April 2023
Hiking Yavapai
Stan Bindell

Pusch Ridge

Hiking with an Emmy-winning videographer is a different experience. I recently hiked the Sabino Canyon and Palisades trails in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness with Craig Johnson as I was hosting a new installment of Preserving Arizona Wilderness, which is about protecting Arizona’s 90 wilderness areas while illustrating the beauty, natural wonders and recreation available in these places across Arizona.

Pusch Ridge Waterfall

Sabino Canyon is Tucson’s premier recreation area, with trails ranging from short walks to long backpacking trails. We did almost 15 miles that day, while many hikers and runners were doing a 17-mile loop. We stopped at various scenic spots along the way to shoot segments for the video, giving us some views that we otherwise might not have enjoyed. Our destination was the Palisades Trail, where we would find the Wild Arizona work crew. Wild Arizona is a nonprofit, with an office in Prescott, that helps maintain the wilderness areas, and Dexter Kopas’ crew was repairing erosion and clearing debris and overgrowth accumulated since the Bighorn Fire in 2020.

I was pleased to find that the Wild Arizona trail crew included Prescott resident Olivia Weinstein (left).

There is only one spring on the Palisades Trail, so I didn’t expect to see much water, but I got a surprise in that respect.

You have to take the Sabino Canyon Trail to get to the Palisades Trail, and you have to take a shuttle to get to the Sabino Canyon Trail. With the recent rains the creek was overflowing. The shuttle goes over about half a dozen concrete bridges just over Sabino Creek, and the water was gushing in the spillways. Some of these bridges had an inch or two of water over them, but the shuttle and hikers still crossed them safely.

Sabino Creek

Sabino Creek runs along much of the Sabino Canyon Trail, and the rushing water made for many cascading sounds large and small.

Sabino Creek

At 56,933 acres rising from 2,800 to over 9,000 feet in elevation, the Pusch Ridge Wilderness covers a broad range of landscapes, from Sonoran saguaros at the lower end to mountain mahogany, juniper and pinyon pines in the mid-level areas, and Douglas fir and aspens above the 8,000 foot mark. There are 42 trails in the wilderness, with Seven Falls, Pima Canyon and Finger Rock among the most popular. These trails are for hiking, backpacking, mountain biking and wildlife viewing.

Pusch Ridge is known for its dry grasslands, deep canyons and dense forests, but perhaps best for its bighorn sheep. On some trails hikers are prohibited from going more than 400 feet off the trail during the lambing season between January 1 and April 30. In 2013 31 adult bighorn were introduced to Pusch Ridge, and the following year two Catalina Mountain bighorns were born, the first in 25 years.

The moderately traveled 10.5-mile Palisade Trail, known for its wildflowers, is considered moderate to difficult. A former wartime internment camp sits next to the trailhead at the northern end, next to Showers Point Group Campground. The Palisade Trail covers part of Palisade Canyon and Pine Canyon. Its only reliable water source is Mud Springs.

Sabino Canyon is a great place to visit now as the flowers will be blooming and the creek will be running for a while, so get down there before it gets too hot!

Craig Johnson pauses for a shot as my grandson Scott looks on.

Our first video in the Preserving Arizona Wilderness series is about Bell Trail in the Wet Beaver Creek Wilderness. Look for Preserving Arizona Wilderness: Wet Beaver Creek on YouTube. We hope to have the video on Pusch Ridge up by April 1.

Stan Bindell is always looking for a good hike. If you have one, contact him at thebluesmagician@gmail. com