Ventana Canyon is arguably the most beautiful of the canyons adorning the ‘front range’ of the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The name Ventana (meaning ‘window’ in Spanish) refers to the unique rock formation located at the top of the drainage. Here a large natural arch opens in the middle of a cliff with views of Tucson. The namesake window is easily approached from its back side, but requires a formidable 6.5 - 7 mile | 4450 feet vertical approach from the canyon entrance.
Slightly beyond the window lies Window Peak, within the top 500 highest peaks in Arizona. At 7,456 feet it is the second highest point on the front range, though still significantly lower than the 9,157’ summit of Mt. Lemmon, the broad highpoint of the range that lies farther north. Window Peak is a dramatic collection of rock spires that tops out the divide between the Ventana and Esperero drainages and requires a short bit of class 3 chimney climbing to reach its summit. The route to the actual summit is not marked but a slight diversion from the trail will take you there. A summit register once awaited the visitor with a sign reading ‘good job you crazy bastard.’ The register has since been removed, a common practice recently in Southern Arizona.
The hike to the summit of Window Peak is challenging, and the finish scramble can be a bit interesting in icy conditions, yet the walk through breathtaking canyon scenery makes this one of the most rewarding hikes in the Tucson area. Close to town, this summit can easily be attained in a solid day of hiking.
Rank: 498th highest peak in Arizona Prominence: 768 feet USGS Quad: Mount Lemmon Planning Map: Green Trails Maps 2886S | Santa Catalina Mountains YDS Rating: Class 3
A coiled diamondback rattlesnake near the mouth of Ventana Canyon | Falsberg
Sunset on the walls of Sabino Canyon
In March 2013, I adopted this page from SP Member Felsberg. He built the solid foundation for the page that you see here, and I am thankful to him for trusting me with the page for this beautiful mountain! -Sarah | 26 Mar 2013
Getting There & Route Overview
Sunset and moonrise on Esperero Canyon
Window Peak is very close to the southern Arizona city of Tucson and can be easily accessed via suburban trailheads (paved access).
There are two primary routes to the summit of Window Peak:
Ventana / Esperero Loop: (See Falsberg's detailed SummitPost page for this route.) The total distance of the loop is 15.5 mi, and allocate approximately 8-9 hrs. The loop requires a car shuttle, and can be started either at the Ventana Canyon Trailhead or the Sabino Canyon Visitors Center.
Ventana Canyon Up and Back: (I will post a detailed route page for this option shortly!) The roundtrip distance is at least 14 miles and requires 4,500 feet of vertical gain.
Here are the two primary trailheads used to access Window Peak:
From Tucson head north up Craycroft past Sunrise Dr. following it around as it turns east into Kolb Rd. Take a left into the Ventana Canyon Resort (a road sign indicates the Ventana Canyon trailhead). Take a quick left before reaching the resort proper at a sign marked ‘employee parking’ and proceed to the end of this parking lot. The trailhead is well marked but has no bathrooms or water.
Plug this address into your vehicle GPS for easy navigation: 700 N ResortDrive, Tucston, AZ 85750
From the intersection of Kolb Road and Tanque Verde Road, turn right on Tanque Verde and travel less than a mile to the intersection with Sabino Canyon Road. Turn left onto Sabino Canyon Road and travel north 4.5 miles. The park entrance will be on your right, just after the intersection with Sunrise.
The Sabino Canyon parking lot can fill up on nice weekends, so get there early or park on the side of the road near the entrance.
Crested or "fan-topped" Saguaro
•This summit and the primary route to it reside within National Forest Land that is open for recreational use.
•Dogs are not allowed on much of this trail system.
•Permits are NOT required for day hiking.
•Parking is free at the Ventana Canyon Trailhead. However, there is a $5 per vehicle fee to park in the Sabino Canyon lot.
•To protect the dwindling population of Desert Bighorn Sheep, this area is subject to seasonal closure. During the period from January 1 through April 30, hiking and camping off trail is prohibited,
as is hiking on use trails, or those not maintained by the Forest Service.
•This mountain resides within the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.
Call the Santa Catalina Ranger District at 520-749-8700 for the latest conditions.
Maiden Pools in Ventana Canyon | Falsberg
From the Santa Catalina Ranger District website: “The steep, rocky terrain of the Coronado National Forest provides a limited number of flat areas suited to camping. As a result, many of the campsites are used repeatedly and show the signs of human activity. However, campers are encouraged to use these existing sites (instead of creating new campsites) when possible to limit the expansion of newly impacted sites. When camping in a remote area with no existing sites, select an area with a sandy surface, or one covered with thick leaf or needle cover and without vegetation. Always avoid camping near water, in meadows or near cliffs and rockslides since these areas are important to wildlife.” There are a few existing camp spots in Ventana Canyon and above at the saddle below Window Peak.
National Forest Campgrounds
There are no campgrounds immediately near the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area nor near the Ventana Canyon Trailhead. The Santa Catalina Ranger District operates several campgrounds along the Santa Catalina Highway en route to Mount Lemmon. These are (in distance up the highway from the valley):
• Molino Campground
• General Hitchcock Campground
• Rose Canyon Lake
If you're the type who likes to kick back after a hike in luxury, check out the Ventana Canyon Resort. You could walk from your suite directly to the Ventana Canyon Trailhead, which ajoins the parking lot for resort staff.