise. The trail just meanders along the stream course of this nameless canyon, periodically crossing over it. There is ubiquitous shade, pines, oak, juniper....this section is heaven. The trail blissfully runs through here for almost a mile before cutting north out of the floor to climb up a side drainage to access a ridge separating this canyon from its famous neighbor north, Bear Canyon.

As you climb up to the saddle separating the two, you hit the highpoint of the hike, 6279 feet, at about 4.1 miles from the trailhead. From here it is a sharp slippery descent down a windy ridge towards the upper trailhead along the Catalina Highway. There are excellent views up towards Green Mountain and you can just catch a glimpse of Guthrie Mountain on the way down too.

The trail ends at the highway, right in the vicinity of Middle Bear campground and picnic area, about a quarter mile up the road is the General Hitchcock campground.

Our hikes are generally at a pace conducive to social banter of interest to heathens, and allowing for time for photography of the local geology and wildlife. However, since this is an out-n-back trail route, hikers may choose their own pace and distance.  We will all turn around and return at a predetermined, agreed upon time or, using walkie talkies, at whatever time we otherwise unanimously agree upon while on the trail. Expect this hike to last 3-4 hours

Here is information from the internet regarding this hike:


Distance:  4.5 miles one way shuttleto Bear Canyon campgrounds or out-n-back

Time:  3-4 hours

Difficulty:  moderate or more difficult if you choose

Trail:  new

Trailhead  Elevation:  5015 ft.

Elevation  gain:  1300 ft. to Bear Canyon campgrounds. . . less if out-n-back

Parking:  pullout

Entry fees:  $6?

Dogs:  OK on leash


Always carry and drink plenty of water! 

Sunscreen and insect repellent is advised.

Supportive footwear is also advisable.

SAFETY FIRST… we have no medical provisions.

Hike at your own risk.

Directions to Trailhead: From Speedway (exit 257 off I-10) head east on Speedway Blvd for 7.4 miles. Turn left at N Wilmot Rd and follow for a half mile. Wilmot turns into Tanque Verde Red. Continue on E Tanque Verde Rd for 3.8 miles. Turn left at Catalina Hwy and follow for 12.2 miles to the Bug Springs Trailhead.  

Right around milepost 8 is a turn off for the Gordon Hirabiyashi Campground. About 1/4 mile past this is the signed trailhead for Bug Springs trail on the right. There is a small pullout with a few parking spots.

Google says the trailhead is
From Phoenix (I-10 & AZ-51) 133 mi - about 2 hours 31 min
From Tucson(I-10 at Speedway)…. 24 mi - about 50 mins

Our shuttle location at the Middle Bear Campground parking area is 3.8 miles up the road from the Bug Spring trailhead (7min.).


Carpooling can save gas money but also enhance the social experience. If you’d like to carpool, you must contact others for arrangements.  You could email members or post comments on this announcement page.

Following the hike: We will reconvene for rehydration and food locally.

This is the 3rd of what may be from 1-5 hikes over 1-4 days depending on each individual hiker’s preferences. Hikers participating in several hikes are encouraged to use overnight lodging in Tucson to avoid long tiring drives from Phoenix.

These hikes are all dog-friendly… and we will be sleeping in dog-friendly locations. Some will be in motels and others in campgrounds.

Two hotels which accommodate doggies are

Best Western Royal Sun

and La Quinta (some including Tammy , Casey ,and Al  are staying here Fri, Sat & Sun nights)

I encourage those of you interested, to share what opportunities you uncover for camping together with the dogs. 

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  • Al T.

    We're at the Congress hotel for breakfast til 815ish

    March 23, 2014

  • Ja K.

    If anyone wants to carpool for any of these hikes (just a day trip), please let me know.

    1 · March 20, 2014

    • Jim

      Greetings Ja Koe, Prescott Jim is driving through Phoenix (early afternoon) tomorrow, heading to Tucson. I already have sleeping aranments, but I can offer you transportation. returning back through Phoenix Sunday after that day's hike .

      March 20, 2014

    • Ja K.

      Thanks! I'll wait and see if anyone is is going down on Sunday.

      March 20, 2014

  • Dr L.

    Not sure about hiking this season. I'm having too many problems with the middle ear causing balance issues. I miss you all!

    March 17, 2014

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