Ramsey Canyon Preserve & Hamburg Trail - Sierra Vista, AZ

For Labor Day Weekend I was looking for a getaway from Tucson. I immediately thought of my go to's for early fall: White Mountains, Flagstaff, Sedona. But I knew all of those locations would be packed and the thought of driving through Phoenix to get to those locations made me want to just stay home.

I'd just finished reading Wynne Brown's biography of Sara Plummer Lemmon called "The Forgotten Botanist" and was reminded that Sara and her husband JG Lemmon spent a lot of time botanizing the Huachucas, an Arizona Sky Island I'd never visited before! I looked on a map and quickly started planning my trip there.

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There are many trails in the Huachucas, including the Arizona Trail which starts at the border with Mexico not too far from Sierra Vista, AZ. When I worked at Summit Hut the area most recommended for the Huachucas was Ramsey Canyon. I got my hands on Leonard Taylor's "Trails of the Huachucas" and started doing research on the trails and the Huachucas in general. This book was my best resource as there isn't a handy map for this region unlike almost every other mountain range in the Southwest. 

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The Huachucas are part of the Coronado National Forest and one of the mountain ranges that make up the Arizona Sky Islands, a collection of mountains in Southern Arizona and northern Mexico that hold an abundance of biological diversity. I always love exploring new places so I was eager to see what the Huachuas had in store for me.

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I got an early start because I was worried about the parking situation, especially on a holiday weekend. The Hamburg Trail starts behind the Ramsey Canyon Preserve Visitor Center and there's only 27 parking spots. I got there Saturday morning 15 minutes before they officially opened and found plenty of parking. I was one of three cars there. The Visitor Center wasn't open so I walked around the building into the Preserve. The creek was full of water thanks to a good monsoon season. I walked past old cabins from miners and settlers from the 1800s and informative signs pointing out different species and explaining more about the ecology of the canyon.

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Ramsey Canyon is a very popular bird watching area. I also saw many different species of butterfly. After about 1 mile the trail left the Preserve and started to climb and I officially passed into the Wilderness boundary and the Hamburg Trail began.

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I got extremely lucky with weather, I was able to hike all day under cloudy, overcast skies and the temperature was in the 70s, perfect for hiking! I was so happy to see how green everything was! And even more excited to see a few hints of fall!

The normally gentle creek following the canyon was full and made for some interesting creek crossings. I was able to keep my boots mostly dry thanks to the help of my trekking poles. I stopped counting creek crossings after I hit twenty, make sure you're ready for those!

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The trail slowly keeps climbing, through conifers, maples, oaks, and sycamores. Colorful wildflowers and spiky agave popped up along the trail as well. I recognized some of the plants and flowers that were named in "The Forgotten Botanist" as plants the Lemmons found in the Huachucas and Catalinas. I thought about how they must have felt exploring this area and how amazing it must have been to see some of these plants for the first time.
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After hiking for a few hours and taking much longer than I planned due to stopping every few minutes to take pictures and just gawk at the beautiful canyon trail, I made it to Bear Saddle where the Hamburg Trail meets the Arizona Trail. Just as I reached the saddle it started to rain an easy drizzle. I had planned to eat lunch and hang out there for a while but the rain drove me back down after about 15 minutes. I took in the views, admired the wildflowers, quickly ate my burrito, and then turned around to head back down. 
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The hike down was just as beautiful but my boots were giving me issues, specifically my insoles which were not helping keep my feet in place. I could feel my toes throbbing from the constant beating against the front of my boots. Thankfully I didn't do major damage to them but those 3.5 miles back to the car were quite painful. That's what I get for trying something new and putting different insoles in my boots. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

When I got back to the Visitor Center it was open so I paid the $10 entry fee that I skipped that morning. I talked to one of the volunteers about some of the animals that had been spotted earlier that week and about how green everything was.

I had such a great time visiting Ramsey Canyon and getting a first glimpse of the Huachucas. I definitely will be back, there's a lot more to explore out there!

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Ramsey Canyon Preserve & Hamburg Trail #122

Date hiked: September 3, 2022

Total miles: 7.5 miles

Elevation Gain: 2,500 feet

Total time: 7 hours

Land Acknowledgement: O'odham, Tohono O'odham, Chiricahua Apache

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