Saturday, March 10, 2018

Arizona Road Trips: Ironwood Trail

We have enjoyed road tripping in Arizona. Those adventures are even more enjoyable now that we are driving a Jeep Wrangler. The Silverado got us everywhere we wanted to go but was less maneuverable and we had fewer opportunities at parking, especially with the bike rack adding to its length. 

To be honest he Jeep is just more fun.
We have done a lot of driving here but 3 of the trips were spectacular. We recommend them to anyone spending time in Southern Arizona.
The Ironwood trail is a 33 mile long road through the Ironwood Forest National Monument with starting and ending points close to I-10. Part of the road is unpaved with little maintenance. A 4 wheel drive vehicle is recommended.
Ironwood trees are the king of the Sonoran Desert. They live for hundreds of years providing shelter for small animals and act as nurse trees for young Saguaro Cactus. Their dark grey back and silvery leaves make them stand out amongst the all green Paloverde trees. It is one of the densest known hardwoods, so strong that even when the tree dies the wood can take 100 years to decay.
Crested Saguaro near Sasco Ghost Town

We started the drive at Red Rock, on Sasco Rd  (exit 226 of I-10). The first 13 miles were washboard dirt road with some deep ruts and rocks. There was only one shallow water crossing. We saw a few ironwood trees among the Saguaro's and passed the old Sasco ghost town where there are rock foundations and a few standing stone walls of some buildings. 

Sasco Ghost Town foundation
The town was active in the early 1900's when the smelter for the Silverbell mine was located here. Once the mine stopped producing the smelter shut down and the town dwindled away. Sasco's Post Office closed in 1919. We enjoyed walking around the old ruins and trying to guess what type of business or home each foundation represented. If you go walking around wear closed shoes and watch out for broken glass.
There is a beautiful Crested Saguaro visible from  this part of the road. These crowned cacti are quite rare, occurring in approximately 1 out of 10,000. We have been lucky enough to spot 5 of them in the wild and it has been a thrill each time...kind of like that feeling you get when you find a 4 leaf clover.
Continuing on Sasco Rd we started to climb in elevation and get closer to the Silverbell Mountains and a very distinctive formation called Ragged Top. 

Ragged Top
The jagged points on the peak are made of Rhyolite which was left when molten lava formed a plug. We also saw the west side of Picacho Peak for the first time.
Once we reached Silverbell Rd the rest of the journey was on paved roads. The Ironwood Forest is BLM land and we saw several rigs set up in the desert enjoying the peaceful environment. The night sky must be spectacular out there. 
There are many more Ironwood trees on this part of the road as well as Ocotillo, Saguaro Cactus and Prickly Pear Cactus. Silverbell Road runs for 13.9 miles intersecting Marana Rd which leads back to I-10 at exit 236.
The Ironwood Trail is a great short day trip if you are staying near Tucson for any length of time. The views of the Silverbell Mountains, Ragged Top and Picacho Peak are pretty spectacular and the off roading is fun. Our only disappointment was that we didn't see any rock climbers scaling Ragged Top.


  1. Wow...that crested saguaro has a bunch of arms on it, Bonnie! It almost looks like a Christmas tree. :)

    1. i know right? some of them have so many arms i wonder how they stay standing.