Catalina Overview

The ragged profile of Pusch Ridge serves as the prominent backdrop for most of Tucson and it also provides a quick entry into wilderness.  The trails that ascend the ridge can be crowded near the trailheads but people increasingly drop out towards the summits.  Sabino Canyon is a riparian oasis that has been turned to some degree into a tourist trap, but its scenery still draws one in to explore and there are several trailheads in the area.  The highest elevations along the Catalina Highway can be crowded too, especially in the Summerhaven area.  The quick access to a completely different and cooler environment than the desert below makes this area an obvious destination.  Beyond these popular spots is a large expanse of wilderness that exhibits a variety of landscapes in the transition from desert to deep forest.

Some aerial shots...  

Not the best photos since these were taken through the multipane airline windows.  Looking west along Pusch Ridge with Table Mountain, Window Peak and Cathedral Peak the more easily distinguishable peaks around the top wing fairing while Rattlesnake Peak is above left of the middle fairing.  The sheared layers of gneiss that give lower Pusch Ridge its tilted look are also somewhat clearly seen on the left overlaying the granite of the higher peaks on the right.  The peaks have had the gneiss removed, as well as thousands of feet of other rock, both by erosion and displacement.  

Crest of the Catalinas with the buildings on top of Mt Lemmon on the upper right and Summerhaven along the upper course of Sabino Canyon next to the middle fairing.  Marshall Gulch is the forested canyon downstream and branching off to the west, while Bear Wallow is the other forested branch heading\ to the east next to the bottom fairing.   

These photos were taken either straight in the airflow or through the single pane window of a small prop plane so they're generally clearer, though there was still some haze that day that made the photos a little tricky.   

Looking down into Pima Canyon in the first photo with Table Mountain on the left and the precipitous northwest faces of Mt Kimball and Prominent Point forming the opposite canyon wall.  The second photo is looking back to the northwest at Table Mountain and Bighorn Mountain to its left.     

Looking along the narrow ridge up to Prominent Point and Finger Rock with Mt Kimball just beyond and Finger Rock Canyon flowing down to the right.  Window Peak and Cathedral Peak line up in the middle background along Pusch Ridge and Mt Lemmon is in the left background.    

Window Peak and a couple pixels worth of The Window to its left, with Cathedral Peak and Mt Lemmon beyond.  The slopes in the foreground form the eastern wall of Ventana Canyon.   

Looking across the southern ridge of Window Peak and the western fork of Esperero Canyon to Cathedral Peak. 

More northerly view of Cathedral Peak with the saddle at far right where the Cathedral Rock Trail crosses over into the West Fork Sabino Canyon.  The north tower is the large block of rock that forms the summit and the off-trail route to the top follows the shallow ravine running to the south. 

The west fork of Esperero Canyon heading up to the saddle between Window Peak on the left and Cathedral Peak on the right, Mt Kimball is on the far left.   

Looking into the West Fork Sabino with Sabino Creek splitting off to the north at bottom center with much of the upper canyon visible all the way to Summerhaven near the crest left of center.  Lemmon Creek also splits off a little farther upstream and heads along the edge of the wing up to the Wilderness of Rocks out of view to the left.  

At right, the East Fork Sabino makes a sharp turn north up into Pine Canyon while Palisade Canyon joins at bottom center.  The next canyon to the right of Pine Canyon is Sycamore Canyon which turns into the east fork of Bear Canyon, out of view farther to the right. 

The steep and rugged north faces of Cathedral Peak on the left and Window Peak behind to the right with Romero Canyon at bottom heading up to the east towards Mt Lemmon.  Tucson and the Santa Ritas are in the distance to the south.  

Looking farther down into Romero Canyon with the gorge along the trail at bottom.  The gorge is carved into the foot of a large granite block that constitutes a substantial portion of the ridge separating Romero from Montrose Canyon to the right. 

View of Montrose Canyon with its forks that head up to Window Peak on the left and Mt Kimball on the right.  The split top of Prominent Point and adjacent Finger Rock are to the right of Mt Kimball.  Wilderness Dome rises above and behind Leviathan Dome at right.   

Looking down on the scenic cliffs to the east of Table Mountain which is just out of view to the right, with Mt Kimball at top left.  Pima Saddle is behind the cliffs just left of center and below Mt Kimball.  The blades of rock that run across the middle and to the right forming the north wall of Pima Canyon, as well as the crest of Pusch Ridge.  WIlderness Dome and Leviathan Dome are the prominent large cliffs at bottom.