Cat Mountain


Location: Cat Mountain, Tucson Mountains

Elevation: 3,852 ft

Temp: 39F at 7:00 a.m. (start) / 65F at 12:05 p.m. (end)

On Black Friday, we elected to follow over 1.1 million others to #OptOutside – a movement by REI to take the day and be outside. Easy enough. I hate shopping!

We ventured out with TeamRWB to hike Cat Mountain – one of the standout peaks in the Tucson Mountains. When we met up with a few others at the trailhead at 7:00 a.m., the temperature was a crisp 39F, and the nearly full moon was still out greeting us while the sun was just starting to crest the Catalina Mountains to the east.

The TeamRWB group, minus Jason, our photographer.

There is no “official” trail to the top of Cat Mountain, and as such, the plan was to follow the trail in and then scramble to the top of the mountain. Sounded simple enough. As a group, we were trying to attack the rather tall peak from the northeast side, which would be less challenging.

Early into our hike, we spooked out a few mule deer.

The Ascent.

About 2.5 miles into the hike, we began our ascent, which was the scramble part of the hike.

This wasn’t easy.

We slowly and carefully worked our way up the mountain, doing large sweeping switchbacks, but between us and the peak was a rather deep ravine that we needed to navigate around. This made the hike even more challenging as we tried to find a safe – yet efficient – way to cross.

We got across the ravine, but by this point we were 2 hours into the hike – with quite a ways to go to get to the peak. Some of the group were tiring, and they made the decision to head back to the cars. But I wanted to get to the top, as did Jason and Honore, so we split off from the group to continue our climb.

We probably spent another solid hour carefully winding our way up to the peak – being “attacked” by Teddy Bear Cholla cactus much of the way – but eventually we made it to as close to the top as we could get from that vantage point. As Jason said, “Unless you have climbing gear, we aren’t getting up there.”

Jason had the best view because he was able to “Spiderman” up there.

We stayed at the peak for quite a while, taking in the views. This was the highest point, to date, that we’ve climbed with a view of Tucson, and it was interesting to see how far we could see, even on a hazy day.

Tumamoc Hill doesn’t seem nearly as daunting from this angle.
Looking south across Ajo Way.
Jason came down from his perch above so we could take a picture together.

The Descent.

The descent was a lot trickier. The first part of our scramble back down was riddled with loose rock and sand, which made footing less than stable. In fact, that is how I got my injury. My footing slipped on shale, and I went crashing down on my right hip and hand. While I was okay, I fully expect to have a nice bruise.

Honore and I showing off our hiking wounds. Me with a sliced hand from a fall and her finger from a rock.

Not more than a few minutes after this picture was taken, a Teddy Bear Cholla cactus got Honore in the finger. It was like super-glue! We spent a good 5 minutes trying to find the best way to get it out of her (and we’ll be bringing tweezers on all of our future hikes).

Thankfully, after that cactus encounter, the rest of the shuffle back down to the trail was still tricky – but injury-free. A total of seven (7) miles were put on the boots for this adventure.

Safely down on the trail and looking back to where we were.


Not very far into our hike and Jason gets stuck with a Teddy Bear Cholla cactus. We should have seen this as a sign to come.
They may look fuzzy, but these Teddy Bear Cholla catcus were drawn to us (or us to them). They stuck to our shoes, socks, backpacks and sweatshirts – and loved Honore’s finger.
At the top (-ish). Ajo Way is below.

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