Safford Peak
Kicking off our winter vacation, Zosia Zgolak and I hiked up Safford Peak in the Tucson Mountain District of Arizona's Saguaro National Park on 24 December 2022.  The peak is also known unofficially as Sombrero Peak due to its distinctive shape.  A relatively easy non-technical ascent route and close proximity to the city of Tucson make Safford Peak an exceedingly popular hiking objective, but there are some caveats to the access.  The peak is located near the northern boundary of the park next to a semi-private parcel of land known as Sanctuary Cove.  Although Sanctuary Cove is open to the public, it has strict rules regarding its parking spaces which are reserved only for those remaining on the property.  Furthermore, the main access trail for Safford Peak crosses State Trust Land which technically requires a recreational use permit from the Arizona State Land Department.  Not taking any chances, I actually purchased a permit (good for one year) for this trip, but I am doubtful that the regulation is ever enforced in this particular area.  Probably at some point in the future, the state will simply donate the State Trust Land to the federal government to become integrated with the National Park.

From I-10, take Exit 246 and turn west onto North Cortaro Road.  Drive over the bridge across Santa Cruz River and turn right onto North Silverbell Road.  Drive 2.9 kilometres and turn left onto Continental Reserve Loop.  Drive 800 metres and turn right onto West Pima Farms Road.  Drive 1.2 kilometres and turn left (south) onto North Scenic Drive.  Drive 750 metres to road's end at the National Park boundary.  The pullout here has enough space for about a dozen vehicles.  The signed entrance to Sanctuary Cove is about 150 metres before road's end.

From the pullout, Zosia and I headed south on a good trail which enters the National Park and climbs over a low pass.  After dropping down the other side of the pass and briefly bending eastward, we turned to the southwest and reached a split in the trail about a kilometre from the trailhead.  Taking the right fork, we hiked westward directly toward Safford Peak.  The trail eventually turns northward and climbs up to a broad pass northeast of the peak; this section of trail lies within State Trust Land.  At the broad pass is another trail junction, and this time, we took the left fork which climbs up the northeast slope of the peak.  Re-entering the National Park, the trail turns southward and winds around the base of the summit block before climbing steeply to a high col to the west.  The route here is marked with painted blue rectangles.  From the high col, we turned eastward to ascend the remaining steep section of trail to the summit ridge, and we reached the summit shortly thereafter without any trouble.

For our descent, Zosia and I retraced our steps back as far as the broad pass.  From there, we descended the trail on the north side of the pass which eventually led us into the network of trails in Sanctuary Cove.  The trails here can be a bit of a maze, but my phone's GPS helped to keep us on the right track.  Other than a brief stop to visit a local chapel, our hike out to the main road and back to our starting point was uneventful.
I asked for a compact SUV for our rental car and got a Toyota 4-Runner!

Zosia prepares to hike up Safford Peak (right) from a pullout near the edge of the National Park boundary.

You know you're in southern Arizona when...

Saguaro cacti are the signature plants in this park.

Good trail! After climbing over a low pass, Zosia takes a more direct line toward Safford Peak.
We might be hiking on State Trust Land here (ie. recreational permit required).

The trail gains elevation in earnest closer to the peak.

Resist the temptation to turn upward early!

Zosia contours around to the south side of the peak below the cliffs of the summit block.

Some of them look like they're giving us the Finger!

There is no shortage of cacti along this hike.

Watch out for loose rocks here!

Painted blue rectangles help point the way as the route gets steeper.

Some easy scrambling here.

Zosia is barely visible as she climbs up the last steep section before the summit ridge.

Ho, ho, ho!

Sonny and Zosia stand on the summit of Safford Peak (1093 metres).

Jojo left his home in Tuscon, Arizona for some California grass.

The city of Tucson is spread out across the valley to the east all the way to the Santa Catalina Mountains.


That was almost 5 years ago when we were up there. How time flies! To the south are the Tucson Mountains with Wasson Peak (left of centre) being the highest.
I actually had to pull out a couple of broken spines! Ouch! Sonny shows the perils of slipping and landing on a cactus.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Lotsa reflection going on here!

Zosia makes her way down a trail in Sanctuary Cove.

All is forgiven!

Zosia stands outside Sanctuary Cove's chapel.

Great capture, Zosia!

Near the chapel, a hummingbird darts about among some nearby bushes.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

A deservedly popular hiking objective. Total Distance:  6.0 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  3 hours 55 minutes
Cumulative Elevation Gain:  654 metres

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