Ventana Canyon

Page Type
Route Type:
Hiking, Scrambling
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter
Time Required:
Most of a day
Rock Difficulty:
Class 3

Route Quality: 1 Votes

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Ventana Canyon
Created On: Aug 13, 2013
Last Edited On: Aug 13, 2013


The Window
The beautiful Window, which gives Window Peak its name, bathed in sunlight

This route is a great sampler of all the Santa Catalina’s have to offer: It starts low in the Sonoran Desert among giant Saguaro, rises through waterfalls and desert pools, eventually reaching cool high-country evergreen forest. The route is topped off by a pleasant off-trail scramble to a wide-open summit.
The majority of the visitors to this canyon stop at Maiden Pools, approximately 2.5 miles up-trail, rendering the majority of this route an experience in high-desert solitude. Moderately long and serving up respectable elevation gain, the route to the summit of Window Peak offers plenty of time to be alone and get the lead out. Most of the route is Class 1 trail hiking, with a short stretch of Class 2 off-trail topped by a pleasant Class 3 summit scramble.

Roundtrip Distance: 14.5 miles (per my GPS)
Elevation Gain: 4,500 feet
YDS Class: 3

Toward the Window
Looking toward the Window

Looking down Ventana Canyon
Looking down Ventana Canyon

Getting There

Cool water low in canyon
A cool oasis low in Ventana Canyon

Small waterfall
A small waterfall low in Ventana Canyon
Entering the canyon
Entering Ventana Canyon, a very special place

The trailhead is attached to the parking area for the Lowes Ventana Canyon Resort off of North Kolb Road. The trailhead is roughly 20 minutes from downtown Tucson, 35 minutes from the Tucson airport and 2 hours from Phoenix. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, simply plug the following address into your vehicle or phone GPS:

700 N Resort Drive
Tucston, AZ 85750

Head to the far left side of the lot to find trailhead parking (beyond the employee parking area).

Route Description

Near the main saddle
Near the main saddle

•From the trailhead walk along-side the fence of an apartment complex. (Trust me, the route gets much more scenic soon!)
•The trail turns north to enter the canyon, leaving behind the annoyances of suburbia. For the first mile or so you are on an easement that passes through private property.
•Early on, you’ll make the first of many river crossings. Enjoy the bajada mix of vegetation that makes the Sonoran desert so wonderful: saguaro, yucca, prickly pear, cholla, mesquite, and palo verde.
•After about 1.5 mi the trail leaves the canyon bottom and switch backs up an exposed hill side that can be brutally hot in the summer. The next landmark is Maiden Pools, (2.4 mi from the trailhead) a series of pools carved into the rock that makes for a nice rest spot and a good swim.
•Continue on the next 2.8 mi steeply up the canyon to the junction of the Ventana canyon and the Finger Rock and Esperero canyon Trails. Head right on the Esperero Trail (#25) and top out on a saddle separating Ventana Canyon with its counterpart draining north. Here there are great views in all directions: Mt. Lemmon to the north, Mt. Kimball to the west, Cathedral Rock to the east, and Tucson to the south.
•Continue about 1 mi to the window - it appears on your right and is easy to miss if you’re not paying attention. Head through and take a break, enjoy the unique view of Tucson. There is large cliff both above and below you at this point.
•Window Peak lies about 15 minutes farther up the trail. You will cross 2 saddles, one west of Window Peak and one south of the peak. Leave the trail at the second saddle (marked by a cairn on each side of the trail) and head north-west to the highpoint visible between and behind 2 rock pillars. Climb a short YDS Class 3 chimney (this section can be a bit spicy in snow or ice conditions). The summit lies just to the north. At the time of my visit, no cairn or summit register were present; apparently, these have been removed by the local “anti-summit marker zealot.”

Cathedral Rock from saddle
Lovely and challenging Cathedral Rock from the saddle

Window Rock from the saddle
Bold and beautiful Window Rock from the saddle

Tucson from the Saddle
Looking down on Tucson from the saddle

Essential Gear

Scramble to summit (a)
The scramble would be very easy in dry conditions; a little more fun in ice/snow

Scramble to summit (b)
Brushy scramble to the summit of Window Peak

Scramble to summit (c)
Snowy scramble to the summit of Window Peak

• Standard hiking equipment suitable to the season
• Sunscreen and sun protective clothing
• Plenty of water (the washes here do not run except after very, very heavy rains).
• Long sleeves, long pants and sturdy hiking shoes will protect your body from blood-thirsty plant life during the brief off-trail segment.
• Map: Green Trails Santa Catalina Mountains, AZ – NO 2886S


Summit Views (e)

Summit Views (d)

Summit Views (c)

Summit Views (b)

Summit Views (a)

External Links

Window Rock Arch
Sunshine on Window Rock Arch

Summit Cliffs
Steep cliffs guard the summit of Window Peak

Please notify me if you have a link to a trip report or other supplemental information about this route!

Ventana Canyon

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