From rugged trails along canyon ridgelines, to high mountain peaks, to long walks through desert lowlands, to gentle nature walks, Marana is home to a wide variety of hikes for all skill levels and preferences. With so many excellent trails, it can be hard to choose where to start! Here are some of our favorites, ranked from easy to hard!
Sanctuary Cove is a quiet, secluded place in the shadows of Sombrero Peak and the Tucson Mountains, and is great to fully disconnect with reality and immerse yourself in the desert. Sanctuary Cove is home to two trails, a 0.9-mile loop trail, plus a variety of other paths and trails, with a total length of about 1 mile. Both of these trails are easy, short hikes with gentle elevation changes, that put more of a focus on relaxation over rigor. Along the main loop, you’ll find the spiraling Labyrinth, great views of the mountains and saguaros, and the All Creeds Chapel, a non-denominational chapel where you can meditate and relax.
During the spring, Sanctuary Cove is also a popular destination for wildflower viewing; and is also popular for birding and sunset photography.
Located in the alluvial fan in the foothills of the Tortolita Mountains, the Tortolita Preserve protects 2,400 acres of dense, native Sonoran desert vegetation. Every winter and summer, water pours off the Tortolita Mountains through the Tortolita alluvial fan. The loose desert sand means that the water never flows the same way twice, and what results is a wide stretch of space that is constantly evolving, always adapting to soak up every last drop of water.
The Preserve’s two trails offer you the opportunity to take a longer-but-less-strenuous hike over miles of mostly-flat, gently-sloping desert. Interpretive signs point you to unique features around the trail. The Tortolita Preserve contains a dense clustering of iconic saguaro cacti, including the intertwined “Cupid Saguaros”, and the multi-armed “Candelabra Saguaro”. You may also see some crested saguaros along the way! You can also see an abundance of wildflowers, plus many bird species that take advantage of the vegetation. You may see a hawk or eagle perched atop a saguaro looking for its breakfast.
The trailhead for the main 8.8-mile loop is accessible behind an unlocked cattle gate. You can drive from the end of the pavement to the trailhead. Visitors are encouraged to close the gate behind them. The full loop takes just over 3 hours to complete, but is relatively flat and mild. A shorter, 5.4 mile loop can be accessed by going counterclockwise on the main loop, and turning south after approximately 4 miles. Check it out on AllTrails: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/arizona/tortolita-preserve-loop
Alamo Springs & Wild Burro Loop Trail (Wild Burro Trail System)
For a true challenging, exhilarating, and rewarding hike, head up into the Tortolita Mountains to the Wild Burro Trail System! There are 9 different trails to choose from, each which provides a different experience.
A popular route for a challenging-yet-rewarding hike is the Alamo Springs & Wild Burro Loop. The 5.3-mile hike starts by climbing the side of the canyon over a series of switchbacks and natural stairs, and once you reach the top, you can enjoy excellent views in all directions of The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, the Dove Mountain area, and across the valley below all the way to the Tucson Mountains and beyond.
The trail then passes along a ridgeline, with relatively gentle elevation changes. From the ridgeline, you can get great views of the canyon. You also pass by two interpretive signs that tell the geologic history of the Tortolita Mountains, which also are a great place to stop and rest mid-hike. After that, the trail runs along the very edge of the canyon, and then drops below to the canyon floor. You’ll know the hard part is over once you see the ruins of an abandoned homestead. The hike finishes up along the main Wild Burro Trail, with an easy stroll back to the trailhead.
The whole time, you’ll have a variety of scenic views of interesting rock formations, saguaros, and wildflowers! The hike takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes from the Wild Burro Trailhead, depending on how fast you go. Start at the Wild Burro Trailhead, follow signs for the Alamo Springs Trail, and then the Alamo Springs Spur Trail to get back to the main Wild Burro Trail. Check it out on AllTrails: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/trail/us/arizona/wild-burro-spur-and-alamo-springs-loop
The Alamo Springs Trail is only one of 9 in the Wild Burro Trail System! Other favorites of locals and visitors alike include the full 12.5-mile Wild Burro Loop, which is great for a full day of hiking, or the challenging Upper Javelina, Wild Mustang, and Cochie Springs Trails, for an adventure on the opposite side of the canyon! All of the system’s trails can be accessed from the Wild Burro Trailhead, as well as from The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain.