Sentinel Peak • Sentinel Peak Park
• City of Tucson
• Pima County

Sentinel Peak

View from summit, looking west at Cat Mountain. To the right are Golden Gate and Bren Peaks, and way off in the distance in Baboquivari Peak

View of Tucson's buildings. The Catalina Mountains rise to the left, Agua Caliente Peak in the distant center

Montage: Park sign, view of the parking area and road, the concrete "A", and interpretive sign

Arizona PageMain Page

Prominence Peaks


Date: April 27, 2015 • Elevation: 2,897 feet • Prominence: 237 feet • Distance: 2 miles • Time: 45 minutes • Gain: 380 feet • Conditions: Sunny and pleasant

Sentinel Peak is a small hill located southwest of downtown Tucson. It is a foothill to Tumamoc Hill, which is a much larger hill and a popular workout hike for people living here. My original intention was to hike Tumamoc Hill. I actually had no plans to hike Sentinel Peak.

Beth and I spent the weekend camping at the Gilbert Ray Campground west of the city. The previous day had been cool and blustery, with bands of rain. Today, though, was clear, sunny and calm, temperatures in the comfortable range. We woke early and broke down camp. Our plan was to drive into Tucson, Id run up Tumamoc Hill, then wed drive home.

I found the trailhead without any problem, and parked along with the other vehicles. I got my shoes on, kissed Beth, then started up the road. Immediately, I saw the signs detailing when the mountain is legally open. Unfortunately, it was not legally open at this very moment. On weekends, its open all day. On weekdays, its closed between 7:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., and right now, it was about 7:25 a.m.. The hill is owned by the University of Arizona as part of an active research laboratory. I was dismayed to learn of this restriction. Of course, I had done no homework beforehand, where I could have learned of this. That is not my style.

I decided to start walking up anyway. I asked a couple people hiking down just how serious are they about enforcing the rule. They werent sure. Everyone was hiking down, no one was hiking up. Given that its a University entity that runs the place, at worst Id simply be told to turn around, probably not be cited.

I mulled on this as I hiked up the initial long stretch of paved road, gaining about 100 feet. I decided to not bother. This peak is not terribly important to me, and I can come back any time. I didnt want to be looking over my shoulder the whole time, or get 80% of the way up just to be told kindly to make myself scarce. So I returned to the truck, where Beth was surprised to see me back so soon.

At this point, I decided to drive over to the Sentinel Peak Park and hike Sentinel Peak as a consolation. Finding our way there was no problem, and I drove up a road to a parking area just below a gate spanning the road. The park is run by the City of Tucson Parks and Recreation Department, and the gate is open most days to allow people to drive to a parking area immediately below the summit and a viewing platform on the other end of the ridge. We were still a few minutes early. Hiking the road is not discouraged, and I saw people doing that, many walking their dogs.

From the lower parking area, I walked up the road and to the top in about 15 minutes, covering about a mile and 250 feet of elevation gain. The top is kind of homely, with graffiti on some of the summit rocks. I didnt staty long, just enough time to take a couple of photos.

I walked down to the road and followed it around to a point below a big concrete A built into the east-facing hillside. This A is meant to overlook the University of Arizona, similar to the big A on Hayden Butte in Tempe, overlooking Arizona State University. I have now climbed both A peaks in the state. Did I know this beforehand? No, I just saw the little trail marker while up near the top that alerted me to this A.

I was back to the truck soon, the whole hike taking just 40 minutes. I wouldnt rate this the greatest peak I have ever hiked, but it was a reasonable way to salvage the morning after Tumamoc was closed. The day was clear and I had excellent views to distant peaks, and it was not blazing hot, so all things considered, I have no complaints.

(c) 2015 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.