Location : Mount Lemon #3 (NOBO Mile Marker 164.2)
Date: November 6th, 2018
Weather: Clear skies at the Trailhead, starting temperature 53 degrees and mid-day 81 degrees.
Total Mileage Completed : 23.5 miles on AZT / Feet +(-) 4836, 7.8% grade
Hike Description: This hike started at the Gordon Hirebayashi trailhead right off the Mount Lemon Highway, north of Tucson, Arizona. An easy drive, easy parking, but a tough hike. The hike was to connect two sections that we had already completed on the AZT. Hike#43 to the south and Hike #45 to the north.
So this was planned to be a really tough hike. Statistically one of the toughest hikes we had done so far. It has distance, at nearly 24 miles and it has hill climbs – almost 5000 feet up/down elevation change. With the elevation chart looking more like a “W” then a fishbowl or a shark tooth, you will need to push through two major uphill challenges. The first one comes at mile 5.5 and is a pretty consistent 2800 foot uphill all the way to the turn at Romero Pass – mile 11.75. The joy being you’ll have a good 6 miles of downhill until the second up climb. This next climb is broken up into two sections, which you most likely never noticed while coming down from the trailhead. The first longer stretch is 2.4 miles long starting right after you pass the Sabino Canyon area and then second “final” climb starts after you clear Sycamore Canyon. Tom and I did a good job on this hike other than being a bit sore for a couple days after. Our pace did drop and even on the downhill sections we struggled to maintain a 2.8 mph. All in all, we were 5 hours 10 minutes to the turn and 4 hour 50 minutes back to the Trailhead. So about 2.4 mph, 25 minutes per mile, on average. The first climb section’s last couple miles up to Romeo Pass really kicked my butt. I disliked that mile marker on Hike #45 and I did not like it this time either. 🙂 The really surprising aspect to this hike comes from mile 8 to mile 10 and then also obviously 10 to 8. Between these miles, you’ll hike thru a very cool, majestic wooded and shade covered canyon. There are also a number of flowing creek crossings and beyond awesome looking campsite in this section. If you wanted to do an enjoyable overnight, combining hike #60 from Gordon Hirabayashi and hike#45 up to Marshall Gulch Trailhead, this would be the perfect midway area to set up camp. We did see a number of other hikers on this section, so it appears like the area is popular for the non-AZT hiker also. Makes sense, it’s challenging, has some pleasing aspects in the terrain and it is a very easy drive from Tucson.
One thing to note. Tom and I messed up on Hike #45 back in June when I accidentally took the wrong trail heading south from Marshall Gulch Trailhead and thus adding 2 non-ATZ miles to that section. With that day turning summer-hot and the hike now delayed, we had to cut it short making it only 14 miles, when the original plan was to push it to 17. If we had stuck with the plan on that hike, this hike #60, would have been only 20 miles and a little more doable. You will find hiking the AZT in “out and back” sections, sometimes you can slide miles between the connecting hikes if needed.