Tucson, AZ – Wasson Peak via King Canyon Trail
If you follow our adventures, you know that we love hiking and love Arizona! Hiking to Wasson Peak in the Saguaro National Park near Tucson was no exception. Experiencing Wasson Peak was a first for us. We are now hooked. If serenity is what you are looking for, you will certainly find it here. Though there is more than one trail to reach the “peak,” we opted for the King Canyon Trail. This is also the most direct trail to the peak.
This hike has an elevation gain of almost 1800′ over seven miles. We enjoyed this hike in just under four hours. We allowed time to stop for pictures and snacks. Our hikes are generally not about speed, but about enjoying each other doing what we love to do – hike and enjoy the great outdoors!
We hiked on a cool December day. Temps were in the 50’s and the wind was quite strong. This was fine with us as we hardly encountered anyone on the trail. It was so peaceful. So quiet. The only noise heard was our footsteps crunching on the stones, the birds singing or the wind blowing against the cacti and desert flora. We would consider the trail moderate in difficulty. Most of the trail obstacles were mainly loose gravel and larger rocks. The last mile or so was fairly steep with many switchbacks. The top is very exposed and very windy! We had to hold onto our hats, pull up our hoods, and crouch down as we walked to the peak. I felt as if I could blow away so staying low made me feel a bit more grounded.
Once you reach the top of the peak, the 360-degree views are breathtaking. Though it was too windy for us to enjoy snacks at the top, we did enjoy the moment and saved the snacks until we were on our way back down.
While this trail is beautiful, we would not recommend it in hot weather. There is no water or shade available and in the hot summer weather, this could become dangerous very quickly.
When you arrive
We parked at the King Canyon Trailhead which offers a direct route to Wasson Peak. It is a small parking lot so if you are going during a popular time then this could fill up rather quickly. There are no restrooms or water but there is a visitor’s center with facilities 5 minutes north of the parking lot. When you start on the trail, we continued to the right through the gate, which is the King’s Canyon Upper trail. There is also a lower trail that traverses the King Canyon wash, however, I prefer not to hike in washes. The trail contains many loose rocks so good hiking shoes/boots with ankle support are recommended. I also love my hiking poles in times like this. Not far into the hike, you will run across the Mam-a-Gah picnic area near an old abandoned restroom. Most of the trail is fairly wide and surrounded by a variety of desert flora such as saguaros, ocotillos and prickly pear.
What to bring
First, I recommend dressing in layers. The temps can vary widely from the parking lot to Wasson Peak and you will want to be prepared. With no shade along the trail, sunscreen is a must. Snacks are good to replenish your energy. We packed baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, trail mix, jerky, a nut bar, and quench thirst gum. Water is a MUST. We each carried a full water bladder. My bladder holds 2.5 liters while my husbands holds 3 liters. Also recommended are a first aid kit, a hat, bug spray, and any emergency gear you feel you may need. It’s always better to be “over” prepared than “under” prepared. One super small, but powerful, emergency tool I always have on me is a whistle that hooks up to my waterpark. Whistles are great to attract attention, signal help if you need it, or possibly scare away an animal.
Poles or No Poles
I love my hiking poles! I do not use them on every hike but I would definitely recommend this for this hike. With all of the loose rocks/gravel, I feel they caught me from tripping a few times. If you have poles, I would recommend bringing them! If you are looking for poles, I highly recommend poles that are both lightweight and collapsible.
I hope you enjoy Wasson Peak as much as we did. Know your limits and do not feel that you must make the summit. You can turn around at any point and still have an amazing hike. Enjoy the beauty of this land, breathe in the fresh air and you will receive so much more than just a good workout. You will also receive an inner feeling of peace while recharging your body and your mind.
NOTE: Prior to visiting this park, I recommend going online to check out park conditions and pre-purchasing a pass at https://www.nps.gov/sagu/planyourvisit/fees.htm
If you are interested in the whistle we carry, it can be found HERE
If you are an advanced hiker and want to conquer a challenging hike and climb in the Superstition Mountains, be sure to check out our Flat Irons experience.