The Mountains of Arizona

Little Cat Mountain from the trailhead

The steep slope up Little Cat

View of Bobcat Ridge highpoint. It blends in slightly with the peaks and ridges behind it

The highpoint of Little Cat is the slightly lighter colored rock with Cat Mountain rising behind

Little Cat Mountain seen as I ascend toward Bobcat Ridge

Bobcat Ridge Highpoint

Getting closer

The highpoint knoll

From the summit, a cool view of Golden Gate and Bren Mountains framing some distant peaks

View of my ascent route, with Cat Mountain in back and Little Cat below and to the right

All images

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Tucson Mountains Park

Little Cat Mountain • Bobcat Ridge

Little Cat Mountain and Bobcat Ridge lie north of Cat Mountain, which I climbed back in 2014. Little Cat Mountain is an unofficial name but a natural one, looking like a smaller version of Cat Mountain, with cliffs and steep slopes. Keeping with the feline theme, Bobcat Ridge is the next peak north of Little Cat Mountain.

These two peaks can be combined as a single hike following trails virtually the whole way. They both lie within the Tucson Mountains Park, west of Tucson and south of Saguaro National Park. The area is covered in hiking and biking trails. I was last in the park in 2019, climbing Bren Mountain. I had about 2 hours available and it looked like I could get both peaks done in that time before heading back to Tempe.

Little Cat Mountain
• Tucson Mountains
• Tucson Mountains Park
• Pima County

Date: October 30, 2022 • Elevation: 3,310 feet • Prominence: 390 feet • Distance: 0.8 mile • Time: 40 minutes • Gain: 450 feet • Conditions: High clouds


I drove to the Sarasota Trailhead, which is at the end of Sarasota Drive, branching off of Kinney Road. In 2014, there was no developed trailhead. It was just an open patch of dirt. Now, it's a small paved parking lot with signs, but not much else. I rolled in about 10:30 a.m., the seventh car in the lot. My "low tire pressure" icon lit up on my car's dash. I really don't need that. When I parked and got out to look, my front-left tire was low, but there was no noticeable hissing. Probably just a slow leak. I'd deal with it later.

I started up the Sarasota Trail. It begins at the western foot of Little Cat Mountain. Directly above are the west-facing cliffs of the mountain. Clearly, I would not be ascending that way. The trail makes two switchbacks, then traverses north to the north slope of the mountain. It drops into a small arroyo, then out and meets with the Explorer Trail. I met two mountain bikers here.

I turned east and followed the Explorer Trail uphill. It makes a long gentle rightward bend to a saddle, now on the northeast flank of Little Cat Mountain. I had gained a little over a hundred feet in less than a mile. The trail was in excellent shape the whole way.

At the saddle, I found an unofficial footpath leading up toward Little Cat Peak. Here, it was just a long steep slope, no cliffs. The trail was well defined at first, then weak in spots, but always easy to follow. Small cairns would indicate someone else had been here before. Higher up, the slope steepens and the trail gets rocky and loose. But there were no difficult barriers to get past. I was soon atop this steep section, now on Little Cat Mountain's small plateau.

The grade lessened and the trail grew weak, but by now, no trail was necessary. The summit was not far ahead. The brush was light and the rocks lay back nicely. I made great time, hopping from one rock to the next, scrambling up a few easy slopes, then soon, was at the summit. The top-most rock is a fin, so I sidled to a nearby ledge rock and tagged the fin. I was on the very edge of the cliffs. Two more feet of sidling and I'd be falling a hundred feet straight down. So I sidled carefully.

The register is in a strongbox leaning against a lower rock amid a small pile of rocks meant to hide it or at least keep it from sliding. I signed in, the first in about two months. Names went back a few years, about two or three people a month when cool, virtually no one in summer. I took a break here as the rocks were ideal for sitting.

Views here were fantastic. Cat Mountain rose to the south, looking like I could reach out and touch it. Looking north I could see Golden Gate Mountain, Bren Mountain, and lower down, my next objective, Bobcat Ridge. Baboquivari Peak rose to the west. The only slight bummer was the lighting, as the sky was blotted out by a light cloudy haze. The sun would come and go with blue skies, but mostly, it was a milky haze that lingered.

I hiked down the same way, taking the steep footpath carefully, as the rocks were loose. I used the five points of contact routine in spots. But it was short and I was back to the saddle. My statistics for this peak are reckoned from where the trail to Bobcat Ridge branches off the Explorer Trail. Although I claim 0.4 mile "one way", it was more like a mile, maybe a tad more, from the trailhead.

I hiked down to that trail junction and started up toward ...

Bobcat Ridge

Elevation: 3,380 feet • Prominence: 460 feet • Distance: 2.8 miles • Time: 1 hour • Gain: 860 feet


Now on the trail to Bobcat Ridge, I followed it uphill, then it bent left and continued up the ridge. The trail was rocky, but well defined and easy to follow. It gains a highpoint quickly, from where Bobcat Ridge and highpoint come into view. I stopped briefly to take an image and relax. There was a man sitting nearby. We talked briefly, and he mentioned he was heading to Bobcat Ridge too. He was getting up to resume his hike while I was just starting my short break. A couple seconds later, two more guys show up, coming the other way. It was like half of Tucson was on the trail.

Past this local highpoint, the trail drops about 90 feet to a saddle, then gains steeply upslope toward Bobcat Ridge itself. It's rockier now, with rock slabs and spots where the rock intrudes into the trail and a couple "knee high" steps are needed to get past. Where the trail achieves another apex, I left it and scampered up easy rock to the ridge highpoint. The guy I mentioned earlier was already here, sitting at the far east end of the short ridge. The ridge has a couple rocks that could be the highest. I gave each one a soft tap with my boot. Then I walked to where the guy was sitting.

He seemed like a decent guy, probably in his 60s. He said he hikes this trail often. He signed the register, then handed it to me for me to sign. Already today there'd been about a half-dozen signer-inners. Maybe those other two guys had also signed in. I did not recognize any names.

The views were excellent, and the sun was out so that photos would come out well. The best view was north at Golden Gate and Bren Mountain, and the saddle in between. The two peaks perfectly framed other distant peaks. To the south I could see my ascent route, Little Cat Mountain, and Cat Mountain. But the sun was that way and my photos were marginal due to the glare.

I spent about ten minutes at the summit. I figured that guy would leave first but he seemed in no hurry. Me, I had some miles to drive and that low tire to worry about. I figured I should get moving. I hiked out the same trails and made good time, arriving back at my car at about 12:30, a little under two hours for the whole hike. The scenery was lovely, with cliffs, plenty of reds, browns, tans and ochres, and lots of saguaro and other cactus. I was pleased to get two ranked peaks done, and enjoyed the outing very much.

Back at the car, I changed and also looked on my phone for tire shops that could do a quick patch. Being a Sunday, many were closed and those that weren't would close soon. I found a place near Interstate-10 and Grant Road. I pulled in, they took a look at it and said it was just low, as they couldn't find a leak. Hmmm. That was good news, but that tire had a couple nails and patches a year ago, so I was still concerned there may be a slow leak. I drove home and it handled well, so I suppose it was just low is all. I'll have to keep an eye on it. The other tires had proper pressure.

The statistics here are for the whole round trip from the parking lot to the top of Bobcat and back, treating the hike up Little Cat Mountain as a side trip. A week later, I retuned to the area to hike Ringtail Ridge & Peak 3084

(c) 2022 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. .