March 6 - 8, 2020

Happy Valley, on the other side of the Rincon Mountains, is really only a few miles from Tucson, but seems a world away once you're out there. Perhaps we'll meet my friend the mountain lion while we're up there. I've seen him twice, but it's been a few years. Regardless, please join me for a two-night backpack in Tucson's backyard.

The Plan

We'll drive around to the east side of the Rincon Mountains early on Friday morning. Leaving our vehicles at the Miller Creek trailhead, we'll hike up to Happy Valley Campground and set up camp. Depending on the amount of energy we have, we may hike to Happy Valley Lookout before dinner.

On Thursday, we'll leave our camp and head up to Rincon Peak. That's a six-point-eight-mile round-trip hike to the summit of that mighty mountain, via what I've been told is the steepest maintained trail in the state. We'll place another rock on the huge summit cairn, then have lunch before we head back to camp.

The HUGE cairn on Rincon Peak After spending one last night in camp on Thursday, we'll have a leisurely Friday morning breakfast then pack up and head back to Tucson. If we haven't hiked up to Happy Valley Lookout by this point, we might tackle that little peak on Sunday morning. It's tougher than it looks!

The Prep

This trip is planned for up to five people. I will reserve one or two of the three available campsites, depending on how many people and tents are going. The National Park Service charges $8.00 per night per campsite, so the total charges will range from $16.00 to $32.00 for the group for the entire weekend.

You'll need food for two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners.

The Elements       Spot Forecast

There should be water at Happy Valley, but that really depends on the amount of rain and snow the mountains received over the winter. We'll have to play it by ear. I'll contact the Park Rangers at Saguaro National Park Visitor Center before we go to glean whatever information they might have.

The weather at Happy Valley in early March can be very nice. Daytime highs will likely be in the 60s with lows in the upper 30s. Remember that the campground is at 6,100 feet, so it's a bit cooler than Tucson, perhaps by as much as 15 degrees or more. You will probably need a colder weather sleeping bag.

One nice thing is that we are allowed to have a fire at Happy Valley. I usually don't bother, but a fire can be nice if the weather is very wet or very cold.

The Hike

day miles elev gain destination
Friday 0.0 / 0.0 0 ft / 0 ft Miller Creek Trailhead
Friday 1.5 / 1.5 400 ft / 400 ft Park Boundary
Friday 2.9 / 4.4 1,600 ft / 2,000 ft Heartbreak Ridge Trl Jct
Friday 0.2 / 4.6 200 ft / 2,200 ft Happy Valley Campground
Friday 3.2 / 7.8 1,200 ft / 3,400 ft Happy Valley Lookout Round Trip
Saturday 6.6 / 14.4 2,700 ft / 6,100 ft Rincon Peak Round Trip
Sunday 0.2 / 14.6 200 ft / 6,300 ft Miller Creek Trail Jct
Sunday 2.9 / 17.5 200 ft / 6,500 ft Park Boundary
Sunday 1.5 / 19.0 200 ft / 6,700 ft Miller Creek Trailhead

The End

Despite the relatively short mileage, this is a tough hike! That climb up Rincon Peak can take it out of you, especially if preceded or followed by a hike up to Happy Valley Lookout. We'll take it easy on the drive home, but will surely stop at Saguaro National Park Visitor Center to give them a water report.