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Arizona 4x4 Adventures - Chivo Falls

Posted in Events on September 1, 2008
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Tanque Verde Canyon is a rugged, picturesque landscape that lies just east of Tucson, Arizona. Its rock walls plunge deep, ending in a sandy bottom where large trees and vegetation sprout from their desert oasis. This area has long been a popular trail destination given its close proximity to Tucson.

This area lies in a portion of the Coronado National Forest near Redington Pass, a mere 30-minute drive from the edge of town. But get out here behind a shallow range of mountains, and you can quickly let your mind forget the sprawl of the nearby urban environment.

We headed out of the northeast corner of the metropolis and followed the winding dirt Redington Road climbing up in elevation. The area where we hit trail is known as the Redington Pass Backcountry Touring Area and has a wide array of multi-use trails to explore for everything from hikers to horses to ATVs and 4WDs. This high desert varies from craggy ravines to rolling grassy hills backed by the higher Rincon Mountains to the southeast.

Our goal for the day was to traverse 4WD trails to the destination of Chivo Falls, a towering rockface in the dead-end of one of the canyons. Our group of 10 or so mixed rigs aired down and followed the first portion of the trail to Three Feathers. This piece of carved rock hillside is a popular play area that offers a good variety of crawling challenges, going both up and down the hillside. Many of the drivers played on the multiple obstacles while we regrouped before heading onward.

We stopped later in the day in a tree-lined wash for a lunch break in the shade. The cottonwoods grow tall here given their ample water supply during the rainier seasons. Continuing onward, we arrived at the canyon where Chivo Falls resides, and a short walk in the bottom of this scenic canyon left us looking upward at the source of the fall, probably 60 feet above us. The day we ran the trail had been after a somewhat dry spell, and the fall had been reduced to a smaller trickle. However, we'd heard that after a short rain, the high-plunging water was a sight to see pouring onto the sandy bottom below. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the views, and a few explored the cliff face and the shallow cave about halfway up the wall.

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It's not often we see Ford Explorers out on a trail like this, but Travis Whitaker's '92 is rather far from the ordinary. With an HP Dana 44 front axle complementing the Ford 9-inch rear, they can handle turning 37-inch Super Swamper SSRs. The front axle is linked and coil sprung, and chrome-moly axleshafts are used throughout.

Some bit of tragedy struck as we prepared to leave the area when one of the drivers suffered a gross misfortune and rolled his late-model Nissan Xterra off an off-camber hill. Fortunately, no one was injured, and with some team recovery and repair, the Xterra made it back off the trail under its own power, save for a battery jump.

The trip back out to the trailhead went smoothly. The day had started with a clear, blue sky and later turned with some drifting clouds. The lighting changes throughout the afternoon were interesting and added to the great views. As the sun dipped further, we were treated to golden tints on the distant mountains as long shadows crept across the valleys.

We drove from the falls, following the same trails from which we came and tackled the occasional obstacles from the other direction. There is another piece of trail loop that returns to Redington Road a little farther east, and there are a number of other trail sections to be explored in this area. There's plenty to enjoy here, and we'll have to return again to do some more exploring in the future.

PhotosView Slideshow
PhotosView Slideshow
Mileage Latitude Longitude Description
From northeast {{{Tucson}}}, follow Tanque Verde
Road (turns into Redington Road) eastward out
of town and travel approximately 5 miles after
the road turns from pavement to dirt
0.0 3216'56.2"N 11037'58.7"W Enter gate onto dirt road on right (you'll see
Redington Recreation Area sign.) Good spot
to air down.
0.6 3216'55.4"N 11037'36.9"W Head downhill via multiple rocky routes.
0.8 3216'55.7"N 11037'32.1"W Arrive at Three Feathers area (plenty of
obstacles to crawl on here).
2.1 3216'30.4"N 11036'42.9"W Continue across cattle guard and enjoy the
awesome mountain views.
2.3 3216'28.1"N 11036'33.3"W Continue across another cattle guard and follow
winding road across grassy hills.
2.7 3216'29.7"N 11036'13.0"W Marker for F.S. Trail 4426. Stay right.
3.1 3216'21.4"N 11036'10.2"W Cross cattle guard and follow F.S. Trail 4426
to left.
3.3 3216'06.6"N 11036'10.1"W Turn right onto F.S. Trail 4405, pass through
sandy wash, and follow trail in southwest direction.
3.9 3215'37.2"N 11036'02.1"W Continue straight on 4405A and head down hill.
4.2 3215'32.5"N 11035'46.7"W Road gets rougher. You can stop here and
walk about 150 to {{{200}}} yards to the waterfall
in canyon.
Return via the same route, or you can return
to Redington Road more westerly via F.S. Trail
4426 and 37.

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