If you're one of the growing number of Forest visitors that likes to know what you're seeing, you'll want to bring your tree and wildflower books. You'll be hard pressed to find a more enjoyable outdoor classroom than this. If you have a book on butterflies, you'll want to bring that too. These colorful creatures congregate in clusters among the wildflowers that grow here.
Along the trailside, a variety of trees are mixed and matched in diverse communities that include ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir and southwestern white pine in the high, cool areas; Arizona madrone, box elder and bigtooth maple in the more moderate areas; and alligator juniper, various species of oak and yuccas in drier, more exposed areas. Moist ravines are decorated with columbine and butterfly weed, while south facing slopes provide an appropriate habitat for prickly pear and hedgehog cactus.
Views along this trail are as diverse as the biology, especially if you take the short side hike to the top of Mt. Bigelow. At this forest lookout location you'll find good views of Tucson to the west. The rest of the trail offers views to the east of Alder Canyon, the San Pedro Valley and the copper smelter at San Manuel.
A couple of springs along this trail provide water during wetter months of the year. Purification of water is recommended prior to use.
Directions: From Tucson, Take the Catalina Highway off Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Drive 4.2 miles to the Forest boundary and continue 19 miles to the Palisade Visitor Information Center. The trailhead for Butterfly Trail is located at the north end of the parking lot across the road. The upper trailhead is about another 4 miles up Catalina Highway at the Soldier Camp access road.
Elevation: 6,500 feet
Ending Elevation: 8,200 feet
Elevation Gain: 1,700 feet
Distance: 5.7 miles
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Coronado National Forest, Arizona
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