Mt. Hopkins Ascent (and Descent)
4200 - 8550 ft.
Dirt and paved roads to the telescope on Mt. Hopkins. Feet and Mountain Bikes. Rides down possible from gate (4 miles from top).
Trailhead: Meet at Whipple Observatory Visitors Center. Drive S on I-19 past Green Valley. Exit at Canoa Rd., continue S on the EAST frontage road to Elephant Head Rd. Turn LEFT here and continue for a mile or so until you see Hopkins Rd. Turn RIGHT and continue up this road about 6 miles. In the scheduled run/ride, there will be aid and drop bags at the gate at 7.8 miles up the road.
Route: This is a very scenic road. There are vistas in all directions. Compared to our other trail runs, it’s not very steep, but it’s hard work on a bike, and it is a demanding road run. It’s also a relatively uniform grade (although it doesn’t feel that way on a bike…). The lower 7.8 miles is dirt, then it’s paved the last 4 miles to the top. You start in desert, but move into other life zones fairly quickly. There’s very little good-sized pine cover (that’s next door on Wrightson’s slopes). The road’s exposure means you should be ready for heat in the lower elevations in the warmer months, but also produces spectacular views. At least one bear and one mountain lion have been seen on the way up or down.
At the 7.8 mile point is a gate that’s normally locked. That’s where we put an aid station and drop bag pick-up point. This makes for a variety of route possibilities, too. People run or ride to the gate and back, to the top and down to the gate, or the full round trip. Some people hitch a ride to the gate and run or hike from there. At the 10 mile point is a junction with the road that goes along the ridge to other telescopes and facilities. Then near the top are more buildings and a couple more telescopes, with the big rotating monster on the peak. It’s fun to walk around see the views in all directions with interpretive displays to help identify distant peaks. Also be aware there’s a picnic area with a restroom, coke machine, and water in the building complex below the peak.
TTR Official Run Records for "Full round trip to top, 23.6 miles":
Doug Kelly, M44, 10/3/10 - 3:20
Mari Larn, F, 10/3/10 - 3:49