In Spanish, “la milagrosa” translates to “the miraculous” and is a fitting name for La Milagrosa Canyon. On the northeast side of Tucson, next to the unincorporated suburb of Tanque Verde, this hike begins at a low-profile trailhead outside of a gated community.
The most common route taken is a 6-mile loop that crosses both La Milagrosa and Agua Caliente Canyon. To complete the loop, hikers must ascend two ridges that offer killer views of the surrounding area.
Tip: For an off-trail experience, consider exiting the trail at the mouth of Agua Caliente Canyon and scrambling up canyon. At times, there are numerous pools of water to enjoy.
- Distance: 6.1 mile loop
- Hike Time: 2-3 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 1,215 feet
- Fee: Free
- Dogs: Yes
- Difficulty: Moderate
Like many Tucson hikes, this trail becomes more popular in the winter months and is shared by hikers, trail runners, climbers, and mountain bikers.
The trailhead is somewhat elusive, as it has no signage or parking lot. Instead, you must park on Avenida De Suzenu, walk through a gate, and continue walking for 0.6 miles on Horsehead Road to reach the actual trail. After another 0.2 miles, you will come to an unmarked junction. Head left for Milagrosa Canyon and right for Agua Caliente Canyon.
I tend to do this hike as a loop and for whatever reason, I prefer to go left here. If you do the same, continue another 1.6 miles to the next junction and bear right. Despite a small cairn, this one is easy to miss so keep your eyes peeled.
Here, the trail becomes rocky and overgrown as it descends to the bottom of Agua Caliente Canyon. Follow the wash down to the next junction and look for an inconspicuous trail to the left. Take this up and out of the canyon and bear right at the next junction.
After 0.2 miles you will pass Gnat Tank, a manmade depression in the land, once used to store water for grazing cattle. From here, you will descend the middle ridgeline between La Milagrosa and Agua Caliente Canyon and meet back up with the first junction, 1.5 miles after leaving Gnat Tank.
Both desert canyons, La Milagrosa and Agua Caliente, are beautiful and serene. Outside of long periods without rain, pools can be found throughout the boulder strewn washes. There is a certain tranquility to the riparian canyon floors set below rugged cliff backdrops. At sunset, the cholla, saguaro, and colorful rocks illuminate, making for a spectacular evening out.
From Tucson, follow Speedway Boulevard east then turn left on Wilmot Road. After 0.5 miles it turns into Tanque Verde Road. Continue another 1.7 miles then turn left on Catalina Highway. Follow it for 3.7 miles then turn right on Snyder Road. Follow it for 1.3 miles then follow Avenida De Suzenu to its intersection with Horsehead Road. Park on the side of the road and look for the gate.
- Water: Carry 2-3 liters of water.
- Best Time to Travel: October through April.
- Safety: Watch for rattlesnakes. Do not enter the canyon during storm activity (or if their is any potential for it).