Oracle State Park: Big Loop

A long hike circumnavigating Oracle State Park.

Hiking Moderate

Distance
17 km
Ascent
405 m
Descent
405 m
Duration
4-5 hrs
Low Point
1.1 km
High Point
1.3 km
Gradient
Oracle State Park: Big Loop Map

"Oracle State Park is a 4,000 acre wildlife refuge in the northern foothills of the Catalina Mountains," asserts the park website. Here, you'll also find "day-use picnic areas and over 15 miles of trails for use by hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians." Even though a section of the Arizona Trail crosses the park, the trails here seem to be more of an afterthought than the primary purpose of the park. The primary purpose does appear to be the wildlife habitat, and you can enjoy that wildlife thanks to these after-thought trails and this loop hike through the park.

Description

While Oracle State Park is surrounded by a harsh desert landscape, the park itself lies on a series of low foothills and ridges below the Catalina Mountains. Seasonal streams flow through the bottoms of the narrow, steep-sided valleys of the park, and those valleys provide protection that allows a variety of trees and undergrowth to thrive. These long, narrow oases provide a beautiful habitat for all manner of wildlife to thrive.

According to the park, "the most commonly sighted mammals include Coues white-tailed deer, coyote, bobcat, javelina, gray fox, cottontail rabbits, all four Arizona skunks (white-striped, spotted, hooded and hognose), many other small mammals, and an occasional mountain lion.

"Common bird sightings include scrub jay, Gambel’s quail, raven, cardinal, great horned owl, cooper’s hawk, redtailed hawk, harris’s hawk, turkey vulture, gila woodpecker, say’s phoebe, curve-billed thrasher, hooded oriole, canyon towhee, phainopepla and many other seasonal migrants, including warblers, hummingbirds and sparrows.

"Reptiles include a variety of snakes and lizards featuring the western diamondback rattlesnake and clark’s and desert spiny lizards, western fence lizard, giant spotted lizard and several others. The Gila monster and desert tortoise can also be seen."

The loop mapped here is one of the longest loop hikes through the park. The trails traverse several different valleys, and subsequently scale the sides of the arroyos to reach elevated vantage points, providing views over the entire region. Then the trail will inevitably drop back down into another valley, and repeat ad nasueum. It is possible to cut this loop and make it a shorter hike thanks to one of the many connector trails that bisect the park, or to simply complete an out-and-back on a portion of the loop.

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Wildlife

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