Ventana and Esperero Trail is a 27.8 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Tucson, Arizona that features beautiful wild flowers and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, nature trips, and birding and is best used from March until October.
Two amazing hikes in one Not for the faint of heart, this once in a lifetime hike offers two jewels of the Santa Catalinas in one hike: La Ventana and Bridal Veil Falls. We started this point-to-point hike from Ventana Canyon (Window Canyon). The first mile of La Ventana Trail is gentle and coercing. Be aware that she quickly turns rugged through Maiden Pools, and gets punishing as you ascend the canyon's walls via Esperero Trail to a calming ridge-walk to La Ventana (pictured at left). From La Ventana the trail becomes tasking; few people travel beyond this point. Esperero Trail is hard to follow over the craggy precipices of Window Peak; GPS is recommended. Once found, the sure-footed trail winds down Esperero Canyon to Bridal Veil Falls. From there the trail takes you to pavement that takes you down to Sabino Canyon Visitor's Center. Be sure to take plenty of food and water. I drank one gallon on this hike in early Spring. Also, don't forget the camera :-)
Last early March 2016, I did this exact hike, out from the Loew's Resort, up to the Window, and back down to the Sabino Visitor Center (then a jog back to the hotel). It is "strenuous." I did it alone and frankly, that was stupid, and I just got lucky on a sunny day. I saw maybe 10 people the whole day. It took me from 7am to about 5pm hiking briskly and with a short lunch break at the Window. There was a little snow on top and as others have written, after the Window, the trail gets hard to follow -- cairns are present (and I built up a few), but I had some moments of doubt (and also, it was dumb not to have the app). But fate was kind, and I only lost one big toenail from the long downhill pounding. I did it another time with a friend, going the other direction (from Sabino to Loew's) and that was better because the downhill thru Ventana is easier. I'll be back this Spring 2017!
Do not underestimate this trail. I hiked this trail with a friend and we left at 7:00 a.m. from Ventana Canyon Trailhead and arrived at Sabino Canyon Trailhead (parking lot) at 9:30 p.m. the same day. Moving into Ventana Canyon, you'll feel great mile after mile, but as soon as you start linking up with Esperero Trail, the trail turns from what I call "hard" to "difficult". Most people that we saw this day didn't go past this point. It's constant switchback after switchback until you reach the The Window (La Ventana). We knew there would be snow on the top, but we underestimated how much. In some places on the backside of the peak, it was knee deep and frozen solid. As we moved into the upper 6K feet section, the fatigue set in and then we got lost on the top. If it wasn't for this app, we might have actually camped out there and tried to make it down in the morning. Basically, when you get to the top of the peak, the trail becomes hard to read. I had a map and compass that I brought, and I'm an experienced guide that has been all over the world hiking and I can tell you that you need this app to get over the saddle of the top of this climb. There are a few cairns near the top, but they're hard to read. Put it this way, the snow was so deep that we didn't even bother going to the Window. We just moved past it and for good reason because we were already behind schedule. On the north side of the canyon as we started descending into Esperero Canyon, things got hairy and thank God for this app. No one, and I mean no one had been on that side of the mountain at least for a month or more, and the snow was hard on top, and loose on the bottom. The problem with this was that it's a sheer drop-off on the backside of Window Peak. Be careful. There are some areas where you can actually go off the side of the cliff never to be heard from again. In fact, there's a few spots on this side that looks like a trail, but move slow, and zoom in on the app and get close to the dotted line on the app. Reset your location using the pinpoint marker and you'll be fine. Trust the app. We finally made it down the backside of the peak and headed down Esperero Trail where we ran into a cougar; luckily it was shy and moved on. We kept an eye on it, and nothing came of it. It was a big cat. Keep your whistle and knife and think about what you're doing. The wind normally whips through this section so it's hard to hear anything coming unless you're right up on it, and there were times when I was trying to signal to my friend, but he couldn't hear me at all. This is common in canyon hiking. Cats are no different. They might not hear you until you're right up on them and that could be dangerous. Time was running out, and the trail put a hurting on my hiking partner so our pace slowed to a crawl moving downhill. Luckily I brought two flashlights and a first aid, both of which we needed. As we moved southbound on Esperero Trail, the up and down that you have to pass over seems endless at times. Just when you think you've made it to the opening of Sabino, there will be another mound to roll over. Dark settled on us, and we were hiking in the dark starting at about 7:00 p.m. My friend's blisters got so bad that we had to stop and patch him up with some mole-skin so make sure to pack some pain killers, knee-wraps, iodine to clean, and mole-skins. This saved us. About 2 miles from Sabino Canyon, we got temporarily lost again. Desert scrub can be tricky to navigate through, especially at night because it's sparse and it opens up in a way that can trick you into thinking that you're on the trail, when you're obviously not. Again, refer to the app. (Keep and extra battery for your mobile or a portable charger as well.) I ran through prickly pear cacti trying to get back on the trail, which turned out to be a success. One flashlight burned out, my mobile phone died (which is why my Recorded Track looks like connect-the-dots), and my friend was getting super-fatigue and his phone only had 14% battery. Eventually, we were on the last 1.5 miles to Sabino Canyon parking lot, and moving together, I was able to eventually cut out my last flashlight because the stars were bright enough, and the trail's white-sandy contrast was easy to spot against the desert brush. We made it to the blacktop of lower Sabino Canyon. I was hiking in Gore Windstopper Mountain Hardware pants, a Smartwool long sleeve, cotton tshirt, wool socks, and running shoes. I carried a full gallon of water in a day-hike Camelback backpack with fruit, two energy bars, some salmon, and Gatorade. I also had a hat and a Winstopper vest. I sweat a lot when I hike because I hike hard, and take breaks rather than a slow and steady pace. This causes me to loose a lot of minerals, and I need Gatorade on my descents. I hope this helps the next person hiking this trail. I think most people that leave Reviews for this trail don't complete the whole thing, based on what they say. I could be wrong.
An Exceptional trail starting with low waterfalls. Has you move more up the trails the scenery constantly changes while it becomes more difficult.
spectacular day... a little blustery. Bluebird day!
I hiked Esperero started at the visitor center. theres a nice clean restroom a mile down the trail convenient if your coffee wants out. I made it about 7 miles before I ran out of time and energy.The waterfalls were beautiful and the trail was a great workout.