Wilderness of Rock

The Wilderness of Rock is a rolling area of exposed granite and boulders that sits a couple thousand feet below Mt Lemmon. The Wilderness of Rock Trail starts at the head of Marshall Gulch and is usually accessed by either the Marshall Gulch Trail or Aspen Trail, which both start at the end of the Sabino Canyon Parkway out of Summerhaven.

October 24, 2009
I hadn't been into the Wilderness of Rock yet and it was still pretty warm in the valley, so Mike and I decided to head up into the Catalinas to take advantage of a cooler elevation.  The last section of road was under construction so we had to walk in to get to the trailhead, which added a little elevation loss/gain and ate into our limited time a bit.

We didn't set out to see fall colors for this hike, but we were fortunate to be there near the peak of the Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum) display in Marshall Gulch.

Looking across the south face of the Catalina summit ridge with the Lemmon Rock Lookout cabin on top of the rock outcrop on the right.  This view is from just below the trail junction at the Marshall Gulch saddle.  The Wilderness of Rock is out of view on the left, starting at the foot of the ridge.

View from a large rock outcropping along the trail a little before the junction with the Lemmon Rock Lookout Trail.  This is looking straight up the summit ridge with the lookout on the right and an obvious patch of severe burn from the Aspen Fire of 2003.

Some of the stunted Arizona Pine growing on the bare granite in the Wilderness of Rock.

Looking back at the saddle on the far left that the Wilderness of Rock Trail dropped down from.  Behind it is the completely scorched ridge that forms the north wall of Marshall Gulch and west side of Summerhaven which was burned by the Aspen Fire, as were the other burned patches in this view.  The large Arizona Pine on the right are growing in a favorable area in the rock with deeper developed soil, and the difference in this stand of trees is noticable as the trail passes adjacent to it.

This is the view from our turnaround point looking over the heart of the Wilderness of Rock.  Near center is looking due south down to Tucson and beyond to the Santa Ritas topped by the pyramid form of Mt Wrightson.  The peak sticking up between here and Tucson is Rattlesnake Peak at the eastern end of Pusch Ridge, and on the left are the Rincons to the southeast.

Continuation of the previous view looking from west to north up along the summit ridge, which in this view is about another 1500' higher.

A pool in Marshall Gulch filled with Bigtooth Maple leaves.

A very large Arizona Alder in the first photo and a large old Southwestern White Pine in the second along the creek in Marshall Gulch.  These pines don't develop this type of thick, hard and crackled bark until they live to a fairly old age.

Some more Bigtooth Maples catching the last light of the afternoon. The second photo is framed by one of the large Douglas-fir that line the creek.

April 8, 2011
Finally did the full loop, though I think most people do this loop starting from the Mt Lemmon summit, not from Marshall Gulch which adds some mileage and elevation.  Windy day with a front moving through, but the dust from the basins didn't get kicked up too badly to block the views.

The largest Arizona Pines and the largest grove of them that are encountered along the way through the Wilderness of Rock, the one at right is particularly large.

The steep north side of the Catalinas comes into view after reaching the far end of the loop which is the start of the ascent up the west ridge of Mt Lemmon.  Table Mountain is the prominent peak near the center.

Looking back on Pusch Ridge from a little farther up where Cathedral Peak pops into view on the left.  Window Peak is hidden behind it and Mt Kimball is to its right.  The shadowed ridge at left is the last bit of the crest ridge which broadens out before plummeting to Romero Pass.

View back southeast over the Wilderness of Rock, the trail already traveled cuts across the lower areas from left to right.  Eastern portion of the Catalina crest on the left and the Rincons in the haze at right.

Looking into the head of Romero Canyon on the north side of the crest ridge.  The trail climbs up the crest along the slopes at right.  Samaniego Ridge splits off to the north near the high point at center.  The trail at this point is crossing through the first substantial burn from the Aspen Fire since leaving Marshall Gulch.

Nearing the final climb up to the summit, Window Peak and The Window itself come into view over the flanks of Cathedral Peak, visible from a clearing left by the fire.

Looking through more heavy burn at Samaniego Ridge and Peak with the Arizona Trail visible descending down the ridge.

Deep shady White Fir forest is a peaceful highlight of this trail segment.

Nearing Mt Lemmon with Raven Rocks immediately to the left and Lemmon Rock Lookout just beyond.  The trail through the Wilderness of Rock travels through the forest visible below.

Past the summit and starting down the descent on the east ridge of Mt Lemmon which was entirely consumed by the fire.  The deep green of Marshal Peak and Gulch are on the right with only patches of burn on the slopes.  The town of Summerhaven is on the left with Mt Bigelow and lush green Bear Wallow in the distant center.

Odd little White Fir on the way back down to Marshall Gulch growing on an unusually sunny and bare slope.  The summit of Mt Lemmon and southeast slopes left bare by the Aspen Fire are in the background.

The GPS track only covers the actual loop portion of the hike which starts from the saddle at right, not the in and out portion through Marshall Gulch. Here's the GPS file wofrockloop.gpx.