June 10-12, 2020

Lovely Lemmon Pools is tucked away in the middle of the Santa Catalina Mountains, not too far off of the Wilderness of Rocks Trail. It's hard to believe you're only a few miles from Tucson, because everything seems a world away once you're up there. I enjoyed my last trip so much, I'm doing it again. Please join me for an easy two-night backpack to this wonderful wilderness area.

The Plan

We'll start mid- to late morning on the hour-long drive up to the Sunset Trail trailhead on Wednesday. From there, it's a relatively easy mile and a quarter to Marshall Gulch, where we will pick up the Marshall Gulch Trail. Then it's just over a mile up to Marshall Saddle. We'll pause there for a quick lunch break, then head to our campsite a couple of miles down the trail.

Lemmon Pools On Thursday, we've got a very relaxing day, if we wish. We'll have breakfast, clean up and secure our camp site, then hike less than a mile down the mountain to Lemmon Pools. I have the GPS track from previous trips, and hope that I can find the little route and the actual pools. I'm sure I won't have too much trouble. We'll relax at the Pools - the air and water temps will probably be much too cool to swim, but it's a lovely area - and probably have lunch there before heading back to our campsite. Be sure to bring a book for a long, relaxing afternoon in camp.

A short addition to the above jaunt would be to wander down the trail into the Wilderness of Rocks area, which would add a few miles and a few hundred feet of elevation loss/gain to the hike. Our visit to Lemmon Pools could be done after this excursion.

If we're feeling particularly rambunctious, a hike up to Lemmon Lookout might be made part of the plan. This would add just about four miles and about 2,000' of elevation gain/loss to the trip, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. A longer alternative for the return trip would be to go down the Mount Lemmon Trail to pick up the Wilderness of Rocks Trail a couple of miles below camp, then come back up to camp. I believe that's would give us an 8.5 mile loop with about 2,500' of elevation gain overall.

We'll have a leisurely breakfast and pack up on Friday morning then strike out for the trailhead. For a change of both views and pace, we'll take the Aspen Trail on the return hike. We'll probably stop at Lunch Ledge for a break. Once we've reached the Marshall Gulch Trailhead, we'll take a few moments for a breather, then hike the uphill climb back to the Sunset Trail parking lot and our vehicles.

The Prep

This trip is planned for a limited number of only four or five people. There is no charge and no permit required for the trip. You may, however, need a permit to drive up the road and park on the mountain.

You'll need food for two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners. You might want a snack for the hike out, too.

The Elements      Spot Forecast

There will be more than enough water in Lemmon Creek for our minimal needs. There will definitely be water in Lemmon Pools, in case of a shortage up above. No worries. I'll verify the water situation with the local ranger station before the trip if there are any doubts or concerns.

The weather should be lovely in the Catalina's this time of year. You can probably count on daytime highs in the mid-70s with lows near 55 degrees. Our campground is at about 7,200 feet, so it'll be a bit cooler than Tucson, perhaps by as much as 25 degrees. Pay attention to the spot weather forecast using the link above. You will likely only need a coolish weather sleeping bag.

The Hike

day miles elev gain destination
Thursday 1.2 / 1.2 70 ft / 70 ft Sunset Trail to Marshall Gulch
Thursday 1.2 / 2.4 600 ft / 670 ft Marshall Gulch Trail to Marshall Saddle
Thursday 2.0 / 4.4 +150/-800 ft / 820 ft Wilderness of Rocks Trail to Lemmon Lookout Trail Jct
Thursday 0.4 / 4.8 -150 ft / 820 ft WOR Trail to Campsite
Friday 1.4 / 6.2 320 ft / 1140 ft Round Trip to Lemmon Pools and/or alternatives
Saturday 2.4 / 8.6 950 ft / 2090 ft WOR Trail to Marshall Saddle
Saturday 2.8 / 11.4 430 ft / 2520 ft Aspen Trail & Lunch Ledge to Marshall Gulch
Saturday 1.2 / 12.6 360 ft / 2880 ft Marshall Gulch to Sunset Trailhead

The End

Once we arrive back at the trailhead, we'll get out of our boots and perhaps change into a cleaner shirt. We'll head up the mountain for a cup of coffee, then return to Tucson. We can take our time on the drive while we enjoy the cool air before hitting the heat in town.