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Rincon Mountains

The Rincon Mountains are a prominent mountain range situated in the southeastern part of the US state of Arizona. This range is relatively less rugged compared to the other nearby mountain ranges in Coronado National Forest. The range contains 28 named mountains. The tallest and most prominent peak is Mica Mountain at 8,665 feet (2,641 m) tall with 4,587 feet (1,398 m) of prominence.

Rincon Mountains, Arizona


The Rincon Mountains are a prominent mountain range in southern Arizona. These peaks mark one of the five major mountain ranges that surround the Tucson Valley.

The other major ranges in the region include the Santa Catalina Mountains to the north, Tucson Mountains to the west, Santa Rita Mountains to the south and the Tortolita Mountains to the northwest.

These peaks lie within the Saguaro National Park- Rincon Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain Wilderness, and extend into both Cochise and Pima counties. Directly east of the range lies Happy Valley, with the Little Rincon Mountains along the eastern side of the valley.

Saguaro National Park, Rincon Mountains, Arizona

Rincon Mountains, Saguaro National Park

Elevations range from around 2,800 feet (853 m) up to the summit of Mica Mountain . The range spans 33 miles (53 km) in length, trending in a southwest to northeast direction. The Rincon Mountain range measures roughly 28 miles (45 km) wide.

The name “Rincón” is Spanish for “corner”, referring to the shape of the range. Mica Mountain, which marks the tallest peak in the range, forms the center of this shape. The western point of the corner shape is marked by Tanque Verde Peak while Rincon Peak marks the southern point.

Mica Mountain, Rincon Mountains, Arizona

Mica Mountain

The Pantano Wash runs along the western edge of the range while the Tanque Verde Wash lies just north of the Rincon Mountains. Further west of the range lies the Santa Cruz River.

Amidst the peaks of the range lie numerous valleys and canyons along with limestone caves. Lower elevations in the range feature a desert landscape, marked by rocky terrain and cacti. As elevations increase, the desert landscape transitions to oak covered hills and dramatic rock outcroppings.

Additionally, the Rincon Mountains are surrounded by other popular outdoor recreation areas. Besides being located in the Saguaro National Park - Rincon Mountain District and the Rincon Mountain Wilderness, other sections of Coronado National Forest extend to the north. The Pusch Ridge Wilderness also lies north of the range while the Galiuro Wilderness is to the northeast. South of the range lies other sections of the Coronado National Forest and the Mount Wrightson Wilderness.

Coronado National Forest, Arizona

Coronado National Forest


The Rincon Mountains are a sky island mountain range, as they are surrounded by relatively flat desert terrain. Many of the sky island ranges in the region are part of the Coronado National Forest.

These peaks, along with other nearby ranges, share a unique geological history. The range was formed by a series of both volcanic activity and fault blocking beginning around 50 million years ago.

Aerial view, Rincon Mountains, Arizona

During this time the surrounding region experienced widespread volcanic activity caused by the North American tectonic plate being thrust over the Pacific Plate. This continual shifting slowly thrust up the region.

The range was further formed by continual erosion due to flash flooding. The immense pressure from the floods carved out the deep canyons that are still visible today. Peaks visible in the range today, showcase only a portion of the range, with the rest of the range being buried beneath the accumulated sediment.

Major peaks within the range include Mica Mountain, Rincon Peak, Forest Hill, Spud Rock and North Star Peak.


The dramatic changes in elevation has allowed a wide variety of both flora and fauna to thrive within the Rincon Mountains.

The foothills of the range feature a desert landscape, which extends throughout much of southeastern Arizona. Here lie saguaro cactus along with low growing shrubs and grasses. As elevations increase the desert landscape gives way juniper, pinyon, and oak woodlands.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona, Arizona

Saguaro Cactus

Some of the highest peaks and ridgelines in the range are populated with stands of fir and aspen trees. Many of the tallest peaks are free of flora, occasionally featuring a tuft of grass.

The network of protected lands in the region help make the Rincon Mountains an ideal habitat for various animal species. Larger mammals that inhabit the region include black bears, mountain lions, wolves, and deer.

Other animal species that can withstand the harsh desert conditions are the bunchgrass lizard, banded rock rattlesnake, and ornate box turtle. Amidst the forested landscape lie populations of the sharp-shinned hawk, Mexican jay, and acorn woodpecker, amongst other bird species.

Banded rock rattlesnake, Rincon Mountains, Arizona

Banded rock rattlesnake

Human History

The land surrounding Tucson Valley, including the Rincon Mountains, has a long and rich human history. Archaeological evidence estimates that humans have inhabited this region for nearly 11,000 years. Remnants of the Mogollon, Sobaipuri, and Hohokam cultures has been found throughout this area.

The region marks part of the ancestral homelands of many peoples, including the Tohono O’Odham Nation, Chiricahua Apache Nation, and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, among many others.

Hohokam Petroglyphs, Signal Hill, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Hohokam Petroglyphs, Saguaro National Park

During the seventeenth century, the first people of European descent arrived in the region. The Spanish missionary Eusebio Francisco founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700 near the present-day city of Tucson.

Spaniard Hugh O’Conor established a military fort in the region during the eighteenth century. Increased presence of Spanish forces led to numerous disputes between the Spaniards and the Indigenous Tribes of the region.

After the Mexican War for Independence, the surrounding region was declared as part of the Mexican state of Sonora. Following the Mexican-American War, in 1848 the land was reallocated to the US, later becoming the state of Arizona.

Mining in the region began to grow rapidly in the following decades, bringing more people to the region. This increased population led to the construction of the railroad through Arizona, bringing more settlers upon completion. Tucson quickly became one of the largest commercial centers of the southwest.

In 1902, protection of the surrounding landscape began when a portion of land was declared as the Santa Rita Forest Reserve. Over the following years, other forest reserves were consolidated, eventually creating Coronado, Apache, and Tonto national forests in 1953. Saguaro National Park was later established in 1994.

Plate, Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Major Trails & Hiking Areas

The Rincon Mountains are home to numerous trails and hiking opportunities. A majority of trails can be found in the Saguaro National Park portion of the range. Here are some of the top hiking spots to visit in the region:

Saguaro National Park - Rincon Mountain District

This Rincon Mountain District of Saguaro National Park spans for 67,000 acres (27,000 ha), encompassing a majority of the Rincon Mountains. Towering cactus, forested hillsides, and stunning rock outcroppings define the region. Here are a few popular hikes to check out on your next visit:

  • Bridal Wreath Falls Trail: This out and back route winds through the northern stretches of the national park. Sights along the route include desert landscape and unique rock formations. The falls are often flowing during the cooler months of the year. This trail is 5.7 miles (9.2 km) long and features 1,095 feet (334 m) of elevation gain.
  • Tanque Verde Ridge: Situated along the western edge of the park, the route climbs steadily through towering cacti. From the top, hikers have views of the Rincon Mountains extending to the east. Roundtrip the route is 3.3 miles (5.3 km) and features 925 feet (282 m) of elevation gain.
  • Mica View - Cholla - Cactus Forest Loop Trail: This loop route winds through the unique cacti “forest” in the park. Hikers can take in the stunning flora with minimal amounts of climbing. The loop is 3.7 miles (6 km) long and features 121 feet (29 m) of elevation gain.

Saguaro National Park, Arizona

Saguaro National Park

Rincon Mountain Wilderness

The Rincon Mountain Wilderness extends along the southern, eastern, and northern stretches of the Rincon Mountain District of the national park. Though this area features less hiking trails than the national park, it offers a more remote and rugged experience of the range:

  • Rincon Peak: This long out and back trail winds through the desert landscape and climbs amidst the forested hillsides before reaching the summit of Rincon Peak. This side of the range features more woodlands and less cacti. The out and back trail is 16.5 miles (26 km) and features 4,593 feet (1,400 m) of elevation gain.
  • Manning Camp Trail: Beginning along the eastern edge of the range, this trail travels northwest into the heart of the Rincon Mountains. Hikers wind through the rolling grasslands before reaching the designated campground. This trail is 18.8 miles (30 km) long and features 4,855 feet (1,480 m) of elevation gain. The route can also be extended to reach the summit of Mica Mountain and Spud Rock.

Rincon Peak, Rincon Mountains, Arizona

Rincon Peak

Major Cities

Looking for a place to stay near the Rincon Mountains? Here are some of the best cities and villages to check out in the region:


Just a few miles west of the Rincon Mountains lies the city of Tucson. Home to around 550,000 residents, it marks the second largest city in the state of Arizona. Home to the University of Arizona, the city boasts a metropolitan population of over one million.

Although Tucson marks a major city in the region, it is surrounded by national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas. In the downtown streets, visitors can explore the thriving food scene, home to some of the best authentic Mexican cuisine in the country.

Other sites to see in and near the city include the Tucson Museum of Art, Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Old Tucson, DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. A short drive from the city lies the Kitt Peak National Observatory for viewing the dark night sky.

Tucson, Arizona

Oro Valley

Oro Valley lies northwest of the Rincon Mountains, in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Home to around 45,000 residents, the city lies just outside the Pusch Ridge Wilderness, Santa Catalina Research Natural Area, and Coronado National Forest.

The city’s close proximity to the surrounding wilderness has allowed it to thrive as a gateway to the region. Local shops, restaurants, and art galleries line the downtown streets. A short drive from the city can take visitors into the stunning natural landscape of the Rincon Mountains, or into the thriving nightlife of Tucson.

Oro Valley, Arizona

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