Ramsey Canyon

I would guess that this is one of the most visited trails in southern Arizona, but the vast majority don't venture any farther than halfway up the canyon since most are here to see the variety of birds visiting the lower canyon.

May 6, 2011 
It took me a while to visit this well known location, probably because of my aversion to crowded trails.  There were a handfull of people in the lower canyon but they quickly thin out once the trail starts climbing more steeply.  Took the trail up Ramsey Canyon then up the Wisconsin Canyon branch, and across Bear Saddle and Canyon for a final ascent up to Carr Peak.  Carr Canyon is probably the more popular and definately much faster route to this peak, but the scenery and wildness pales in comparison to this route.


Lush green side canyon of Wisconsin Canyon forested in everything from White Fir to Pinyon Pine with the crest of the Huachucas at top.

 
Granite Peak from Wisconsin Canyon, one of many not so prominent highpoints along the crest of the range.

 
Looking back across upper Ramsey Canyon to Ramsey Peak as the trail approaches Bear Saddle.


View from Bear Saddle through an old burn to the steep and rocky headwall of Bear Canyon, which is also the range crest.  The trail contours with a gradual ascent across to the other side at far right, then switchbacks steeply up the back side of the ridge to the crest again. 

 
Looking down into Bear Canyon with the south wall of the canyon mostly unscathed by fire and deeply forested, while the north wall is completely burned and covered in in oak scrub.  Smoke from fires extending south of the Patagonia Mountains block views from extending much into Mexico beyond the border.

 
View to Carr Peak from the trail junction at the crest.  From here onward the trail crosses through varying degrees of an old burn as it slowly climbs up to the peak.

 
Miller Peak comes into view over the crest just a short way past the trail junction.  Portions of it's slopes were burned by the Monument Fire shortly after this hike.

 
Carr Peak on the left and Miller Peak on the right rise above the depths of Miller Canyon.  Carr Peak was burned pretty extensively decades ago but only oak scrub has gained much ground on the warm south facing slopes so far with some pine, juniper, and Douglas-fir growing back in the more favorable sites.  San Jose Peak in the distance is on the other side of the border.

 
The lush north facing slopes of Miller Peak with bright green thickets of young aspen.  This whole area was later burned by the Monument Fire but I don't know to what extent as of writing this.  The lower end of the aspen grove is greening up faster than the cooler top end.


Looking northeast from the summit over Carr Canyon to Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca with the bright white surveillance blimp grounded.  Carr Canyon was the site of an extensive lumber operation that started in the late 1800's, as was Ramsey Canyon and others in the Huachucas. 


View northwest along the rest of the Huachucas to the Santa Ritas at center.  Ramsey Canyon is over the near ridge with Pat Scott Peak and Ramsey Peak at left and center on the other side of the canyon.  Huachuca Peak is farther beyond on the right across the much wider Garden Canyon.  The north slope of Carr Peak was also heavily burned but instead of being carpeted in oak like the south slope, it has an extensive aspen grove recovering in what would have been Pine-Fir forest.  This aspen grove is also greening up from bottom to top as on Miller Peak, though the top end also seems to be greening up faster due to its greater sun exposure.

 
Descending back down Ramsey Canyon with the afternoon sun lighting up patches of Bigtooth Maple between thick stands of White Fir along with Douglas-fir, Southwestern White Pine, Arizona Pine, Arizona Walnut, and plenty of other species.  Views through the dense forest in the canyon bottom are rare, such as this one up to the limestone cliffs of Ramsey Peak.  The steep canyon walls allow White Fir to dominate the forest, growing at elevations that are rare for southern Arizona and creating a unique biological environment.
 
 
Black Bear that got scared up from the creek along the trail and waited until I passed.  Typical shady White Fir forest of upper Ramsey Canyon in the background.  After many miles and years on trails in Arizona, this is the first bear I've seen.


The first portion of the hike through lower Ramsey Canyon at left is hidden in this view down in the canyon.  The trail travels up the south fork, which is Wisconsin Canyon, and then passes through Bear Saddle at center before crossing Bear Canyon.  Here's the GPS file, ramsey.gpx.


Aug 7, 2011
Storms were likely for the day but I thought I'd be able to squeeze in a longer hike up to higher elevations without too much trouble.  Even though the day started overcast which usually suppresses storms, the activity coincided with my exposure on the crest.  Stayed dry unexpectedly, but the lightning was too close for comfort. 

 
The giant sprawling sycamore just a short way up the trail from the visitor center.


View into the canyon from the top of the switchbacks.  Large old White Fir and Douglas-fir in the canyon bottom with drier oak-pine forest covering the slopes.  Ramsey Peak is the high point at right and the crest of the range is barely visible in the background.  


Large Silverleaf Oaks with their usual coating of lichen along the trail after it joins back up with the creek.

 
Bigtooth Maples and icy blue White Fir in Pat Scott Canyon near the mine site.  


Farther up canyon the trail encounters clearings from old forest fires that host a wide variety of plant species that are filling back in.  The burn extended up the walls of the canyon to the ridge in the background which leads to Ramsey Peak out of view on the right. 


The trail climbs out of the bottom of Pat Scott Canyon through open but shady stands of mostly Arizona Pine on the west wall until it reaches some meadows left in the wake of the old fires.  The cliffs of Ramsey Peak are prominent across the canyon with storms starting to form overhead.  


Lush green meadow just before the trail joins up with the Crest Trail.    


View back northwest towards the Santa Ritas from the Crest Trail as it passes by Pat Scott Peak, haven't identified the white flowers yet.   


Looking south to Carr Peak on the far left and Miller Peak farther back on the right.  At this point the storms were forming faster than I expected and some very close lightning caused me to move quickly to the south in order to meet up at a lower elevation with the trail that drops into Wisconsin Canyon.  The char of burn damage from the Monument Fire earlier in the summer is visible on the slopes of Miller Peak, but as of this hike this is as much as I've seen.   


Upper slopes of Bear Canyon close to the trail junction at Bear Saddle.  This is the same slope as seen in the center of the previous photo.  The red swaths of fire retardant are still clearly visible and will likely wash off the plants soon but stain the rocks for several years before fading away.  It was good to see that this area of forest had survived unscathed since it wasn't clear from various news reports exactly where on this ridge the fire had extended to.