Pima County has secured agreements with federal and state agencies to establish a 42-mile recreational trail on top of the levee or berm that runs along the Central Arizona Project canal from the Pinal County line east of Interstate 10 south and west of the Tucson Mountains to south of West Valencia Road.
The CAP Trail will be Pima County’s third Trail of National Significance, one that has been formally recognized under the 1986 National Trails System Act for historic, scenic or recreational importance. The CAP National Recreation Trail joins the Anza National Historic Trail and the Arizona National Scenic Trail as part of Pima County’s development of a regional trail system.
The CAP Trail, which will be used by pedestrians, bicyclists and equestrians, connects to 12 or more trails in Tortolita Mountain Park, Saguaro National Park’s West District, Tucson Mountain Park and Ironwood Forest National Monument.
The trail will generally be on the levee or protection berm on the east side of the CAP canal. The canal is off-limits to recreationists and is protected within its own chain-link fence.
The Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation Department first envisioned the CAP trail in the mid-1980s and executed a recreational development agreement with the federal Bureau of Reclamation, the developer of the canal, in 1986. The County completed a CAP Trail Master Plan in 2009.
“The CAP Water Conservation District, the folks who operate the canal, agreed that we could put the trail on the protection berm, which is a terrific victory,” said Steve Anderson, the Planning Division Manager for Pima County Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation. “That’s the best place we could ever want the CAP Trail. The berm gives the trail user a terrific view of the entire countryside.”
Anderson credits David V. Modeer, the general manager of the Central Arizona Water Conservation District who was previously the director of Tucson Water, and Tom Fitzgerald, CAP Land Administrator, with moving the trail project forward.
The CAP Trail in Pima County was designated as a National Recreation Trail by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 2003. Since then, the cities of Scottsdale and Phoenix have developed trail systems along the canal, and Pinal County has included a CAP trail in its Trails and Open Space Master Plan so the designation has been extended to the entire 336 miles along the canal from Lake Havasu to Tucson.
There is a CAP trailhead near the southeast corner of Sandario and Mile Wide roads.
See the CAP canal on the Pima Regional Trail System Master Plan map at http://www.pima.gov/nrpr/pdfs/Trails_MP_map_2012.pdf.