An Early Morning Hike In Tucson's Catalina State Park to Romero Pools

Updated on July 10, 2020
Chuck profile image

Having lived in Arizona for over 30 years, Chuck and his wife enjoy the great outdoors of the American Southwest.

A Hike To Romero Pools In Catalina State Park

I’m retired but my wife is still working and her work week is Sunday through Thursday so we decided to spend the first Friday in April hiking to the Romero Pools in nearby Catalina State Park.

It was seven in the morning when we arrived and the parking lot was already about one-third full. It was daylight but the sun was still well hidden behind the towering Catalina Mountains which border the eastern end of the park.. The morning air was brisk with the temperature hovering between 49 and 50 degrees. As we started out from the parking lot the first rays of the sun were shining on a couple of peaks to the west of us.

My wife making her way on a makeshift bridge across Sutherland Wash in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park
My wife making her way on a makeshift bridge across Sutherland Wash in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park | Source

Shortly after it starts the trail crosses the Sutherland Wash where the flowing water flattens out into a slow running, shallow stream flowing across the flat land where the land becomes a plateau at the western edge of the mountains. A couple of weeks ago the water was running a little faster and was both wider and deeper. Now at this crossing point it was about 15 or so feet across and six to twelve inches deep. My wife elected to walk across the makeshift bridge that consisted of a small log and a row of large rocks. She made the trip across successfully. For myself I chose to go a few yards further downstream where the stream took the form of a delta where I was able to jump the stream utilizing two small islands in the delta. Since I have longer legs than my wife and was wearing waterproof hiking boots I was able to keep my feet dry despite landing in about three inches of water on each jump.

Thistle in bloom along trail to Romero Pools with Santa Catalina Mountains in the distance
Thistle in bloom along trail to Romero Pools with Santa Catalina Mountains in the distance | Source

A Short Detour To The Montrose Pools

Once across the wash the dirt path is wide and smooth for the first mile and is almost as wide as a one lane dirt road. At the very start there is a small, 400 foot hill to walk up and then the trail is a flat and mostly straight as it crosses a wide plateau for the next mile.

The path is a few hundred feet above the wash and is located in a wide grassy meadow with some cactus and numerous wild flowers in bloom at this time of year. After hiking slightly over a mile the trail divides in a “V” shape with the section to the right being the trail to the pools.

A short distance from where the trail split there is a short trail going off to the right which, after a hundred yards or so, leads down to a couple small pools known as the Montrose Pools. These are two small pools which, at this time of year had water in them creating a very picturesque spot.

Picturesque Montrose Pools located along trail to Romero Pools in Arizona's Catalina State Park
Picturesque Montrose Pools located along trail to Romero Pools in Arizona's Catalina State Park | Source

The Trail Narrows And Becomes Steeper And Rocky

From this point to the Romero Pools the distance is just under 2 miles with an additional gain in altitude of about 900 feet by the time you reach the pools (this 900 feet plus the 400 foot hill at the start results in a total gain in altitude of 1,300 feet from the trail start to the pools).

Starting at this point and continuing to the pools the trail becomes narrow, rocky and mostly uphill. However, the scenery is beautiful and, at this time of year there is an abundance of wild flowers as well as water in the pools.

Looking down on trail heading back from Romero Pools hike in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park
Looking down on trail heading back from Romero Pools hike in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park | Source
My wife maintaining social distancing while hiking to Romero Pools in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park
My wife maintaining social distancing while hiking to Romero Pools in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park | Source

We Finally Reach The Romero Pools

It seemed to take forever to reach the pools. At certain points we could see water cascading down the bare rock a ways ahead of us but no sign of the pools.

We finally reached the first pool. The trail seemed to be about 15 or 20 feet above the first pool which was obscured by vegetation and rock until we were almost directly above it

We spent 30 minutes or more at the first pool taking pictures and exploring around it. The water was low enough that we were able to step across the stream at one spot and follow the trail as it now continued on the left side of the Sutherland Wash.

An additional 15 minute walk took us to a couple of more pools and a tiny waterfall between them. There were two or three people at the first pool and three people sunning themselves and swimming in the second set of pools when we arrived.

Waterfall between 2 Pools in the Romero Pools in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park
Waterfall between 2 Pools in the Romero Pools in Tucson Arizona's Catalina State Park | Source

The Weather Got Warmer

By the time we made our way to the pools the temperature had risen from a cool 49 degrees to a rather warm 80 degrees. Even with Arizona’s well known dry heat eighty degrees, while not necessarily uncomfortable, is still warm.

While we still sweat in such heat, it usually evaporates so fast that it is generally not noticeable. Our previous hikes since January have been shorter and less rugged and the temperature only rising to the sixties or low seventies. As a result we cut back on the amount of water we carried.

On this hike I carried three and a half 16 ounce bottles of water and a12 ounce bottle of Gatorade while my wife had two sixteen ounce bottles of water plus one she was drinking when we started. As we started back to the car from the pools we were down to my two unopened bottles of water and the Gatorade.

As we headed down the trail I began to feel my face starting to become warm and dry which is an early sign of heat exhaustion. I slowed my pace and sipped some water periodically and when we reached the Montrose Pools we stopped and rested in the shade of a couple of its trees while drinking some of the Gatorade which, for me at least, results in a quick return to normal.

A couple of years ago I did start to come down with heat exhaustion. That time we were able to find a shady spot to rest and, fortunately, a couple of other hikers came along and one still had a few ounces of Gatorade left which quickly revived me. They joined my wife and me for the remaining short distance to the parking lot. As a result I now carry a bottle of Gatorade on hikes in case of emergency.

My wife enjoying the view of the Montrose Pools which we visited a second time to rest on the way back to our car.
My wife enjoying the view of the Montrose Pools which we visited a second time to rest on the way back to our car. | Source

When We Finished The Hike The Parking Lot Had Filled

It was a little after noon when we got back to our car.

The hike had taken us a little over 5 hours due mainly to the fact that we were not only taking our time but also because of our frequent stops to take pictures.

While the out and back round trip is about 5.5 miles we probably did a little more with the fifteen minute hike from the first pools to the second ones further up as well as some very short detours on some little side trails such as the thousand feet or so trail to the Montrose Pools which we took on the way up and the way back.

However, much time was consumed taking pictures. While the trail was a bit of a challenge and a very good opportunity to keep fit and stay in shape our main motivation in hiking these trails is the opportunity to enjoy the fresh air along with the spectacular scenery and the great photo opportunities offered.

Rays  from early morning Sun touching the tips of Mountain Peaks in Catalina State Park in Tucson, AZ
Rays from early morning Sun touching the tips of Mountain Peaks in Catalina State Park in Tucson, AZ | Source

Since Maintaining Social Distancing Is Easy In Wide Open Spaces The Chances Of Catching Coronavirus Appear Remote

One of the bright spots about living in Tucson, Arizona during the COVID-19 or coronavirus period of social distancing is that there are a lot of open spaces in the Tucson area. It is easy to maintain a safe distance from others without having to barricade oneself inside their home all day. Unlike cities in other parts of the country and world, the Tucson metro area is not only spread out over a large area it is also surrounded by a large amount of more or less empty desert and mountain area.

One can not only take the dog or children out for a walk in the neighborhood while easily maintaining six or more feet from others there are a number of city and county parks along with Saguaro National Park which is located on both the east and west side of the city as well, the Coronado National Forest, Sabino Canyon Recreation area and two state parks all of which are within easy driving distance.

My wife and I have been enjoying the beautiful spring weather hiking in these parks every weekend. Each time we have had good luck in finding parking in the designated parking lots (people come and go and, so far, I have pulled in just as one or two others are leaving and pulling out) we see many more people parking along the highways leading to the large national park and recreation areas. However, despite the vast numbers of cars, these areas are so large that, other than occasionally passing someone on a trail, the distance between people is usually a few hundred feet or more and this is when you actually see other people as most of the time we are alone on the trail.

No Social Distancing problem here.  My wife enjoying both the view and solitude available in this rocky mountain overlook.
No Social Distancing problem here. My wife enjoying both the view and solitude available in this rocky mountain overlook. | Source

Corona Virus And Herd Immunity

The rugged terrain and rather steep and winding trail did slow us down some, especially the fantastic scenery with the numerous photo opportunities they offered. Occasionally we had to back up against the rocky inside wall of the trail to let others pass. This was where neither we nor those passing us were able to maintain the six or more feet social distancing rules. Our backs were literally against the mountain wall and if those passing us took a step or two to their right, they would find nothing but air between themselves and the canyon 500 to 1,000 feet or more below. However, none of us coughed or sneezed during these occasional passings and the less than six foot distance only lasted for three or four seconds.

While I haven’t been ovely worried about catching the virus during these outings it did dawn on me that those we encountered, as well as ourselves, were potentially perfect carriers of the disease as one has to be fit and healthy in order to engage in this type of hiking. And, these are exactly the type of people who are likely to have and spread the virus while displaying few or no symptoms.

As the Wall Street Journal syndicated columnist Holeman Jenkins Jr. has repeatedly mentioned in his articles, the flattening of the curve associated with the stay at home and social distancing have two objectives. The first is to slow the spread of the disease and flatten the curve of new cases to relieve the burden on hospitals and protect those whose poor health makes them vulnerable to the deadly threat of the virus. The second, and less talked about is to allow the disease to slowly spread through the healthy portion of the population in order to create so called herd immunity in which a large enough pool of people gain immunity by having had the virus thereby limiting the number of people available for the virus to affect and use to spread on its next return before a vaccine is available.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Chuck Nugent

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    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      5 weeks ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Peggy - thanks for your kind comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub and photos. I think I have credit for most of the tickets which we will hopefully be able to use next summer. In the meantime my wife, who works in healthcare (a hospice) has been allowed to continue accumulating vacation time despite being maxed out (they're short of workers) so I am looking to plan a road trip for a week or so probably in the fall. So far, other than the Europe trip, we haven't been too inconvenienced by pandemic restrictions and have been able to get out and travel. We do avoid crowds and wear masks when we go shopping and a few other inside places. Take care and keep healthy yourself.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      5 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for sharing your stellar photos and writing about that hike to those pools in Catalina State Park. You are fortunate to be able to hike without meeting too many people on those hikes.

      I hope those airline tickets that you paid for can be used in the future. Right now, due to all the COVID-19 cases in the U.S., we are banned from traveling to the EU. Texas, Arizona, and Florida are hot spots for the virus, as you know. Our hospitals are filled to overflowing with patients right now in the Houston area.

      Stay safe, Chuck! Hopefully, we will have a vaccine sometime shortly so that we can get back to a more normal life.

      In the meantime, I am enjoying travel articles like yours!

    • lizmalay profile image

      Liza 

      3 months ago from USA

      Yea, that's right, Chuck. It is still cold right here. I hope the warmth comes soon. In the meantime, we have to file a refund through the bank as the travel company didn't answer all our inquires. So, hopefully, we will get good news from them. I'm glad you are getting vouchers. However, I hope you will be able to work on your flights.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      3 months ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Liza - Thank you for your comments. We have been to Utah a number of times but I guess it is still cold up there at this time of year. I hope you and your husband have good luck rescheduling your trip to Malaysia. I have been able to get vouchers to use later this year or next for the bus tour portion of our trip but so far the airlines aren't offering alternative options yet for flights beyond the end of this month and our flights are for the end of May and June.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      3 months ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Thanks. I hope so too. I just took advantage of the offer from the British company offering the bus tours to get cancel our tour scheduled to tart at the beginning of June and have until the end of May to reschedule the same tour at the same price for later this year or next summer and have until August to reschedule at the same price without losing our deposit. We are still waiting to see what the airlines will offer since I took advantage of the lower price and made non-refundable reservations.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      3 months ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Nella DiCario - Thank you for your comment. I grew up in Western New York across the lake from Ontario and have fond memories of visiting Toronto, Niagara Falls and other places in Ontario. Arizona and other western states have larger land area and smaller populations than the eastern part of the country which makes social distancing easier than in places like New York so we are able to safely get out more than people in other parts of the country. I doubt my wife and I would be able to get out as much if we still lived in New York. Thanks again for you comments and I hope parks open up again soon in Ontario.

    • lizmalay profile image

      Liza 

      3 months ago from USA

      I love reading your great outdoors trip, Chunk. It was amazing. The warm weather is nice and is something I looking forward to right now. Currently, I live in Utah, and I must say we share a similarity. However, I saw in your comment mentioning you had to postpone your trip to Europe? I have the same circumstances my husband and I had to postpone a trip to Malaysia this month. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Stay safe!

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      Sorry to hear about your travel plans being disrupted. I hope that the travel companies are reasonable and you can rearrange the trip for a better time.

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      3 months ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Liz - thanks for your comments. Yes, we are fortunate here. Things are tighter back east where the population density is higher making it more difficult to social distance outside. So far our biggest problem is trying to re-arrange our planned trip to Europe in June. My wife planned to go to Russia to visit some family and friends and then we planned to meet in London for af 5 country bus tour of the Continent. I made all the arrangements back in January and am now in the process of trying to reschedule to the fall or next year hoping that the airlines and tour company will either refund our money or give us credit for future travel as we still want to make both the Russia and Europe trip.

    • Nella DiCarlo profile image

      Nella DiCarlo 

      3 months ago from Guelph, Ontario

      Enjoyed the article. Looks like a beautiful area and good exercise. Here in Ontario (Canada) unfortunately for now our provincial parks and conservation areas are closed, but i am going to be extra appreciative when they do open up again ..

    • Chuck profile imageAUTHOR

      Chuck Nugent 

      3 months ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Bill - thanks for your comments. We are fortunate here as we can, with some common sense precautions, get out and enjoy the spring weather. The stores are open and I have made a couple of quick trips to pick things up and have also purchased some groceries online. I miss shopping at Costco because they have a lot of good things (I buy their big package of their 40 or so roll of toilet paper which lasts my wife and I about six months and my most recent purchase was at the end of December so we're good for at least a couple of more months) and have driven past their store near us a couple of times just to see if the pics my friends on Facebook are real and, sure enough, the line to get in stretches all the way across the parking lot. Other than that we are surviving ok. Stay safe yourself.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      3 months ago from UK

      You are very fortunate in being able to access beautiful areas like this. In the UK we are discouraged from travelling any distance to escape into the great outdoors. The police have been known to stop cars and send people back to avoid overcrowding at beauty spots. You have documented your hike well with some top rate photos.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      4 months ago from Massachusetts

      What a great hike, Chuck. The scenery looks beautiful. You are wise to carry extra water and Gatorade, the dry heat can dehydrate you quickly and without warning. We have been getting out for walks and hikes here, always maintaining a safe distance. Stay safe, hopefully this all passes soon.

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