February 7 - 9, 2020

Grass Shack Campground is only a few miles from Tucson, but everything seems a world away once you're out there. Please join me for this tough little two-night backpack in Tucson's backyard.

The Plan

We've got a short drive to the trailhead on Friday as we start our weekend trek. We'll leave from the trailhead about mid-morning, but we'll still have plenty of time to get to our campsite, so we needn't rush. After a relatively tough 10+ mile hike, we'll have time to pitch camp, clean up, and rest before dinner. We'll spend that night in camp, keeping our ears open to listen for the foxes, bobcats, coyotes, and mountain lions that live in the area. We've occasionally heard both foxes and coyotes.

On Saturday, we'll have breakfast then leave our camp at Grass Shack and head up to Manning Camp. That's a four-point-five-mile hike up to Manning Camp with 3,000 feet of elevation gain. We'll definitely pause there for a well-earned lunch, then hike back down the mountain through Cowhead Saddle and back to camp to make a big loop.

The Cowhead seen from Below After spending one more night in camp on Saturday, we'll have a quick Sunday morning breakfast before we pack up and head back to the trailhead. It's a long hike, but it's mostly downhill.

The Prep

This trip is planned for up to five people, and I will reserve one or two of the three available campsites, depending on the number of people interested. The National Park Service charges $8.00 per night per campsite, so the total charges will range from $16.00 to $32.00 for the group, depending on the size of the group and how many campsites I reserve.

You'll need food for two breakfasts, two lunches, and two dinners. An extra snack for the return hike is certainly warranted.

The Elements       Spot Forecast

There should be plenty of water in the creek that flows past Grass Shack Campground. There usually is in mid-February. I'll certainly check with the Park Service to get their latest reports. The amount and quality of any water in the creek depends on how much rain or snow fell in the months and weeks prior to our trip.

The weather at Grass Shack in early February can be very nice. Daytime highs should be in the 60s with lows in the 30s. Remember that the campground is at 5,200 feet, so it's going to be a bit cooler than Tucson. Perhaps by as much as 10 degrees or more. You will probably need a colder weather sleeping bag. We are not allowed to have a fire at Grass Shack.

The Hike

day miles elev gain destination
Friday 0.0 / 0.0 0 ft / 0 ft Loma Alta Trailhead
Friday 2.3 / 2.3 400 ft / 400 ft Quilter Trail Jct
Friday 5.5 / 7.8 1000 ft / 1400 ft Manning Trail Jct
Friday 2.9 / 10.7 1200 ft / 2600 ft Grass Shack Campground
Saturday 3.5 / 14.2 2400 ft / 5000 ft Devil's Bathtub Trail Jct
Saturday 1.0 / 15.2 600 ft / 5600 ft Manning Camp
Saturday 3.9 / 19.1 200 ft / 5800 ft Cowhead Saddle
Saturday 2.0 / 21.1 200 ft / 6000 ft Grass Shack Campground
Sunday 2.9 / 24.0 300 ft / 6300 ft Quilter Trail Jct
Sunday 5.5 / 29.5 200 ft / 6500 ft Hope Camp Trail Jct
Sunday 2.3 / 31.8 100 ft / 6600 ft Loma Alta Trailhead


The End

After our long hike back to the trailhead, we'll have a 30-minute drive back to the Visitor Center at Saguaro National Park East. I typically stop there to provide a water report to the Rangers before heading home.