Reddington Pass by the Numbers (Miles 0-5): Tanque Verde Falls

Reddington Pass is one of Tucson’s most accessible recreation areas and provides for a wide range of activities from hiking to shooting to four-wheeling.  Most of the pass falls within Coronado National Forest’s jurisdiction but there is also a fair amount of private land.  As always respect the rights of the private land owners, leave gates as you found them, and clean up after yourself!  In the upcoming months I will be writing a series of articles as I travel the pass and check out what it has to offer.

In the extreme northeast of Tucson the Santa Catalina and Rincon Mountain ranges converge to form Reddington Pass.  For access take Tanque Verde eastbound.  Tanque Verde turns into Reddington Road at Wentworth and two miles later turns into a rough, winding, often narrow, washboard, dirt road.  The road is passable most of the year in pretty much any vehicle but it is prone to washouts and even snow in the winter.  During wet weather you are going to want a vehicle with some clearance.

The first recreation area you’ll come to is Tanque Verde Falls.  The main parking area is to the left of the road at the 3.5 mile point or you can drive another mile or so to the Upper Falls parking area, which is not so much a parking area as it is a steep slope without a lot of vegetation.  The Lower Falls trail head is just across from the parking lot and is an easy (until you have to go back up) half mile switchback hike down to the stream bed.

RP TV Trail Head modRP TV Low Falls Trail c mod

Typical Tanque Verde Terrain

RP TV Lower Valley East View

The trail follows the stream to the east for several miles until the valley flattens out.  From here you can continue your hike along one of the many ATV trails or, if you haven’t had enough hills yet, you can follow one of  the trails up onto the southern ridge and make you way back west.

RP Above TV Falls mod

The Upper Falls trail is considerably shorter, perhaps a quarter of a mile, and drops you right into the middle of the falls.

RP Upper TV Falls 6 mod

RP TV Upper Falls b mod

Just up the road from the Upper Falls trail is the Blue Line trail.  This is a great little trail that runs along the north ridge of the valley and leading to the flats and jeep trails above the falls.  For my article on the Blue Line CLICK HERE.

RP TV Upper Falls a mod

A word about the stream.  It is a dry, rocky obstacle course for at least eight months out of the year.  Bring your own water unless you favor green, stagnant pools covered in wasps and flies.  (Saja’s Note:  Don’t know what he’s going on about.  Stinky water means stinky mud, and stinky mud sure is cool on a hot day!)

RP TV Mud Dog mod

However, when the water is flowing the valley is an amazing oasis of abundant flowers and greenery, swimming pools and water falls!  The valley gets its fair share of visitors during the wet season, but is never as crowded as Sabino Canyon.  Typically there is water during the winter (February to April) and often during the summer monsoon season (July and August), but this year has been very dry and the creek has not flowed since April.  A word of caution, if bare skin offends you then you may want to wait until the summer to visit, because the winter rains bring the nude hikers and bathers.  Nude hikers?  Ah, yup!  Not my cup of tea, but then I’m silly that way.

There are some decent camping spots, but like any narrow valley the Tanque Verde is susceptible to flash floods, so camp well above the stream bed  in the rainy season.  The valley is also a great place for bouldering and has a couple of decent faces for rappelling, but if you are looking for technical climbing you should head up to Mt Lemmon.

RP TV Falls Chorro mod

Even though the water is seasonal, the Tanque Verde valley supports a diverse range of plant and animal life, and if you keep your eyes open you may be surprised by what you see.  The winter and spring are a time of soft green growth and flowers as the opportunistic desert plants take advantage of the precious moisture and reward the visitor with a most undesert like bouquet of color.  These give way to sturdier plants that bloom through the summer, like the desert honeysuckle, barberry, desert willow, and honey mesquite.

RP Flowers mod

Animal life is harder to find, but is nonetheless abundant in this little valley.  I’ve seen deer, skunks, and rodents, frogs, lizards, snakes, and of course the ever present birds.  In the summer, raccoon and coyote tracks can be found in the soft soil near the remaining pools of water.  Dusk and dawn are the best times to observe the animal life.

RP TV Frog mod

RP TV Lizard mod

I especially enjoy visiting the valley in the morning and evening when the low sun casts shadows across the land and the light takes on those deep blues and reds that lend the desert a richness and vibrancy that you can’t find anywhere else.  The views are absolutely stunning as nature reveals that secret side of herself that is visible only during the brief transition between day and night.

RP TV Falls Twilight 2 mod

See Also:

Reddington Pass by the Numbers (Miles 5-7): Shooting Ranges

© 2009, The Desert Dog Journal. All rights reserved.

Filed Under: ArizonaReddington PassSoutheastTrail ReportsTucson Trails


About the Author: Tucson, AZ Realtor & Investor. My true passions however are hiking and whisky (although generally not at the same time). If you have a question about any of these just drop me a line!

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  1. Barbie Bell says:

    Thanks for posting the photos and commentary. I am in Tucson during the winter months and love the great hiking and motorcycling opportunities here!
    You definitely have me excited about exploring this area!


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