Backpacker Magazine Tucson, AZ: Marshall Gulch to Aspen Trail Loop 

A high-altitude intro to the Santa Catalina Mountains, this trail literally sparkles as it circles Marshall Peak for an easy, 3.3-mile loop through the Pusch Wilderness Area.

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Author: Backpacker Magazine
Date: 27 Aug 2008 1:07:45 AM
Activity: Hiking
State: Arizona (AZ)
Distance: 3.34 mi  (Change units)
Survey Elevation: Total Gain: 1049 ft
Total Loss: 1091 ft
Net Change: -42 ft
Difficulty: 4 / 10
USGS Topo Map: Mount Lemmon
Tags: Arizona, Phoenix, Tuscon
Rating: Unrated   Rate it

This route follows the popular Marshall Gulch Trail #33 to the Aspen Trail #93, creating an easy, 3.4-mile counterclockwise loop among the high-altitude peaks of the Coronado National Forest’s Santa Catalina Mountains.

Follow Marshall Gulch trail signs to begin a quick ascent into the ponderosa-shaded forest. Crossing a small creek several times, the trail climbs eastward gradually and turns away from the creek before approaching a saddle 1.2 miles from the trailhead. Several trails merge here: Follow Aspen Trail #93 uphill and to the south for a 0.8-mile climb to Marshall Peak’s false summit.

A 2003 fire incinerated the most distant section of this loop and the damage is obvious. New growth of alder, aspen, pine and shrubby species continues, but the fire-scar dominates the scenery as the trail approaches it’s high point, more than 8,150 feet above sea level. Descending west and north toward the trailhead through the upper reaches of the Sabino Canyon, the trail reflects a glittering layer of mica and quartz dust that gives the day a magical feel.

Parking at the trailhead requires a Catalina Mountain Pass, available in per-day or annual increments.

-Mapped by Chris Wencker

TO TRAILHEAD: Take the E. Catalina Highway approximately 26 miles to Summerhaven and continue straight through town to the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area and at the end of the road.

Position Format: Datum:

Marshall Gulch

Distance: 3.34 mi Points: 190
Total Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.0 mph Pace: 0:00 / mi

Points of Interest


Location: 32.428073, -110.755903
The trail begins near the restrooms at the Marshall Gulch Picnic area.


Location: 32.427662, -110.757680
After a quick uphill, the trail crosses the wilderness area boundary. The climb through Marshall Gulch eases as it follows a seasonal creek.


Location: 32.427083, -110.761135
The trail crosses a seasonal creek several times as it heads north and west.


Location: 32.430663, -110.773327
Several trails converge at the Marshall Saddle. Stop to admire views of Lemmon Rock before following Aspen Trail #93 uphill through fire-scarred pine and aspen.


Location: 32.427101, -110.773816
The 2003 Aspen Fire scarred this distant section of the trail. Fallen trees, blackened trunks, and new growth of several high-altitude species are visible along the trail.


Location: 32.424212, -110.770096
The trail stays relatively flat as it winds below Marshall Peak.


Location: 32.422403, -110.764500
The trail's high point, a false summit of Marshall Peak sits at 8,150 feet (100 feet below the real thing). From here it's all downhill to the trailhead.


Location: 32.425290, -110.755642
The last half mile of the trail crosses out of the wilderness area, but it sparkles with mica and quartz dust shed from the walls of the upper reaches of Sabino Canyon.


Location: 32.427210, -110.761499
A pool along the seasonal creek. ©Chris Wencker

Easy Trail

Location: 32.431085, -110.769610
The easy trail climbs gradually toward Marshall Saddle. ©Chris Wencker

Photo Ops

Location: 32.428369, -110.773902
Be sure to stop for photos along the trail. ©Chris Wencker


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