Skip to main content

U.S. Forest Service

Southwestern Region Viewing Area


The Finger Rock Trailhead sign. This sign marks the Finger Rock Trailhead. Photo by Charlie McDonald.

View as you look up Finger Rock Canyon. Hundreds of giant saguaro cacti are in view as you look up Finger Rock Canyon. Photo by Charlie McDonald.

The flowers of staghorn cholla. The flowers of staghorn cholla (Opuntia versicolor) come in an assortment of colors. The plant is easiest to identify from the size and shape of its fruits. Photo by Charlie McDonald.

Brittlebush. Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) is a common desert shrub. Its flowers will make whole hillsides appear yellow in the spring. Photo by Charlie McDonald.

Finger Rock Trail

Forest: Coronado National Forest

District: Santa Catalina Ranger District

Description: Finger Rock Trail starts in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in the northern suburbs of Tucson, Arizona. It climbs from 3,100 feet in elevation to 6,200 feet passing through several life zones. The lower elevations near the trailhead are your destination for this trip. Here, you will find saguaro cacti, ocotillos, chollas, prickly pears, paloverde, brittlebush, jojoba, and many other desert plants.

The giant saguaro cacti (pronounced suh-WAR-oh) are the stars of this trip. These cacti can live for 200 years. They are at least 50 years old before they flower for the first time and usually about 75 years old when the first side branches develop. Saguaros can reach almost 50 feet in height and 10 feet in circumference. They are by far the tallest plants in this desert scrub environment. A large plant full of water can weigh up to 6 tons.

Spring and fall are the best times to visit this area. This means March through early May and October through November. You will usually find the most plants flowering during an early spring visit, but many of the desert cacti and succulents can be viewed any time of the year. If you visit during the summer, plan your trip for the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the extreme mid-day heat.

Safety First: Heat and low humidity are real hazards for people unfamiliar with desert climates. A person can loose up to 5 quarts of fluid a day and it is easy to become seriously dehydrated without realizing it, so drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel very thirsty. When going on a hike, even if a short one, take a day pack with water, snack foods, protective clothing, flashlight, first aid kit, compass, and map. To avoid sun injury, wear light loose clothing, use sunscreen on exposed areas, wear a hat, and have sunglasses.

Directions: Drive north from Tucson on the Oracle Road (US 89) to Ina Road. Turn right (east) on Ina and drive about a mile to Skyline Road which branches off to the south (right). Follow Skyline (have to make a left to stay on Skyline) to Alvernon Way and turn left (north) to the trailhead and parking lot at the end of the pavement.

Contact: Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Ranger District, 5700 N. Sabino Canyon Road, Tucson, Arizona 85750. Phone: (520) 749-8700.

Closest Town: Tucson, Arizona