4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
Wasson Peak is the highest point in Saguaro National Park West, and of the handful of trails that reach its summit, Hugh Norris is the longest and most gradual.
It’s arguably the most scenic route as well, because it follows a long, undulating ridgeline with panoramic views and photogenic rock formations. Hiking all the way to Wasson Peak is not necessary to appreciate the beauty of Hugh Norris Trail, however.
In fact, most people go only a few miles out and back, rather than the full 10-mile roundtrip to the summit.
The trail gains the ridgeline only 1 mile from the start, and anywhere beyond there makes a rewarding turnaround point. The trailhead is a small parking area on the Bajada Loop Drive, and the path goes uphill right away.
It’s gradual at first, but then ascends a ravine on tight switchbacks.
The gradient does not remain so steep, however; it mellows after this first intense mile, and the entire trail is well constructed with stone steps to aid the persistent uphill. The ridgeline is home to all the same cacti as the cactus forest below, but with subtle differences that come with elevation gain.
The major scenery change is in the terrain, which is steep and rock-strewn.
The path winds among granite boulders and towers crowning the ridgeline.
In several places, the trail traverses craggy sub-peaks of the ridge to avoid climbing over them. Just over 2 miles into the hike, the ridge trends downhill for a while, toward a broad saddle where Sendero Esperanza Trail crosses Hugh Norris Trail.
It then turns upward again, and soon breaks above 4,000 feet elevation.
The pitch remains gradual until mile 4.25, where an imposing shoulder of the mountain necessitates another set of switchbacks.
Atop those, however, the remaining ridgeline is relatively easy, and soon reaches the 4,687-foot summit of Wasson Peak. Sources: https://www.americansouthwest.net/arizona/saguaro/hugh-norris-trail.html https://www.nps.gov/sagu/planyourvisit/upload/Trails%20in%20the%20Tucson%20Mountain%20District.pdf