Sir Edmund Hillary had Tenzing Norgay to share the joy of climbing Mount Everest. With significantly less training, you can have Fido and Fifi as your companions to climb Mount Wrightson, the highest peak in the Santa Rita Range in southern Arizona's Coronado National Forest. At 9,450 feet, conquering Wrightson is a victory worth barking about.
Two trails lead to the summit from the Mt. Wrightson Picnic Area outside Madera Canyon. The Old Baldy Trail and the Super Loop form a rough figure eight shape, giving you a mix-and-match option between the shorter and steeper ascent on the Old Baldy or the longer, more relaxed and scenic journey on the Super Loop. The trails converge at their mid-point at the Josephine Saddle, and by that point, you'll have climbed 1670 feet in elevation. The spectacular views from this vantage point make the trip totally worth it, so you can always catch the other trail down for a 5.7-mile loop if one of your fluffy climbing buddies is starting to pooch out.
If your pups still have some spring in their step, then dash for the summit. You'll make a total climb of over 4,000 feet in elevation by the time you reach the top. The trails separate at Josephine Saddle and converge again a mile below the summit. From the top, you'll be rewarded with a panoramic view over mountain ranges in every direction. Just think of the dog pics you'll take! To get the full Mount Wrightson experience, take your buddies back by the other route.
But which trail should you sniff out first? Consider your pack's fitness level, the time of day, and the weather forecast as you decide.
The Old Baldy Trail is 4.5 miles long, climbing almost 1,000 feet per mile for a challenging direct route to the mountaintop, the more heavily-traveled of the two trails. Old Baldy provides considerably more shade, keeping you under a tree canopy for much of the hike. Fido and Fifi will appreciate the break from the hot sun, but you'll miss out on some views because of the foliage.
The 8.1-mile Super Loop Trail twists and turns to the south of Old Baldy, giving your pups an easier but longer hike through the high desert. The more gradual ascent makes this walk a bit easier on the legs. But, the limited shade means this trail can be uncomfortable on pawticularly hot days. The wide-open mountain views may be worth it!
With the high elevation and desert terrain just north of the Mexican border, these trails require constant hydration. No water available along the trail, so it's essential that you fill up at the trailhead restroom area and carry plenty for both you and your pack. Don't forget a cup or bowl for your pups. Seriously, don't underestimate how much water you'll need: the National Park Service recommends 1 quart per person per hour for strenuous hiking.
Snakes, black bears, and mountain lions all live within the Coronado National Forest, so keep your pups onleash- and make sure you know wilderness protocol for encountering wildlife.