Romero Canyon

March 18, 2024.

13.7 mi | 2930′ ele. gain | 7:30 hr.

Photo album

In search of wildflowers and a good, long hike, I strapped on my backpack and ventured up into Romero Canyon. My hike began from our campground in Catalina State Park, which was no more than a gravel parking lot stuffed to the gills with monster RV’s, trailers, vans and multi-room tents. It was an absolute nightmare. I couldn’t wait to disappear up a trail. Ringtail campground: do not recommend.

I walked up a multi-use path to the main trailhead, where I immediately took off my shoes to cross the creek. On the other side, my heart and soul were soothed with big views and colorful wildflowers. The cacophony of voices swiftly dissipated as I gained more distance from the creek. This was a popular place, and for good reason! Lots of folks were out enjoying the beautiful morning.

The trail climbed up and over some rocky business before dropping down into the canyon. I made frequent stops to photograph and identify flowers. To an Arizona native, these flowers were likely nothing to stop for. But, since it was mostly all new to me, each bloom was a miracle of nature.

Upon reaching Romero Pools, I soaked in the views, crossed the creek and kept exploring. Each step was more and more beautiful. The trail weaved back and forth across the water, but rocks in the creek let me hop across with dry feet. As I continued up and up, the vegetation changed from saguaro to alligator juniper, poppies to paintbrush. It’s so fun to read the elevation of the landscape in the plants that grow there.

The forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms, and I noticed the clouds building all morning. As the canyon ahead of me became more sinister gray than fluffy white, I decided to turn back. Shortly after, I felt a few raindrops. A couple of hikers still heading up canyon brushed past me, clearly unconcerned about the change in weather. I did not want to get stuck in this canyon in a thunderstorm, so I kept barreling downhill.

As I got closer and closer to the parking lot, I saw more and more people, not a single one reading those clouds the same way I did. Maybe the locals knew their weather patterns better than me. No matter, I stuck with my gut decision and headed out. I got two lovely rewards as a result: a coati butt sighting and open tuber anemones. The anemones had been closed earlier in the day, but they must have gotten enough sunshine to spread their petals wide by the time I returned.

The foreboding skies never evolved into a thunderstorm, so maybe I could have kept going. I’m still happy with the decision I made because I would have just been stressed out and not enjoying my time had I continued further up canyon. Plus, if the storm had materialized, I would have been screwed. Always strive to hike another day!

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