The Molino Basin Trail is a fun, easy hike that starts at Molino Basin Campground and follows the Arizona Trail for two miles.
In addition to well-maintained, shaded campsites, there are also picnic tables scattered throughout the campground. The campground is not operational between early May and November 1st, but trails are still accessible for hiking and mountain biking.
- Distance: 4.6 miles out and back
- Hike Time: 2 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 659 feet
- Fee: Free until trailhead parking is full, then $10
- Dogs: Yes
- Difficulty: Easy
At 4,370 feet elevation, the natural scenery here is distinctly different than the Sonoran Desert below it. Temperatures run 3-5 degrees cooler, and the land receives 5 inches more precipitation. As a result, the hillside saguaros are replaced by semi-desert grasslands and oak woodlands. I always enjoy watching for the transition on the ride up.
From Tucson, as you head up the Catalina Highway, Molino Basin Campground is the first campground you encounter. From the intersection of Tanque Verde Road and Catalina Highway, drive about 11 miles and you will see it on the left, between mile markers 5 and 6.
- Water: Carry at least 2 liters of water.
- Best Time to Travel: Anytime, though summer afternoons can be sweltering.
- Safety: Watch for rattlesnakes and Molino Basin’s resident skunk.