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Name: Gunsight Pass Author's Rating:
Author: Matt Marine Avg. User Rating: (based on five votes)
Type: 4WD Difficulty: (moderate)
Time: 4 - 6 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 8.4 miles (one way to Helvetia) Elevation gain/loss/change: +1380 / -1587 ft / -207 ft (one way)
Type: Through trail (or out and back) Avg Elevation: 5000 ft
Best time to go: fall, spring, winter Fees: NA
Fitness rating: Low Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low to Medium Scenic Beauty: Medium
Hours of Operation: NA Last updated: November, 2009
Short Description: A 4WD road that leads to a pass in the Santa Rita Mountains that looks like a gunsight
Geocaches:Tons of cool geocaches around. Here's just a few. Top Notch; Rosemont Rest; Rolling Hills
References / Contact Information: Gunsight Pass; Arizona Game and Fish;
Points of interest: Gunsight Pass, the town site of Helvetia, tons of places to explore.
Special Considerations: Trail is located in illegal immigrant and smuggler high traffic area, see page regarding warning (it's not as bad as it sounds). NOTE: This trail may be closed due to a new mine opening in the area. I will try to verify ASAP. Please email me if you have any information on this trail
How to get there: From Tucson, take I-10 east to exit 281, then drive 12 miles south on Hwy 83 to the Rosemont Junction trail on the right. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This is an easy 4WD road up the east side of Gunsight Pass. NOTE: A new mine has recently opened in the area. I do not know if this trail has been closed off due to the mining. This is a fun beginner's trail that goes to a nice, narrow pass through the northern edge of the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson. This trail (and others in the area) are very popular with ATV riders.

General Information and History

Why is it named Gunsight Pass? Easy, take a look at it from Hwy 83 and it looks like the front sights of an old rifle. The view from the pass is nice, and there's some cool rock formations on both sides.

The trail up to the pass wasn't always this easy. A few years ago, the Forest Service graded this road. When I last visited it (2009), this side of the trail was all 2WD and smooth. Truth be told, it was a little boring. Hopefully, some good summer monsoons have rutted the road a bit by now to make it a little more challenging.

The west side of the pass had some rocky areas that could be difficult for stock vehicles or inexperienced drivers. The road leads to the Helvetia town site ruins on the west side of the Santa Rita Mountains. You can go all the way through to Sahuarita or turn around and come back the way you came.

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The Trail

August 2014 Update: May be more difficult due to recent rains. See comments below.

The trail starts 12 miles south of I-10 on the Sonoita Hwy (Hwy 83) at the turnoff to Rosemont Junction (Waypoint 001) where you take FR231 west. There are numerous smaller roads lead left and right as you make your way along. At Waypoint 002, keep straight on FR231.

This portion of the trail goes through a large sandy wash with nice camping spots for trailers under large trees. Watch out for ATVs here. They like to play in the sand. After about 2.5 miles from the start, you'll reach Rosemont Junction (Waypoint 003). Don't worry, you didn't miss it. There's not much (anything really) there, except for the turnoff to Gunsight Pass on FR4051.

Take a right on FR4051. Keep on the main road, there's a tons of ATV trails around here. This area can be a little confusing with all the trails and some of the Forest Service maps conflict on road numbers.

Around Waypoint 005, there's a foundation to an building off to the right. Follow the main road, past Waypoint 006 (staying right once again), until you reach Waypoint 007. A right here will take you down into a small valley (and back on the FR4051 loop). There's some nice canyons and rock formations to explore down here.

We saw some cougar prints in while hiking a canyon one time. I believe this road may connect you to Sycamore Canyon if you take it to the north.

To go to Gunsight Pass, keep left at Waypoint 007. This portion of the trail can make people who are afraid of heights a little nervous as it follows a narrow shelf road up to the pass.

At Waypoint 008, you've reached the pass. There's a nice parking area off to the right. The trail leading off to the left immediately after the pass goes up to some nice rock formations (Harts Butte) and some old tailings (Narragansett Mine).

If you decide to take your vehicle up there (I've done it), be forewarned that long, wide vehicles will have some issues. The first corner is sharp and some of the road is narrow and overgrown which leads to a great deal of Arizona pin striping. It's a nice hike up to the top.

Once through with the pass, you can turn around or continue through to Sycamore Canyon or Helvetia and come out the Sahuartia (west side) of the mountains.

If you decide to continue, keep going through the pass until you reach Waypoint 009. A right here will take you to Sycamore Canyon. Going straight leads to Helvetia.

If you go straight, this part of the trail used to be a little tough. It has some nice rocky sections leading down to Waypoint 0013. At Waypoint 0013, a right is the end of Sycamore Canyon, straight to Helvetia.

Continue straight as you drive past Omega Mine (near Waypoint 014) and Old Dick Mine. Keep on the main road as you pass Waypoint 0015. Waypoint 0016 is the Helvetia Town site Ruins. This is the end of the Gunsight Pass trail. The rest of the trip out to Sahuarita is 2WD and is described in the Helvetia adventure.

Have fun and be safe.

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Have you been on this adventure? What did you think? Comments and updates welcome by clicking here. You can also rate this adventure by clicking here.

May be rougher due to recent rains

August, 2014: Just traveled Gunsight Pass Trail from Sahuarita side to Rt 83 on 08/20/14. Great ride made much more challenging due to storm water degrading the trail. It was noticeably more rutted than a few months ago. I did see evidence of some recent trail repair, likely by a local club. I was alone in a stock 2004 Wrangler Unlimited with 31s. I believe a lesser vehicle or an older Jeep with smaller tires would have a difficult time traveling West to East. I needed low range to traverse a few spots. Once through the pass the Sonoita side was very passable. While there is certainly mining activity in the area with several vehicles on the Sonoita side, no one bothered me. In fact, one gentleman offered me directions when I made a wrong turn. Forest Rd 4051 has a large log across the trail just after it splits to the right from FR 231. If you are traveling E to W it's very evident. If your headed toward 83 you'd have to backtrack a ways. I did not investigate to see how easily it could be moved, as I took what I believe is FR 4059 off of FR 4051 around to south and connected to FR231 at that split.

Still open and pretty

September, 2013: Did this trail 9/25/2013. It was open all the way through. Very green and pretty this time of year.

Mountain Lions

May 4, 2012: Amazing view of Green Valley once you get there. My wife and I saw two Mountain Lions up there. Be careful.

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