|The Rincon Mountains form a gigantic wall rising over 6,300 vertical feet east of Tucson. The pointed summit of Rincon Peak is more visually prominent, while the range highpoint, Mica Mountain, lies about a dozen miles north of Rincon Peak and is more rounded. Both peaks lie within Saguaro National Park, with Mica Mountain being the park's highest point.|
The Rincons are the only significant mountain range in Arizona never to have been bladed for roads, leaving the upper mountains in as pristine a condition as would be possible in this day and age. While there are no roads, the Rincons are crossed my miles of excellent trails, and are popular with multi-day backpackers. Dayhikes in the Rincons are usually limited to the lower elevations due to distance, but hardy hikers can easily manage the longer distances needed to attain Mica Mountain in one long day. The upper Rincons feature healthy, mature forest, canyons, streams and rock formations, things not "obvious" when viewing the range from below.
There are three "standard" routes to Mica Mountain, ranging from 16 to 26 miles round trip. The most popular comes in from the west via Speedway Boulevard, but the round trip from this trailhead is 26 miles and is often done as an overnighter. It is popular because of its easy access directly from Tucson, and for the beautiful views had along the whole hike. The shortest of the three standard approaches comes in from Happy Valley from the southeast. A 4-wheel drive vehicle will be needed for the remaining couple miles to the trailhead, from which it is 8 miles to the summit (and 8 back, for 16 miles total).
Mica Mountain's summit is so broad that it's hard to "know" you are there when you get there. It once held a lookout tower, but all that remains are concrete footings, a couple signs and a lot of trees. The views are limited, but nearby points, such as Spud Rock, or Man Head Rock, offer amazing views down over the valleys and deserts. Most people would agree that the summit is nothing much, but the trip there is well worth it.
The mountain can be hiked nearly all year. In summer, it can be warm even at the higher elevations and the thunderstorms that build from July-early September can be ferocious. Bear in mind it would not be easy to "get down off a ridge" once high on Mica Mountain, and that Tucson has a well-earned reputation for violent summer thunderstorms. In winter, snow will cover the trails. Late Fall and Spring are ideal. I suggest to go in April, when there is still some snowpack up high, but it has melted enough to see the trails. The streams will be running, offering water, while the days are usually pleasant and dry. There will be some muddy parts, but not too bad if you time it right.
|There are three popular ways to approach Mica Mountain: |
(1) From Tucson via Speedway Boulevard. Take the Douglas Springs Trail and plan for a very long day or an overnighter;
(2) From the north via Forest Roads 4417 and 4424. This is off of Redington Road and this road can be rough. You descend off a spur and catch the trail from here to the top. This segment is part of the Arizona Trail. I have not explored this route and am told the road is usually in bad shape. This round trip can be about 20 miles if you have to park early. From here, take Trail 95 to the top;
(3) From the southeast. Exit Interstate-10 at Mescal Road (about 35 miles east of Tucson) and Forest Roads 35 and 4408. That last spur to the trailhead is a bit rough and needs 4-wheel drive mainly for one very steep section with inconvenient ruts. Once at the trailhead, take the Turkey Creek Trail. This route is excellent and passes Man Head along the way.