April 2 - 5, 2020

Manning Camp, near the top of the Rincon Mountains, is just one of two campsites we'll be using during this extended-weekend outing. Please join me for this wonderful three-night backpacking trip in Tucson's backyard.

The Plan

We'll drive around to the east side of the Rincon Mountains on Thursday morning. Leaving our vehicles at the trailhead, we'll hike up to Happy Valley Campground and set up our first camp. We're going to be here for just one night. We'll have to keep our eyes peeled for the mountain lion I've seen on two different trips up there!

On Friday we'll pack our stuff, have breakfast, then head up to Manning Camp. Getting there involves a relatively tough hike across the aptly-named Heartbreak Ridge. The ups and downs on that trail can drain your energy quickly. Fortunately, there are several good places for breaks. We'll relax at Manning Camp on Friday evening, knowing we have a nice day of hiking ahead of us.

On Saturday morning, we'll get up and have breakfast, then head off for a day of hiking above 8,000 feet. There are several different looping dayhikes we can do on Saturday, and we'll figure that out once we're up there. After our hike, we'll laze around camp for the afternoon, then spend a second night at Manning Camp.

On Sunday morning, we'll get up relatively early, have breakfast, then head out for the long hike to the trailhead. From camp, we'll go up and over a ridge and stop at Spud Rock Spring Campground to look around before continuing down the mountain. The distance to this campground is less than three miles - less than two miles as the raven flies - from Manning Camp.

After a quick break, we have another seven-mile-plus downhill trek via the Turkey Creek Trail and a road to get us back to our vehicles. It'll still be early enough that it should be relatively cool going down that dry, open trail. We'll be heading directly into the sun, but it's still just early April. Nothing to worry about.

The Prep

This trip is planned for up to five people. There are three campsites available at Happy Valley and at least half-a-dozen campsites at Manning Camp. Each of those campsites can hold two or three tents.

Depending on the level of interest, I will reserve one or two campsites at each location. The National Park Service charges $8.00 per night per campsite. At a minimum, the total charges will be $24.00 for the group. At most, the total charges will be $48.00 for the two campsites at each location. That's a very inexpensive three-night trip!

You'll need food for three breakfasts, three lunches, and three dinners. A snack for the hike out might also be appropriate.

The Elements      Spot Forecasts: Happy Valley / Manning Camp

There probably won't be much water available at Happy Valley unless we get significant rains in the weeks preceding the start of this trip. The winter rains, however, bode well for having some water available. The Happy Valley Backpack, conducted a month earlier, was a chance to check on availability and provided an opportunity to cache water. I'll also check with the Park Service before we go, but their information is often a bit sketchy. I typically carry 3 liters of water as I start any backpacking trek, unless I know water is close or camp is just a few miles away. Depending on what we find a month earlier, I'll be contemplating carrying 6 liters of water up the Miller Creek Trail to our first (probably dry) camp site at Happy Valley. I'd strongly suggest you do the same if you plan on joining me.

Water at Manning Camp won't be a problem whatsoever, except that we won't be there until Friday early afternoon. The pond is typically full at this time of year, and the creek will surely be flowing. In an emergency, there may be some water at Devil's Bathtub, which is between Happy Valley and Manning Camp. It's less than two miles from Manning Camp, however, so it takes a few hours to get there from Happy Valley. Be prepared.

The weather in the Rincon Mountains in early April should be beautiful. Daytime highs will range from the mid-50s (Manning Camp) to perhaps 70 degrees (Happy Valley) with nighttime lows in the mid-30s to around 40 degrees. Remember that our first campground at Happy Valley is at 6,100 feet, while Manning Camp is at 8,000 feet. It's going to be quite a bit cooler than Tucson, perhaps by as much as 20 degrees or more up at Manning Camp. You will probably need a colder weather sleeping bag. Use the Spot Forecast links above to help with your planning.

One nice thing is that we are allowed to have a fire at both of our campgrounds. I usually don't have a fire, but it's nice to know that we can in case of inclement weather. A fire certainly makes a rainy or snowy evening much more enjoyable.

The Hike

day miles elev gain destination
Thursday 0.0 / 0.0 0 ft / 0 ft Miller Creek Trailhead
Thursday 1.5 / 1.5 400 ft / 400 ft Park Boundary
Thursday 2.9 / 4.4 1600 ft / 2000 ft Heartbreak Ridge Trl Jct
Thursday 0.2 / 4.6 200 ft / 2200 ft Happy Valley Campground
Friday 1.6 / 6.2 800 ft / 3000 ft Happy Valley Lookout
Friday 4.2 / 10.4 800 ft / 3800 ft Devil's Bathtub
Friday 1.6 / 12.0 500 ft / 4300 ft Manning Camp
Saturday 5.0 / 17.0 1200 ft / 5500 ft Mica Mountain Dayhike
Sunday 2.0 / 19.0 500 ft / 6000 ft Spud Rock Spring
Sunday 0.6 / 19.6 200 ft / 6200 ft Deer Head Spring
Sunday 4.6 / 24.2 400 ft / 6600 ft Turkey Creek Trailhead
Sunday 1.6 / 25.8 400 ft / 7000 ft Road's End
Sunday 0.9 / 26.7 400 ft / 7400 ft Miller Creek Trailhead

The End

After our long hike down from the mountain, we'll have a 90-minute drive back to the Visitor Center at Saguaro National Park East. I typically stop there to provide a water report to the Rangers before heading home.