Beauty of Seven Falls

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Tanque Verde Falls and Aqua Caliente Park

We were a small group this week.  There were only 6 of us: JoAnn, Ernie, LaNeta, Gordy, Bonnie, and myself.  The weather was perfect for hiking – sunny, cool starting out, but with temps expected to climb to about 70 – we couldn't ask for better.  We had a bonus hiking day this week.  We were actually able to visit two beautiful areas and accomplish two short hikes totally about 5.5 miles.

Ernie laughing at Clothing Optional handwritten note
We first traveled to Redington Pass to visit Tanque Verde Falls.  Redington Pass is located between the Catalina Mountains and the Rincon Mountains.  This was my first trip to the area but I had heard quite a bit about it from other hikers.  It is known for camping, target shooting, biking, hiking, swimming (when water levels allow) and nude sun bathing.  Yes, nudists frequent the area.  I think the cool temps saved us on our hike.  We only saw a few hikers – fully clothed.  

Starting out on the first of 2 trailheads 

We hiked two short trails in the upper Tanque Verde Falls.  The first o ne we chose was pretty easy to climb, but we reached a spot that had a pretty steep drop.  It was determined that without ropes we probably wouldn't be able to climb back out, so we turned around and backtracked to the 

Ernie kind of scouted ahead and found a second trail not too far down the dirt road so we decided to try that one.  It was a lot more manageable as far as trails steep drop offs, and no terribly difficult stretches of high climbs.  Very moderate hiking. There were some challenging areas which is exactly what we want on a hike – a little something to get the heart rate going, and we made very good time getting to the falls.  

I have to admit I was impressed with the views and the hike in general, but I'm sure I was unable to hide my disappointment at the fact that there was hardly any water visible at the falls.  I had heard so many wonderful things about the waterfalls and scenic views, and we figured since we had had an abundance of rain just two weeks before, the falls would be in full glory.  Not so.  To our dismay there wasn't any water spilling over the top of the falls.  We hiked down to the nude beach area (where thankfully there weren't any nudists present ) and decided to have our lunch here. 

JoAnn and LaNeta 
 Even though the falls didn't cooperate, the streams below were beautiful!  The water was running clear and cold.  We of course saw the ever-present tracks of many small animals – raccoon, bobcats, maybe a few coyote, that had walked along the edge of the streams for a drink.  It was so peaceful and beautiful while we enjoyed our lunches, I for one found it difficult to think of leaving.  I could have sat in that little canyon and read an entire book without moving.  Breathtaking!  

We started back to the trailhead after lunch and this is when Ernie had the idea of a second hike piggybacked onto this one.  We usually try to hike a minimum of 5 miles each week, and were quite sure this was only about 4.  Since we were going to go back right past Roy P. Drachman Aqua Caliente Park, we decided to stop there and get in a little more mileage.  This park had been on Bonnie’s bucket list so she was extremely happy.

It took us about 15 minutes from Tanque Verde Falls to Aqua Caliente Park.  It had warmed up and was beautiful at park.  There were families having lunches under the large trees.  Children chased ducks around the pond and it definitely lived up to its reputation of an oasis in the desert.   We decided we would walk around the large pond in front, but as strange as it seems…almost the same thing that happened at Tanque Verde Falls happened again!  

We got just so far on the trail and could go no further.  This time they had chained off the area going around the pond in one direction.  Oh well, backtracking is what we do best.  We headed back to the picnic area and saw that the building housing the gift shop and information was open so we went in.  We were pleasantly surprised to find a woman who gave us a short history the park and then invited us to view the art exhibit in the main room of the house. 

This roadrunner was determined not to have his picture taken. 

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We played peek-a-boo around and around back and forth...but you can see who won the battle.  Ha!  

The park has a fascinating history.  Beginning with the Hohokam people thousands of years ago; then its use as an army encampment in the mid 1800’s; then it’s being claimed to be used as a ranch and orchard; then it being operated as a resort because of the hot springs.  It changed hands several times (Bonnie actually knew one of the last families – the Filiatraults to own the property and rode horses with a member of the family).  Finally, in 1984 Roy Drachman, Tucson native who did much to help develop Tucson through his real estate ventures, donated over $200,000 dollars toward the purchase of Aqua Caliente.  It was then that Pima County acquired the property an opened Aqua Caliente Park in 1985.  It has gone through a lot of renovations over the years and the landscape and ponds are beautiful, even now when the trees along the paths are mostly bear.  Truly an oasis in the middle of the desert, with towering palm trees heralding its location.  The mountain views were breathtaking on all sides.

As we were completing our trek around the grounds and were about to head back to the parking lot we were surprised by a group of red-eared sliders sunning themselves in the pond.  There were so many we couldn't get an accurate count, but it had to be at least 15.  Fun.  

See you on the trails!


  1. Us folks in the Mid-West was just wondering what a red eared slider was. Looked like a nice hike.

  2. I found them. Google is the BEST!!