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4/27 - 4/29/2013 Tucson Trails: Charouleau Gap, Chiva Falls, Chimney Rock

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Looks like a great intimate trip.

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Thanks for the trip report and the photos.


Maybe I'll make it down there....one of these days.

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Looks like a great time! Yeah, the road leading up to the top of Chiva Falls is tougher than it looks. Way back in the 90's my friend in his 76 Landcruiser got a little too close to the edge and two tires began to go off the side. The more he worked it, the more he slid off in the loose rocks. I had to drive my CJ5 up around him and we hooked up a 15 foot chain I had and pulled him out. Big pucker factor there. We ended up breaking one of my shackles with that yank. Great pictures and love the video of the step. That's a really nasty spot. There didn't used to be a bypass, but it wasn't nearly as tough as it is now. Can't wait for part 3!

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Great Trip reports and pics. Glad you had a good time.. I have done tire patches like that too.

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Day 3 (Monday)


Monday morning we were all up and packed and standing around early again, so we hit the trail at 6:53 AM! Chris joked that George wouldn't have even starting boiling his Coffee water yet if he were there ;)


popping up over the hill next to our camp, we were greeted by this morning view:





within 30 minutes we were at "The Step", an optional difficult obstacle. it's very easy to miss the turnoff for it when running the trail in the North-South direction. i only found it because i had marked it on my GPS ahead of time.




as with most wheeling pictures, it's worse than the photo shows. i approached once but was too far passenger, i backed up and approached again with Chris spotting me. this time i was able to make the climb with the front tires, but the rear slipped off the little bit of rock on the driver's side which helps you get onto the ledge.


this obstacle was probably the most vertical i've ever had my rig. not being fully awake yet, i decided that one attempt was enough. the other challenge here is that you are at the midpoint of the trail. if you brake something, you are a long way from both Tucson and Oracle, and towing a rig out with a rope would be highly impractical due to the difficulty of the trail in either direction.


i'm sure Sarah will post another picture looking down from the top of the obstacle.



Chris scampered up the bypass, while Gear and i took the main trail.





just down the trail, we stopped at what's left of Coronado Camp. not much there except a wall and a skeezy hammock.







here's a picture of Chris and Sarah arguing about whether her face would show up if he took a picture of her with the camera facing into the sun. i took a picture since Chris said it would be a waste and refused. i can see their faces, so looks like Chris is doing the dishes or something tonight ;)





we then crawled through the part of the valley where you run the creek. somewhere in there is an obstacle called "The Carwash". at this time of year with the creek low you don't even know exactly when you pass through it though.


Chris slipped off a ledge in some part of the creek-crawl and bent his tie-rod slightly. looks like the Tucson-Area-Trails needed another sacrifice besides Gear's tire.


here we are emerging from the creek area:




Chris taking the proper wide-Jeep line on the slight climb out of the creek:




Gear took the nimble-Jeep line:





We saw lots of flowers in bloom along the trail:







You can start to see homes in the distance just after the actual Charouleau Gap spot on the trail:





i believe this is the Kiss Rock obstacle. apparently it's been blasted/bull-dozed and no longer poses the threat it once did. i never saw it in it's original state.


here Chris takes the correct slightly off-camber line. if you get too far Passenger coming down, one tire will drop into a hole and get you a bit tippy. i guess you could also straddle the notch without issue.







just before reaching civilization, we saw one last bit of wildlife:







the trip was a good time with some good friends. i was really bummed that several people bailed and we had such a small turnout, but i'm glad we still went. i can't think of anything i'd rather have been doing for 3 days!

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I did Charleau Gap from Oracle to Catalina about 20 years ago. Tried again a couple of years ago and couldn't find the trailhead. I don't know if the trailhead has changed or why. Can anyone give me directions?



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Kris you are correct, that is kiss rock. Good to see Mother Nature is bringing it back. I can't find a picture right now of it looking up at the top, but a friend of mine made this video several years ago after the USFS "improved" the trail.




And here is the line I had to take to get up The Step.


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Good morning all,


Sorry for the delay. Work has been brutal. I took over 700 photos. I broke them up into albums for those with time enough to check them out.


Highlights from entire trip: https://picasaweb.google.com/110968346826086888564/TucsonApril2013ForTripReport?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCJKpxOmLsI2VhAE&feat=directlink


Day 1: https://picasaweb.google.com/110968346826086888564/Day1ToChivoFalls?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCPmO8JLIrszhmAE&feat=directlink


Day 2 Chivo: https://picasaweb.google.com/110968346826086888564/ChivoFalls?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCIuZ3LSqk6X-qAE&feat=directlink


Day 2 & 3 Chimney Rock: https://picasaweb.google.com/110968346826086888564/ChimeyRock?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCIStwYPKpbCyJQ&feat=directlink


Day 3 Charoleau: https://picasaweb.google.com/110968346826086888564/ChareleauGap?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCMe1hbH6tYyWTQ&feat=directlink


Okay so now for the trip report:


Day 1 to Sunrise Day 2:


We met in Oracle, AZ and proceeded out the Mt. Lemmon Control Road. While airing down near the old post office we came across some people with horses. After talking with them it turns out they are neighbors of mine in Catalina during the winter and then they run a cool dude ranch in Colorado during the rest of the year. I got a brochure and will keep this on my list of places to vacation in the future.




We then decided to do some exploring a try a new way to get to Reddington Rd in the San Manuel area. This new trail was a nicely graded dirt road with some interesting side trails. Chris and I plan to check these out in the near future since it is so close to home.






We made it to Reddington Rd safely and made the long drive arond the backside of the mountain range to get over to the Chivo Falls trailhead. I was surprised to meet up with a bicyclist so far out but in Tucson you see all sorts of things:




We started onto the Chivo Falls trail and it quickly became rocky. There were some amazing views of the surronding mountains and wildflowers were abundant:








We stopped for lunch around 1pm under some nice tall trees. As Kris mentioned it was crazy to see how high the water level could be during a monsoon.




After lunch we climbed up higher towards the falls. There were several tippy spots and I kept remembering why I wanted to get Chris's spare tire off the top of his WJ :D I am getting better at not closing my eyes during the scary moments and try to remember to take pictures instead!!




Right before the falls there is a narrow squeeze section. You can park before this and walk to the falls but what fun would that be!!










We could see and hear the falls from a distance and had to do a little bit of boulder climbing to get to the falls.




Here is Gear and Ksmith checking out the falls while Chris and I cool off in the shade.




We hung out for a bit and I dipped my toes in the water which was surprisingly cool. We then headed out and my husband suggested we try the trail that goes to the top of the falls to see the pools. So we and Kris decided to try the very steep trail while Gear smartly stayed behind in the shade.








Ksmith quickly discovered that the line he was on was not going to work so he had us drive around him and park so that Chris could get out and spot him. I got out to snap pictures. I sadly was holding my breath and forgot to take a picture of when Kris's tire went off the ground. There is a nice shot of my husband running for the Jeep and then he had to hold on to the mirror/window to help keep the Jeep on the dirt. Next time I wil video this!






Kris was able to safely back down and then come up the edge of the cliff which was amazingly the safer choice. We hit a split in the trail and decided to go left to what we thought were the pools. However, after further poking around the pools were not found. I think if we had turned left and kept climbing we may have spotted the elusive "pools". The view was amazing from up here.






So back down the trail we go to meet back up with Gear.




There were so many cows on this trip. Here is one of the largest groups with a bunch of babies:




So as we are riding along I see in the distance a wall of rock and I don't see any trails. An expletive or two may have come out of my mouth after releazing how the trail got out of this valley. Turns out the wall of rock was the "three feathers" obstacle. The guys got out to check out the three different lines.




Ksmith was the first to test out the middle line.






Ksmith then was spotted up to the right of the middle line to exit the obstacle:




Then it was "Hope's" turn with my husband driving:






Now after the two larger WJs made it through I was walking back down to get a pic of Gear. He made it look super easy and was scampering up the trail before i could get many pictures.




More Cows in the road after three feathers:




At the gate (noe of many on this trip) to Chimney Rock Kris has some very large cows checking him out. I was waiting to see them charge him.




Stare down....who blinked first:



We arrived about 90 minutes before the sun went down at Chimney Rock. This was a great quiet area to camp and I was surprised not to see anyone else here.




We hung out around a nice campfire for a while and then got to see Border Patrol in the skies twice over us. In addition we got to see this big metor with a green contrail behind it light up the sky. I have never seen anything so bright. In a while the full moon rose up over the hills and we could see really well. After a few more drinks and banter us "old folks" got sleepy and all went to our respective camping spots.


In the morning I woke up just as it was starting to get light out. The first night on our new Alps sleeping mats was much better than our usual foam mats. I snapped some pictures of the moon setting over the rock formations.










More on Day 2 and three to come....



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Day 2: Chimney Rock to Reddington Pass Rd to Charoleau Gap Trail


So day two began early and we broke camp and continued to follow the Chimney Rock trail out to Reddington Pass. The road to Chimney Rock was easy dirt road. The road out to Reddington pass was rocky, narrow, and tree filled. Somewhere along this part is wear Gear's tire sidewall got a slice :eek:




Here is a nice tippy spot on the edge of a small cliff.




So after a while Kris stopped and flagged me to come look. We got to see a Gila monster making its way across the trail and then trying to hide under a ledge.




Promptly after this Gear announced over the CB that he had a possible flat. We all stopped by a windmill and solar panel array to help him plug the tire. Gear was in good spirits and posed with the failing tire. I still find it odd to have a solar panel in the middle of no where. I am sure we missed the entrance to the secret lair ;)




We made it safely to Reddington Pass Rd and then topped off our gas tanks and ice in San Manuel, AZ. We then took a short road over to Oracle to begin Charoleau Gap Trail. I was super excited to finally be able to see this trail since I live so close to it and have been wondering what is up there. I decided to drive the first portion of the trail until I chickened out ;) This was only my third time driving my husband's baby offroad. He thankfully is a great coach!


View from the start of the trail:








I made it driving all the way to the hill before the "Elevator" obstacle. I am SO glad I switched with Chris to have him drive. The trail from this part on was super steep and difficult. The washout section before you get to the "elevator" was beyond my skill level of driving. So I went back to snapping photos.




I snapped a couple of pictures (see the large Charoleau Gap folder) of our view as we climbed up this long hill. All you could see was sky and hope you were still on the trail. A couple of times the tires felt really light in front but we slowly crawled up the hill safely. Once again Gear's Jeep scampered up it like it was nothing!!


Here is a view looking back from the next ridge toward "Elevator"



As we were going up the next ridge Gear let us know he could he air escaping from the same tire :eek: So we had to find a level spot to work on his tire. While the guys were busy putting a bunch of tire plugs in I investigated the hill above the jeeps. I found there was a great view of Biosphere 2 in Oracle from up there:




Sadly the plugs wouldn't work and the tear kept expanding. The tire had to go.






The trail became really steep and we went into a series of some pretty tight switchbacks. Once again I am glad I wasn't driving this.








After the long climb down into the wash we were treated with running water and shade. I always love this about trails in AZ when you find running water.




We found a nice camping spot to pull our Jeeps into and set up camp. Chris and I made some burgers and were eating these when a small herd of cattle decided that our campsite was were they wanted to be. There were several babies, several moms, and one large bull. We stared at each other for a while and I snapped some pictures of the babies who were so curious. Finally the bull herded them over to the other side of the wash.




So with our "cow problem" gone we decided to get a quick trail nap. While sleeping in the Jeep I heard noise outside and woke up to see two mother and two babies making their way through our camp site. One of the babies was looking into Ksmith's tent cot with evident curiosity. I was so mad that I couldn't reach the camera that I put on the dash without spooking them. They continued on their way through camp and hung out behind my Jeep for a while grazing.


After our naps we explored the camp area a bit to gather firewood and check out the stream. Then we settled in to enjoy the campfire and conversation.


Day three coming up...

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Day Three: Charoleau Gap Trail to Catalina, AZ


Day Three began early. I once again was up before dawn and tried to be quiet so I didn't wake anyone (other than Chris). I love watching the sun rise and relaxing in the quiet. Soon it became light out and everyone started packing up and eating a light breakfast. We were all ready before 7am which has to be some kind of record :D


So we headed down the very rocky and rough wash. We had our breakfast (ham, bacon, sausage egg biscuit casserole) heating in the oven and pretty quickly it was done. The fun part was trying to give the spoon to Chris while he was driving over this really bumpy and rocky section of the trail.








Ksmith announced we were at "The Step" and we got out to investigate. The ledge was really steep and with wet tires I had my concerns. I climbed up the ledge to get into a spot where I could take pictures and video:




Kris and Chris having fun pointing out different routes up the rock:








Video of the attempt:




I am impressed the Kris even attempted this so early in the morning and before the multiple red bulls :P At one point I could see the complete underside of his Jeep and was holding my breath. I am very happy that my husband didn't try this one because he doesn't wake up until at least noon!


The bypass was a steep slick rock section that Chris later powered up as I tried to stay out of his way and not get run over while taking photos:




We continued driving through the wash and playing in the water:



We stopped to check out Camp Coronado. I still want to learn more about this spot.






Then back to playing in the wash:








The trail had some good sized boulders to crawl over:




As we were in the car wash section Chris managed to slip off a rock into a hole and we heard a large metal crunch. I had visions of the radiator being busted but thankfully that wasn't the case. Only a tie-rod. As we were crawling out of the wash we came across a sign warning about the dangerous trail ahead.




We quickly encountered more cows in the trail and had to honk to encourage them to move. Poor Gear thought we were honking at him to hurry up.




We then began the climb up out of the wash:




Rest stop before climbing up the gap.




Crossing the cattle guard that is at the top of Charoleau Gap:




View of Oro Valley and Catalina from the top of the Gap. I was able to pick out our housing subdivision from up here.




A view of Pusch Ridge overlooking Oro Valley, AZ:




Kris was approaching Kiss Rock obstacle:






It was pretty slippery to walk on but i managed to get down below Kiss rock to shoot a few pictures:






Gear once again made this obstacle look easy :D




View towards Catalina, AZ. There were a lot of camp spots and two spur trails off of the main trail. Chris and I plan to go back up and check these out before it gets too hot out.




We finished the trail and I signed the log book.




We had a great time and want to thank Kris for leading and Gear for coming along. I really needed this break from reality and had so much fun. I can't wait for the next trip. Thanks again for making this possible!!



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