Ventana / Esperero Loop

Page Type
Arizona, United States, North America
Route Type:
Hike, some route finding
Time Required:
A long day
Long, hard walk

Route Quality: 2 Votes

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Ventana / Esperero Loop
Created On: Dec 30, 2004
Last Edited On: Feb 13, 2006

Route Description

From Window Peak you have various options for a descent route. Most common (and the most reliable route) is to return down Ventana canyon. However, an alternative is to head down Esperero canyon, the rugged canyon just east of Ventana. Be aware that the trail down from Window Peak can be hard to follow and route finding will be necessary. This is not a straight forward descent.

See ‘Approach’ section for information on the hike up Ventana canyon to Window Peak.

From Window Peak head back down to the second saddle and attempt to pick up the trail again. The trail will contour slightly north then drop down to the saddle separating Esperero canyon from Montrose canyon which drains north. This saddle is easily visible just below you to the east. The trail here may be very hard to follow and you have to decide whether its worth it to even try. I stayed with it but many times had to back track to the last known point, and it was quite frustrating and frankly a little stressful. In the winter, expect partial snow cover to obscure the trail even more. It is 2 mi to the junction with the Cathedral Rock Trail and none of this is easy, the trail is largely non-existent and almost entirely overgrown.. After descending to the saddle, the trail contours along the east wall of upper Esperero canyon. A signed marker indicates the junction of the Cathedral Rock and Esperero trails.

After this junction it is ~1 mi to Bridal Veil falls, a trickle of a water fall high in Esperero canyon. There is a nice camping spot here, and water flows almost all year round.

The trail steadily becomes easier to follow as it heads down Esperero canyon, winding gently through a broader canyon bottom. 1.4 mi from Bridal Veil falls the trail makes its last stream crossing and climbs up the east wall leaving Esperero canyon. Unfortunately, the route does not follow the canyon all the way down to its mouth since there is a private gated community there. Somebody should work to restore hiker access to this spectacular canyon entrance.

The next 4.1 mi takes you from Esperero across Rattlesnake and Bird canyons east to Sabino canyon. In the summer this part of the trail can be really hot and probably dissuades visitors from venturing to Esperero canyon. In the winter however, it is a real joy. Great views, and remarkable landscape variations make this final part of the Esperero descent pleasurable. I walked out at sunset and the mountains around me were lit bright pink while the moon rose over the Sabino canyon wall to the east. You emerge at the Sabino canyon visitor center.

If you choose this return variation you will need a ride to your car back at the Ventana trailhead. Be aware of the route finding difficulties you will encounter and bring a good map. The total distance of the loop is 15.5 mi, it will take about 8-9 hrs.

Essential Gear

Water, map, food.

Miscellaneous Info

If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.