- Distance: 5.4 miles (Out and Back)
- Hike Time: 3-4 hours
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 2,012 ft
- Fee: No
- Dogs: Yes
- Difficulty: Moderate. Steep ascent at the beginning
Soldier Trail is a challenging but rewarding hike that begins at a lower trailhead off of the Catalina Highway. The route begins on a steep hillside, with plentiful saguaro cactus, cholla, ocotillo, and other Sonoran Desert plants.
As you ascend, be sure to turnaround and take in the view of Tucson behind you. After the first mile or so, the grade becomes more gradual. At this point, the saguaros are replaced by grassland, dotted with mesquite and prickly pear.
Keep an eye out for fallen power poles. These are remnants of a defunct line that served a federal prison camp. The camp is now abandoned, but if you poke around Gordon Hirabayashi Campground, you will find other remnants.
After traveling up and down a few picturesque ridge tops, the trail meanders down to a junction. Bear left and head down the wash. After a short walk, make sure to follow the trail right. This path takes you over and down to the base of a series of falls.
Depending on when you go, the water flow can be anywhere from dry to raging. If there is a chance of flash flood that day, this is not a wise place to be.
This Soldier Trail trip report is for the lower trailhead. It is located about a mile from the base of Mount Lemmon on the north side of the Catalina Highway. To access the upper trailhead, take the turnoff near milepost eight.
- Water: Bring plenty of water. Sometimes the stream runs dry.
- Best Time to Travel: September through May. The summer months can be sweltering, but you can beat the heat by starting early.
- Safety: Check for flash flood warnings and know the forecast before you go.
- Snakes: There are a lot of snakes on this trail. Be aware of them.
Want to hike Tucson’s best trails? Read my Best Hikes in Tucson article or check out our individual Tucson Hiking Guides.