Loma Verde Loop

Round Trip Distance: 3.8 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 2745 - 2852 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 1 hr. 45 mins.
Trailhead: Loma Verde
Fee: $15/vehicle
Attractions: Desert ecosystem, variety of cacti, wildlife

The Loma Verde trail is located within the East District of the Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona. The city of Tucson splits Saguaro (pronounced 'sah-wah-ro' or 'suh-wah-ro') National Park into two sections that were set aside to protect the unique saguaro cacti that only grow in a small area of the desert southwest. The East, or Rincon Mountain District stretches from the desert floor on the outskirts of Tucson into the Rincon Mountains where it reaches an elevation of 8,666 feet. The West or Tucson Mountain District lies on the other side of the city where it ranges in elevation from 2,180 to 4,687 feet (www.nps.gov/sagu).

The Loma Verde trailhead is about the fourth trailhead along the Cactus Forest Loop Road. A good English translation for loma verde would be 'green hill'.

The trail starts out heading north surrounded by mesquite trees and a variety of shrubs and cactus.

The trails are well marked and easy to follow but there are many routes that you can follow in all directions. Until a hiker is familiar with the area it is best to carry one of the free hiking guides that you can pick up at the Visitor Center or print off from the Saguaro National Park website. This post follows the Loma Verde trail in the suggested direction to its junction with the Pink Hill trail which it follows to the Squeeze Pen trail as it loops back to the Loma Verde trail and back to the trailhead.

The Loma Verde trail passes an abandoned copper mine along the way. This specimen of copper ore was spotted in the vicinity of one of the left over tailing piles.

Besides the massive saguaro cactus there are many other varieties such as prickly pear, fishhook barrel cactus and cholla. Pretty much everything that grows has either needles or thorns so it's good to pay attention to what you brush up against. The palo verde (green tree) add yet another shade of green to the picture.

The wildlife is probably easier to spot than it is to get a photo of. A telephoto lens helps to get a picture from a distance that hopefully won't spook your subject. Besides a jackrabbit like this one you may also see deer, coyotes, javelina (wild pigs) and rattlesnakes.

It must be delicate work to build a nest like this.

This American Kestrel was kind enough to pose for the camera. Sometimes called a sparrow hawk the kestrel is the smallest of falcons and also the most colorful.

At one time the Squeeze Pen trail was apparently a location where cowboys would brand their cattle. Rather than roping the cows and wrestling them to the ground to brand them they would be pushed into a squeeze pen where cowboys could brand them standing up as well as do any dehorning, delousing, ear tagging or whatever else needs to be done. That's the way we always did it anyway.

With the numerous interconnecting trails in the Rincon Mountain Districts Cactus Forest you can put together a hike ranging from as little as a quarter mile to something much longer that you can spend all day exploring. Of course, the extreme heat that this area experiences during the summer months may necessitate hiking only during the cooler early morning and evening hours. The Loma Verde trail in the Saguaro National Park is a great place to experience the Sonoran Desert with the Southwests iconic giant saguaro. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.