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The Outsider – Summer’s coming: Take the plunge in a cool Catalinas pool

The main swimming hole at Hutch’s Pool is cut out of the surrounding rock.

The main swimming hole at Hutch’s Pool is cut out of the surrounding rock.

The old swimmin’ hole is there – just go find it.

The best way to beat the heat this summer may be to find some mountain pool water – if National Forest restrictions permit – and jump in.

The problem in the dry, land-locked, very thirsty Southwestern desert is finding that water. And the situation is worse since the forest fires of 2002 and 2003.

The most notable local spot is Hutch’s Pool, accessed via Sabino Canyon’s upper basin on the Sabino Canyon and West Fork trails. It’s a four-mile hike to the pools, in rock formations at 3,500 to 3,900 feet.

Hutch’s Pool was filled with silt after the 2003 fires in the Santa Catalina Mountains and was not in good shape early this past winter. But Coronado National Forest officials said spring wash and icepack from the higher elevations would remedy that.

Romero Canyon, bordering the Romero Canyon Trail out of Catalina State Park, is not well-known, says author Pancho Doll.

Doll’s “Day Trips with a Splash” is a guide to swimming holes in the Southwest, which was published in 2000 by Running Water Publications.

“This is a place where a rock finger forces a hairpin turn in the creek, creating four pools that amount to a water park better than Disney could build,” Doll writes about Romero Canyon.

The Romero Canyon pools, a three-mile hike from Catalina State Park, are perhaps the easiest pools to reach.

The network of streaming pools is so extensive anybody can find a special, private spot. Waterfalls flow right off the trail and the depth of the pool there – full of small, curious fish – is only about 5 feet. The bottom is slick, but good for wading.

Because of extensive drought in the West, people should check conditions in the Santa Catalinas before heading out. Call the Coronado National Forest office at 670-4552.


Santa Catalina Mountain pools

HUTCH’S POOL – Four miles of gradual incline on the Sabino Canyon and West Fork trails. Trail head is at the top of the Sabino Canyon tramway.

MINER’S POOL – On the way to Hutch’s Pool, 1.5 miles along the Sabino Basin Trail along the first saddle, take an easily missed, unidentified path to the left and descend a half-mile along a rocky ridge. The pool, 60 yards long, is a natural dugout in the rock with high, unscalable cliffs on the east and west sides.

ROMERO POOLS – The most popular and easiest to get to; a hard, dusty climb for the purpose of the opposite: a plunge into the depths of refreshment. Take the Romero Canyon Trail from Catalina State Park for three miles and drop down among scrub oak to the pools.

LEMMON CREEK – Almost four miles into the Wilderness of Rocks Trail, starting at Marshall Gulch near Summerhaven. The most popular summertime pool area because of high elevation. Shallow water, hard to negotiate because of large and small boulders and rocks along the way. Water constant.

MONTROSE CANYON – In one of the most remote areas of the Catalina canyons. No trails to a series of pools at canyon bottom via boulder hopping. Descent begins a half-mile into Romero Canyon Trail. Shallow network of pools stretches for a quarter-mile to west, and rock route eventually connects with Romero Pools. Water most of the year.

MAIDEN POOLS – Rock holes above Ventana Falls on Ventana Canyon Trail and popular rest spot on 6.4-mile pathway to “The Window,” a popular landmark in the Santa Catalinas, a 15-foot high, 25-foot wide aperture in the rock near Window Peak.

SEVEN FALLS – A popular spot for the summer youth crowd, containing seven plunge pools in a scenic canyon, the highest with a 100-foot drop. There is a south-facing canyon, broiling in the summer, and a shaded north. To reach Seven Falls, take the Sabino Canyon Bear Canyon tram two miles and hike 2 1/2 miles to the falls. With past drought and fires, the falls in the last years have been diminished. The pools contain tannic acid. It’s harmless, but imparts the rust color.

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