Jan 28 2015
From The Arizona Republic
Because Oracle State Park is open only from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, there's a narrow window of opportunity to hike its 15 miles of trails.
Located in a prime wildlife corridor of high-desert scrub and savanna grasslands, the park is bolstered by the far northern reaches of Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains and the sprawling rampart of the Galiuro range looming over the meandering gorge of the San Pedro River to the west.
Although there's little shade on the eight routes that wind through stands of soaptree yucca, agaves, isolated patches of scrub oak and fruit-bearing cholla, the upside is that the sun-drenched foothills display unobstructed vistas. The best time to hike is November through April when crisp breezes whip through hip-high forbs.
Despite being in a park setting with all the expected amenities, the trails have a nice wilderness feel. Sightings of deer, fox, javelina, birds and reptiles are common. Passage 13 of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, which skirts the park's edge, connects with several of the routes. Excellent signs and soft footing make for easy travel on most of the trails. The exception is the Windmill Loop, which begins at the bottom of Kannally Wash with a trudge through calf-cramping sand with few directional signs.
After you hike, visit the park's Kannally Ranch House. The 1930s-era adobe structure with its multiple levels, twisting staircases, art-embellished spaces and kitchen with a wall of original iceboxes adds a note of history to top off your day.
Length: 15 miles plus 4 miles of the Arizona Trail.
Rating: Easy to moderate.
Elevation: 3,700-4,600 feet.
Where: From Phoenix, take U.S. 60 east to State Route 79 and turn south. Continue to the junction with SR 77 and turn east. At the Oracle turnoff, go south on American Avenue for 2.3 miles to Mount Lemmon Road. Turn east on Mount Lemmon Road and go 1.1 miles to the park entrance.
Admission: $7 per vehicle.
Details: 520-896-2425, azstateparks.com/Parks/ORAC.This article was originally published in The Arizona Republic.