5 Awesome Tucson Hiking Adventures - Redfield Canyon - The Place Time Has Forgotten

In our previous article in our series about hiking in Tucson, we showcased the glorious pinnacle and stunning views of Mt Wrightson. Today’s post shines a spotlight on some incredible hiking near Tucson: Redfield Canyon.

Hiking Near Tucson – Redfield Canyon
Imagine a secret place, a narrow, red-walled chasm featuring tall cliffs pocked with eroded caves and strewn with boulders. A place where deep within its heart exists a stone cliff house built into a cliff, lying in splendid isolation. Rumor has it that when they excavated it in the 1930’s, a mummified skull of a Native American infant was unearthed. The daughter of the family who lived in the cliff house brought the skull to school for show and tell! For the full story of the cliff house and Redfield Canyon, view the fully narrated video.

In this spectacular canyon, hidden cascades and deep pools may be discovered in the side canyons while occasionally bighorn sheep and mountain lions are spotted on the canyon walls. Pictographs, petroglyphs, ruins of the ancient ones and pioneer relics are scattered throughout the canyon and the Galiuro Mountains, where Redfield is located. The Galiuros are made up of a network of peaks and canyons and are a great example of the fault-block development of the Basin and Range Province, stretching from southern Arizona to Oregon.

With all this beauty, fascinating history and the fact that these mountains exist only forty air miles from Tucson, one would think Redfield Canyon and the Galiuros would be swarming with visitors. This simply isn’t the case. The main reasons are access; there are no maintained roads or trails into the wilderness. The only public access is via a fourteen-mile oil pan banging four-wheel drive road taking hours to navigate.

In addition, a large part of the access roads to Redfield Canyon are privately owned which require permission from the landowners before crossing their lands. But for the intrepid hiker and backcountry enthusiast, these mountains are heaven sent. Redfield Canyon is just one of many magnificent places in the Galiuros, a mountain range unlike any other in the world.

On a fine autumn day, our group drove the rough but picturesque Jackson Cabin Road eleven miles to the head of Swamp Springs Canyon. We parked our vehicles, unloaded our gear and began our two-day backpack. The trip proved most enjoyable when done as a backpacking trip because of the rugged nature of the terrain. The roundtrip mileage clocked in at approximately fifteen miles.

We scrambled seven miles down Swamp Springs to the confluence of Redfield Canyon. The canyon included beautiful riparian vegetation such as sycamore, cottonwood, walnut and oak trees as well as flowing water. In the distance, saguaros, palo verdes and other Sonoran Desert plants held sway, clinging to steep cliffs flanking the canyon. The contrast between lush woodland, water and stark desert was fascinating.

After camping at the cliff house, the next morning our group climbed a steep route leading out of Redfield Canyon and hiked the Sheep Wash Trail. Riveting views of tree-lined Redfield Canyon from above and far-reaching vistas of the Galiuro Mountains were the highlights. The meandering Sheep Wash Trail eventually rejoined Redfield Canyon after seven miles and a side route guided us to Jackson Cabin. After spending time exploring the cabin and pioneer relics, we followed Jackson Cabin Road three miles back to Swamp Springs Canyon where our adventure began.