Soldier/La Milagrosa Loop

15.2 miles

2800 - 4865 ft.

Total gain: 3350 ft.


This is a very scenic and interesting route that uses 2 of the oldest trails in the Santa Catalinas, linked by some very recent Arizona Trail. Up road to Soldier Trail. Up to Prison Camp then east on Arizona Trail 2.5 miles to the junction with La Milagrosa Ridge Trail, back to Suzenu.

Trailhead: To reach the start, most people should go to Catalina Highway, then follow that to Snyder Road. Go east on Snyder past Soldier Trail to Suzenu Road. Go north about a half mile to the parking area next to the gate. This is a well known trail access.

Route: The run goes west on Horsehead Road a half mile back to Soldier Trail. Take Soldier Trail north as it curves to become Mt. Lemmon Short Road. Pick up Mt. Lemmon Highway to the actual Soldier Trail trailhead. Then you’ll ascend an amazingly steep slope. This is the old route the soldiers from Ft. Lowell used to get up to high elevations in the late 1800s. They dragged timber back down this route with oxen to build the roofs of the fort buildings. You’ll ascend to a shelf next to the spectacular drop off of lower Soldier Canyon, then cross the creek in a flat area that is a bit chewed up; look for cairns. Next you climb a slope into Prison Camp, where you intersect the Arizona Trail. Go east on the Arizona Trail to Molino Basin and cross Mt. Lemmon Highway. Then you climb the ridge to a saddle with a gate and drop down to a ranch road for the Bellota Ranch, which dates back to the 1860s. You’ll pass a cattle tank with a solar collector. 2.5 miles from the highway is an unmarked but obvious junction where the La Milagrosa trail comes out of La Milagrosa Canyon and ends at the jeep road. There’s a gate you’ll pass just before the junction, so start looking after the gate. Go south (right) on La Milagrosa trail. It crosses the creek and continues along the ridge between La Milagrosa and Agua Caliente Canyon. There’s a cattle gate you’ll pass through–remember to close it. You may meet cows. A bit furhter, you’ll notice some switchbacks with remnants of built-up road bed. This was the original route to Bellota Ranch headquarters before Reddington Pass Road was built. Next, you’ll join the Agua Caliente trail as it comes up from the canyon bottom. Just after that is a great side route 50 yards or so to an overlook of the canyon. It’s worth the extra steps. Continue down the ridge, then the trail drops into La Milagrosa Canyon, crosses the creek and climbs out the other side to a Forest Service gate. Now you’ll drop steeply to come out near the creek bed in Agua Caliente. Follow the old road west past the beat-up old house on the hillside to your right. Come out on Horsehead Road and follow it a half mile to the parking area.