Hikers can access several trails at the trailhead that leads to Romero Canyon in Catalina State Park near Tucson. While researching the 5.6-mile trail to Romero Pools, which is on the way to Romero Pass, I got confused by all the descriptions and thought the trail was described as “moderate.” Russ and I found out the hard way the hike is not moderate!
The first part of the hike is easy – it crosses the Sutherland Wash, an arroyo that’s filled with water seasonally. After a climb up the banks, the trail is flat and wide — used by humans, horses, and dogs.
Once the trail starts to ascend the saguaro-studded hills, however, it turns more difficult. (No dogs or horses allowed on this section.) I missed the part of the description that said, “The next 1.7 miles is a steep and rocky climb to Romero Pools. Poor trail conditions might be encountered as this is an unmaintained wilderness trail.”
We chose the trail on the advice of my 20-year-old son. Needless to say, a moderate hiking experience for a college student is not moderate for us oldsters, even if we are in shape.
But enough complaining! The views were magnificent. As the trail climbs 900 feet, we were able to look down steep ravines and over distant towns. We hiked in February and wildflowers were beginning to bloom. Temperatures were almost a bit chilly, even when we were in sunlight.
After about two hours, we reached the pools. (If you keep going on the trail, you’ll reach Romero Pass.) The pools were worth the climb! Following my son, we left the crowds at the pools near the trail and clambered around on slickrock, finding hidden watercourses. We rested and had a snack before heading back to the trailhead.
Going downhill was less strenuous, and quicker than the hike up, but my knees did not appreciate the additional stress. You don’t want to hear my sob story about past knee damage, so I won’t bore you. I was hobbling by the end of the hike, but recovered quickly on the car ride back to town and after some rest. With hobbling time included, it took us about 3 hrs and 45 minutes to complete the hike.
Don’t let my complaining put you off, just know that if you’re in your 50s or 60s, this scenic hike will give you a run for your money and that it’s helpful to have healthy knees. I’m glad we did it, but don’t foresee putting my knees through that again.