The Mountains of Arizona •
Blackett's Ridge • Santa Catalina Mountains
• Coronado National Forest
• Pusch Ridge Wilderness
• Pima County

Blackett's Ridge Peak, front and center. The actual highpoint is close to the light-colored bump kind of hidden on the top ridge

On the Phoneline Trail

Now on the steep rocky slopes

Finally gaining the top-most ridge

That's Mt. Not Yet Peak up ahead

Up next is Mt. Nope

Finally, the top is in view

Mere feet from the summit

View of Thimble Peak from the summit of Blackett's Ridge

Southeast: Bear Canyon, Mica and Rincon Mountains

The Santa Catalina Mountains

Mount Lemmon and nearby highest peaks

The top ridge and trail, and a view of Tucson and points west

Trail map, view of the peak from the parking lot, a sign at the summit and a roadrunner

All images

• • •

The Arizona
Mountains Gazetteer

Click to find out more!

Date: November 8, 2023 • Elevation: 4,409 feet • Prominence: 329 feet • Distance: 6 miles • Time: 3 hours, 20 minutes • Gain: 1,684 feet • Conditions: Clear and warm


Blackett's Ridge comes off the Santa Catalina Mountains, ending at the base of the range just north of Tucson. It is flanked by two deep canyons: Sabino Canyon to its north, and Bear Canyon to its south. The whole area is full of trails and is a very popular hiking spot, all encompassed within the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, managed by the Coronado National Forest. The parking lot can hold about 300 cars, which should give you an idea of its popularity.

I was passing through Tucson on a longer journey and wanted to break up the drive. I had the day open and no reason to be at my destination until nightfall. I was last here in 2004, hiking in 107° weather to the Seven Falls up Bear Canyon. And that's been it for me here. This is not the most convenient place to get to from the Interstate. Any route requires miles of city driving, traffic and lights. But since I had plenty of time on my hands, I figured this would be a good opportunity. The weather was sunny and clear, which also helped.

I left Tempe around 8 a.m. and was in Tucson a couple hours later. I exited onto Grant Road and headed east about ten miles, hitting all the stop lights and enduring the traffic backups. About a half-hour later, I rolled into the big parking lot for the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, paid my day fee, and got myself properly attired for the hike. The lot was about 80% full, there were people everywhere, but it didn't feel like a hodge-podge like it does at some of the popular Phoenix-area trailheads.

I was moving at 10:40 a.m., aiming east and onto the Bear Canyon Trail, which for the first 0.8 mile or so is just a flat wide road through the desert scrub. The peak rises above, plainly obvious. What is not obvious is its summit, which lies back and is not really visible from below. There were a lot of people on this trail, but many trails branch off and the farther in I got, the fewer the people as many had taken off in different directions.

The trail then meets a paved road (not open to the public), which I followed around a bend, down to a bridge, then up a little to the Phoneline Trail junction. This trail bends north and cuts below the base of the peak. I passed a couple people early on, and a group coming down about every three minutes. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. It is hewn into the exposed rock, so it slopes oddly at times but has good footing. It is not littered in rolling rocks, which was good. I was moving fast and making good time.

I then took a right at the Blackett's Ridge Trail junction. I was easentially on the peak's lowest slopes now, the gradient getting steeper. Up above are cliffs with openings between them. I marched upward, the switchbacks getting tighter as I ascended. I was soon at the base of the lowest cliff, about half-way up the slope.

The next segment, to where the trail achieves the high ridge, is a tight gauntlet through the cliffs. The trail has been knocked in (probably with dynamite) so it is a good trail, but it is steep in spots. It was not exposed and it felt safe the entire way. While steep, I liked the fact I was gaining elevation quickly. Up this high, I saw fewer and fewer people, maybe just 5 total coming down, no one going up.

Not long later, the trail is up above the steepest of the cliffy terrain and starts to level now, now on the high ridge. Up ahead was a rocky conical peak. I knew from reading previous reports that the ridge is known for its false summits, so I knew not to get my hopes up that I was close to the summit. I knew I still had a good half-mile to go.

I continued upward, passing the first false summit, then seeing another bump ahead, also knowing that's probably not yet the peak. I knew that I'd be close to it when I could see Thimble Peak, a notable rock spire higher up on the ridge. For now, I couldn't see it. I passed a couple at the saddle slightly beyond this bump, and rounding one more bend, finally could see the top up ahead.

The trail levels slightly then makes one last push upward, and I was on top, about 90 minutes after starting. It had been warm down below, nearly 80°, but now about 1,600 feet higher and with a soft breeze, it felt about 10 degrees cooler and much more pleasant. The top has plenty of fine sitting rocks and astounding views. I could see Thimble Peak up ahead, and also look down into the Sabino and Bear Canyons. I could see the Mica and Rincon Mountains to the southeast, and the main massif of the Santa Catalinas to the north. Up this high with nothing to block the views, I could take in the sheer massive scale of the range.

The couple I had passed moments before then came up and we had about a ten-minute chat. They were super friendly and cool, visitors from out of state, enjoying our fine dry November weather. I stuck around longer than I usually do because conditions were perfect: great views, no clouds, good sitting rocks and friendly people to chat with. But I did have to get moving, so I bid them well and started down. Another couple was just now gaining onto the summit as I started down.

The downhill hike went well. I moved fast but not much more than I had coming up. I had to take care of my footing on the steeper segments, as usual. I did not see anyone coming up, not a soul, until I was off the Phoneline Trail and back onto the roads. Then I saw a few people. I was back to my car a little before 1 p.m., a three-hour and twenty-minute hike covering 6 miles and a little over 1,600 feet of gain. It was strenuous but easy, the good trail making the uphill go by so much faster. The parking lot was about half as full as it was previously.

Blackett's Ridge is a popular hike as I saw today, being a weekday. It is strenuous and challenging, but not difficult. The usual care and attention is all that is necessary to keep from falling. I was very happy it went well and would recommend it to anyone interested in such a hike.

I exited by following surface streets east to Houghton Road, then that all the way south to the interstate. I spent the remainder of the day driving eastbound on Interstate-10. I had a cool unexpected experience along the way: I pulled off in the town of Bowie for snacks, rolling into a little scraggly truck stop. Turns out the proprietors are from India and stock the shop with all sorts of Indian food and snacks and home-made treats, along with the usual stuff. So I picked up a thing of Indian sweets for the drive. I never would have expected this in Bowie, which is about as in the boonies as one can get in Arizona. The truck stop is on the west end of the town.

(c) 2023 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.