Ride up the control road back to Catalina Highway, turn left(leg recovery). About 2 miles down, turn left at the butterfly trailhead (mile marker 22.7). Follow the jeep road down and you will run into a single track. The trail is very technical at this point (off camber, roots, rocks, narrow). Be very careful not to slide off the trail. VERY STEEP DROPS. About 1.2 mi. from the butterfly trailhead there will be a left turn for the Crystal Springs trail. The trail contains many technical challenges and very steep climbing. Trail comes out where you parked.
I recommend this trail for advanced riders that want to test their endurance and technical skills. Probably not worth driving long distance for. The trail worth driving for is the Red Ridge trail that begins very close to this one. Pick up the Arizona Off Road Adventures map at any local shop for details on this ride and many others in the southwest. For additional fun, combine the Aspen Draw and Red Ridge trails. 5 stars. A shuttle is necessary for Aspen Draw/Red Ridge. Be sure to pick up a good set of downhill balls at the bike shop. Happy riding.
Bring at least 70 oz. of water during the summer months.
Take I-10 to Tucson, take Speedway exit heading east,turn left on Wilmot,turn left on Catalina highway (look for signs for Mt. Lemmon),approx. 25 mi. up highway turn right on the Control road (recommend truck),follow control road down 3 miles,parking on the left, trail sign is on the right (you will exit the trail here). If you want more detailed information about the trails or area, stop at the Palisade Ranger Station on the way up Catalina Hgwy. or stop at the fire station just as you head down the control road. The rangers are very cool and very helpful.
Be sure to check out the groovy trail signs by Dave Burnham.
You can park at the Butterfly trailhead and begin there, but you finish the ride with 3 miles of steep rocky jeep road to climb. I prefer to get the climbing out of the way at the beginning of a ride and have detailed these directions as such.
Summary: I'm a very experienced technical rider and lover of back-country trails.
I've ridden this trail many times. Back before the Aspen Fire of 2003, it was 95% rideable and offered a good blend of technical downhill, brutal climbs, great views and back country adventure. Now, due to the fire and the resulting erosion problems, this trail is devastated. I go back once a year or so in hopes that it's not really as bad as my memory from the last visit, but it is always worse. Like Long John Silver's or Arby's. Ughhh....
If you must see this trail, leave the bike at home. Or definitely go ride this if you enjoy the following:
- Huge downed trees. At least fifty of them.
- Off camber wash-outs that will dump you into an abyss to your death.
- Foliage so dense that when you look forward all you see is a wall of green.
- Tree holes from toppled burnt ponderosas.
- Carrying / dragging you bike.
- Searching for the trail. ("This is a trail???")).
- Mexican locust shrubs that will tear the flesh from you bones.
- Full sun exposure, since the forest got roasted. (Used to be well shaded).
- Woe and misery.
I just rode this today. It is fresh in my mind. Special thanks to the Forest Service for not doing a thing for this former gem in more than 10 years after the fire, all the while collecting 5 bucks a day for every car that drives up the mountain. That's my rant.
Recommended Route: Some other one.
Other recommended trails in the same area: In the Catalina Mountains:
DH: Aspen Draw (please yield to foot traffic), Green Mountain, Bug Springs, La Milagrosa.
Red Ridge or CDO (last two require serious shuttle prep).
AM: Here's a great route- Park at Palisades, tough tech uphill to Mt. Bigelow, 2 track to 'Secret Trail'. Fast downhill to 1812, then under the highway. Find the left turn to Sunset trail and enjoy primo rip down to the bottom of Marshall Gulch, where your friend's truck is waiting. No friend's truck? OK, road ride back to Bear Wallow, over Bigelow, sweet tech singletrack back to Palisades.
Summary: A premiere AM ride. Plenty of technical. Plenty of tough climbing. Plenty of steep descents. Plenty of steady grinding. Plenty of tranquility and views.
Recommended Route: Now that I live in Tucson, here's the scoop; this trail is one of the best Summertime rides. And it's a tough ride! Really tough. Crystal Springs, by itself, is not enough. It needs to be linked into a larger loop. The minimal loop I'll recommend is as follows: park at the paved Butterfly Trail TH. It's off of General Hitchcock Hwy (aka Catalina Hwy). It's past Palisades. It's past Mt Bigelow. It's past Bear Wallow. It's on the right at the bottom of a downhill section of the hwy. Unload and gear up. Head right on in to the Butterfly Trail. You'll descend on some sweet ST that has some great tech sections and tigh switchbacks. Make a left when you get to Crystal Springs. I think someone stated that was about 1.8 miles in and that sounds about right. There's a trail sign at the intersection. Follow Crystal Springs to the end, where it "T-bones" with the Mt Lemmon Fire Control Rd. Start climbing. This is about a 3 mile climb on a twisty, somewhat steep jeep road. It's a tough climb. Well, I find it tough on a 35 lb AM bike - and after the tough climbs on Crystal Springs. The Mt Lemmon Fire Control Rd eventually "T-bones" with General Hitchcock Hwy (aka Catalina Hwy), just past the Summerhaven Fire Station. Make a left on the Hwy and head back to the parking area. This loop is a tough run, but the trail is truly AM riding. It's beautiful up there!
Other recommended trails in the same area: Add a figure-8 route to this ride by first adding Bear Wallow/Secret/1918/Sunset/Hwy back to the Parking lot.
This trail would be a nice, technical ride if it were maintained. Unfortunately, it is well overgrown and there are MANY downed trees blocking the trail at about waist height - you know the kind of obstacle that is not fun to lift a 35lb bike over every tenth of a mile.
Honestly, I would not venture out there in hopes of riding much.
I recommend not riding this trial unless there is considerable trail work done.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Aspen Trail, La Milagrosa, 50 Year Trail, Charleau Gap, etc.
Summary: In short the trail was pretty brutal. Not too single speed friendly. Both Butterfly and Crystal Springs trails are prett overgrown and pretty washed out in some spots with some downed trees across trail. Rideable sections are super fun and technical. Lots of hike-a-bike though.
Recommended Route: Parked at fire station on control road and rode to Palisades Ranger station to start Butterfly trial. Ride this @ 3.5-4 miles and pick up Crystal springs trail. Ride Crystal Springs up to Oracle Control road and ride the 3 miles back up to fire station.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Aspen Draw, Prison Camp/AZ Trail, Oracle Ridge.
Review Date October 6, 2003
Overall Rating 3 of 5
Aerobic Difficulty 3 of 5
Technical Difficulty 0 of 5
Ridden Trail: Tested or demo'ed only
Reviewed by: kylebakin
Favorite Trail: Chiva, Fantasy
Summary: Trail has been re-opened since the Aspen fire of summer 03. I agree with the first review of this trail and must re-emphasize its technical difficulty and DANGEROUS drops. Not for the faint of heart. I consider myself an intermediate experienced rider, and suppose this may be fun for the expert. Some sections are washed out and un-rideable. This trail would be an absolute beautiful hike with all of the new growth that has been promoted by the ash nutrients and newly available sunlight for the ground, but the trail is somewhat overgrown, making it even more difficult to ride. Not much of workout, until you get to the road. From there, it's spin, spin, spin. Took me about 2 hours start to finish.