Mica View Loop

Round Trip Distance: 2.2 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation: 2757 - 2819 feet
Cellphone: 3-5 bars
Time: 1 hr.
Trailhead: Mica View Picnic Area or Broadway
Fee: $15/vehicle
Attractions: Desert ecology, wildlife

The Mica View Loop 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 Mica View trail can be accessed from the Mica View Picnic Area or from the Broadway trailhead that is on Broadway Blvd. which borders a short section of the park.

The suggested direction for this short loop hike is to proceed north from the picnic area following the Mica View trail to the Broadway trailhead where the Shantz trail is picked up and followed to the Cactus Forest trail which heads back to the south to the other end of the Mica View trail which closes the loop. This post actually follows the same route but in the opposite direction.

The trails in the Cactus Forest Rincon Mountain District are well marked and easy to follow. It is still helpful though to pick up a hiking brochure at the Visitor Center to understand how they all interconnect.

The trail is a little sandy in spots but most of it is hard packed enough for easy hiking. The trail winds through groves of mesquite and palo verde trees.

Some of the largest fishhook barrel cactus that you will see anywhere are also found along the trail.

Chain-fruited cholla, also known as jumping jack, are also predominate in the area. Sections of the cactus detach very easily if you happen to brush up against it. You may need pliers to remove the spines from your clothing or skin. About 4 different species of the genus Opuntia can be found along the trail besides the chain-fruited. The others include the Christmas cholla, Teddybear cholla and the Staghorn cholla.

When accessing the trail from the Broadway trailhead you will not pass through a fee station but the parking there is very limited and there is no restroom.

Several sections of the Mica View trail are just like walking through a cactus garden as though each plant was specifically planted and maintained to delight the senses.

The hiking brochure points out to look for the young saguaro that grow up beneath the sheltering palo verde "nurse trees". It's interesting that the palo verde tolerate nearby plants while a creosote bush, which there are many of in the area, endeavor to make the soil around them toxic to other plants.

The picnic area at the south end of the Mica View trail is equipped with tables, barbecues and a vault (pit) toilet restroom. As it is with most other places in Arizona you have to be as cognizant of rattlesnakes as you do of cactus needles. The state of Arizona boasts 13 species of rattlesnakes and in some areas, such as around Tucson, snakes can be encountered year round. Staying on the trail not only helps preserve the area but lessens the chance of an unexpected encounter. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.