Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Looking down over Tucson from Pusch Ridge Wilderness
Pusch Ridge Wilderness rises above Tucson to more than 9,000' at the top of Mt. Lemmon. The ridge itself is one of the most prominent features in the Santa Catalina Mountains. The 56,933-acre Pusch Ridge Wilderness is a cool refuge from the city's heat, and because of that, it is impacted heavily by a lot of human traffic. Trailheads into Pusch Ridge Wilderness are right at the edge of the city and easily accessed. And not too far up the hill you leave the desert heat and cactus behind and find cool shade beneath the firs, pines, maples and aspens. Other trails cross the Santa Catalina's from trailheads along the General Hitchcock Highway which climbs through the eastern and northern part of the range to the summit of Mt. Lemmon. This is an extremely steep terrain with an extensive trail network leading across rocky bluffs and high, razor-sharp ridges to towering peaks.
Catalina State Park is just beyond the northwestern edge of the Wilderness and the ski slope on Mt. Lemmon is just beyond the northeastern edge. Temperatures up on the hill can be as much as 30° below temperatures in the streets of Tucson. And there are a number of streams that originate in the high country, Sabino Creek being one of the most popular.
The 2003 Aspen Fire burned across a significant portion of Pusch Wilderness and many trails still have problems with fallen trees. The aftermath of that fire has made hiking here much more difficult and dangerous. Before heading up this hill you might want to check trail conditions with the local Forest Service office.
Pusch Ridge Wilderness was originally created to try to protect and preserve one of the last remaining populations of Desert Bighorn Sheep in Arizona. However, the pressure from residential and commercial growth in the Catalina Foothills and in Oro Valley was too much for the sheep and they are rarely seen these days.
USGS Quads: Oro Valley, Mt. Lemmon, Sabino Canyon, Tucson North.
Sabino Canyon below the wilderness boundary
Pusch Ridge from Oro Valley
Pusch Ridge Wilderness area map