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Saguaro National Park is home to many great trails including several moderate loop trails. One of these great trails is called the Hope Camp, Coyote Wash, and Ruiz Trail Loop. It is located on land acquired by the NPS in the 1990’s that was once part of a privately-owned ranch, and the main path was a graded dirt road used to support ranching operations. In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about this trail.
Hope Camp Coyote Wash and Ruiz Trail Overview
The Hope Camp, Coyote Wash, and Ruiz Trail Loop is a moderate loop hike approximately 5.8 miles and with an elevation gain of 476 feet. It’s a beautiful hike with large saguaro cactuses, tons of wildflowers, and some exceptional views of the surrounding mountains.
- Distance: 5.8 miles
- Elevation Gain: 476 feet
- Route Type: Loop
- Pets: No
- Difficulty: Moderate
Getting to the trail head
The Hope Camp, Coyote Wash, and Ruiz Trail Loop kicks off at the Loma Alta trail head located on the south side of Saguaro National Park. Here is the address to the trail head: Loma Alta Trailhead, 6578 S Camino Loma Alta, Tucson, AZ 85747. (The trail head is located at the red arrow below.)
You cannot access it from the main entrance and instead will need to access it from the end of S Camino Loma Alta road.
Once you head to the end of that paved road, you will have about a half mile on a dirt road until you hit the trailhead. You do not have to have a high clearance vehicle on this road but it sure is nice to have one.
You will find a lot of parking spaces near the trail head. The parking spaces were quite busy and filled when we visited on a Friday morning, so I’m sure that they start to fill up quick on nice weekends.
The loop consists of three different trails.
The first, Hope Camp, is essentially a wide dirt road that is well-maintained. The second is Coyote Wash which is a typical wash with loose rocks and other rocky portions. And finally, there is the Ruiz Trail which is very well-maintained and marked.
Although I always recommend carrying a GPS when hiking, you should not struggle to navigate these trails, as they are easy to follow and there are clearly marked sign post indicating which trails you are traveling on.
As stated, the trail begins at the Loma Alta Trailhead.
At this point, you will make your way through a National Park Service gate.
And you can sign in.
You will head north east along the Hope Camp Trail for just under 1 mile, mostly on a slight decline.
Along this path, look for all sorts of different wildflowers and some tall saguaro cactuses.
The scenery along the Hope Camp Trail felt very lush.
After heading through about .8 miles, you will then see the post for the Coyote Wash Trail.
As soon as we stepped on to the Coyote Wash Trail, we encountered tons of butterflies which was great but soon the experience was soured with a dead skunk.
You will navigate through the wash for about 1.5 miles.
Navigating through the loose rocks is slightly more difficult than a standard trail and there are a couple of moments where you will need to choose your desired path (very basic route finding) but overall, getting through the wash is not too challenging.
The scenery is not very spectacular within the wash, as we didn’t see a lot of wildflowers. But don’t give up hope because the best scenery is still to come.
Eventually, you will come to view more interesting sites like saguaro cactuses and a cliff side that could offer some shade early enough in the morning. For us, it was the perfect spot for a water break.
Finally, you will approach the Ruiz Trail and be sure to head north on that trail as the other direction will take you to the park boundary in .4 miles.
The Ruiz Trail will be a steady incline for 1.3 miles gaining about 330 feet in elevation. This portion of the hike will offer a nice little workout. Although I would not classify it as strenuous, it’s definitely the most physically challenging portion of the hike.
The first part of the Ruiz Trail is not overly impressive and is kind of a wasteland of desert scrub.
After about half a mile on the Ruiz Trail, some great views of the nearby mountains will start to open up.
This was my favorite portion of the trail, as we encountered some beautiful blooming prickly pears — the first of which I’ve seen this spring.
Between the wildflowers lining the trail and the mountains in the distance covered with saguaro cactuses, you will truly appreciate the route during the upcoming stretch.
As you near the end of the Ruiz Trail about 4 miles into the hike, you will then begin the steep descent back towards Hope Camp Trail. With the help of a little bit of switchbacks, you will quickly drop 160 feet.
Once you are back on the Hope Camp Trail you will need to head west for 1.3 miles to get back to where you started. The first half of this journey will be a noticeable decline but after the 5 mile marker there will be a slight incline and then decline once again. The views of the saguaros coming back are fantastic.
You’ll also pass by the historic Line Camp
During this route you will encounter large saguaro cactuses, prickly pear, cholla, barrel cactus, palo verde, mesquite trees, and more.
But what really stood out to me on this hike were the wildflowers.
I’ve now done quite a few hikes in Saguaro National Park during the spring and so far this route had the widest display a wildflowers that I’ve seen. Look at some of the vegetation that we encountered below.
The wildlife consisted mostly of a ton of butterflies, bees, and lizards. We saw what I believe were a couple of hawks soaring above but nothing else stood out — besides a dead skunk.
This was a fantastic hike. I did not expect to encounter so many wildflowers and the fact that it was a little bit challenging at about 6 miles and has fantastic views, just made it all the more worth it. I didn’t care for the mile or so spent in the wash but outside of that this was really an amazing hike.
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Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.