Tuned to Nature at Finger Rock Trailhead

April 25, 2022

It’s early in the morning and the sun is just barely beginning to rise over the distant horizon. I am preparing, packing a backpack full of snacks and water, fitting myself into comfortable outdoorsy clothing, and hydrating with a 21 oz hydro flask. I feel fully rested, fully composed, and fully prepared for the excursion that is soon to come. 

I have always had a keen love for the outdoors, being able to experience mothers Earth’s beauty without the interruption of electronic devices is a truly charitable moment. This is exactly why hiking has become one of my favorite hobbies. To me, hiking brings out the feeling of being attuned to nature, a breath of fresh air, and a break from the constant perpetual loop of day-to-day life. 

Finger Rock trailhead was my set destination this time, it is a hiking trail that is set through Finger Rock canyon and carries over to the top of Finger Rock Catalina Mountain. I should preface have been to this hiking trail once before but I did not venture up the mountain I instead stayed in the canyon portion of the trail and turned around after about an hour of walking. This time around I would be hiking to the top of Finger Rock Mountain, and I would be going with my father.

From research, I conducted prior to the commencement of our excursion I knew of Finger Rock trailhead’s difficulty mainly due to the high elevations and steep inclines. My research also inclined me that the trailhead would be quite rugged and in the heart of the wild. I knew that being prepared for this hike would be a necessity for me and my father.

Signs at the entrance of trail

My father and I left for Finger Rock trailhead at 6:30 in the morning so we may get a substantial distance into the hike before the heat reached a semi unbearable level. From there we made our drive to the hiking spot, to note it does not cost any money to experience this hike, no fee for parking or admission. We notice the stretching Catalina mountains etching closer as we drove along following our GPS map. Upon a left turn, it was now a straight shot to the hiking trail’s start. The mountain was directly in view, we looked up to admire its towering presence and we notice one pointed rock slightly resembling a finger protruding from the top and knew we were in the right location.

We parked and gathered our gear noticing how almost all the spots were taken. We assumed the trail is relatively popular at this time of day as it was quite cool outside. We got to the start of the trail and observed rather swiftly the signs posted, taking note of a sign that had rules and regulations written sternly on it and a sign that had a full view of the map. With that, It was finally time to get walking, and to start my dad took the lead.

Photo of trail beautiful terrain

Our Excursion Begins

The air was cool this particular morning a refreshing far off from the heat of Arizona’s summers. My father and I chatted as we began to reach our comfortable hiking pace only ever being interrupted by the passing of a friendly face and an exchange of a polite “good morning.” The path was straight, well-formed, with very few drastic changes in elevation. The trail merged into the canyon leaving an expansive space for the path to continue down. I could not help but feel an array of comfortable atmosphere here with large boulder-like rocks and tall prolonged cacti almost forming a natural bastion around us. Looking down either side of the canyon would reveal these elements extending for miles.

We started now to reach the mountain portion of the hike which was initiated by an upending path that broke right to left, the left to right like a winding staircase. At this point, my father began to slow his pace so he asked me to now take the lead as well as to not keep stopping for him but to instead wait at a good stopping point after about an hour of walking. I did exactly that taking note of the trails quickening change in challenge.

The trail was rocky as though it was split in between an avalanche that occurred years ago. The early morning sun was blocked by the rising mountain and shaded the forgoing trail. The trail felt alive with the cool morning wind creating a wave of movement down the eternal canyon. The grass danced, the flowers swayed, and the cacti stood tall and motionless almost as a forbidding reminder of its long history. At this point I began to enter a certain meditative state as my mind began to relieve itself of any and all thoughts, Only being concerned with the simple idea of taking careful well-minded steps on the rocky terrain forward. I could feel the trail starting to shift into a more vertical state and walking now felt like taking steps upstairs. 

Breathtaking View

The verticality of the trail was starting to exhaust me, I looked up to view what was ahead of me. I saw now that it was a straight shot upward with no turns in the trail. The path had also shifted from a gravely dirt-like texture to more hard rock, so I decided to take a short break. I drank some water and admired the incredible view, we weren’t even at the top and already the trail reveal a surreal birds-eye view of Tucson. The sun was beginning to rise over the mountain and it was getting hotter, I stood up and continued my hike. 

I finished walking up the long incline and reached a moderately open area I thought to myself I should have taken my break here as it was well shaded. I noticed a man sitting on a rock and sequentially began making small talk, he informed me that he was here to work on the trail with a few other people who he was waiting for, he then told me about a fork in the path that would be up ahead. He said that if you take a right it leads you to a landing that reveals an incredible view of the city. 

I continued to the fork deciding to take the right to see this so-called incredible view and take another break this time I would also wait for my dad to reach me. I made it to the landing and noticed another man silently observing and writing in a journal. He was the first to break the silence with a friendly greeting, I remarked with an equally friendly remark. I became distracted when I noticed out of the corner of my eye what this kind patron was looking at. The view was absolutely breathtaking the entire city of Tucson was in full view, twinkling as it was livened by the coming of morning. Suddenly everything was put into perspective, just how high we were from standard ground, and the tranquil state of mind its view gave me.  

The Last Stretch

I sat in amazement for who knows how long until my father eventually reached me. We were ready to begin our final hurdle to the top, only a few more miles remained. This final hurdle was by far the most treacherous the path gets, it is very rocky and sharply angled upward. Nevertheless, we continued cautiously aware of every well-mannered step we took towards the inevitable goal of the mountain’s peak. The environment was alive this high-up, beautiful flowers made their appearance giving its viewers, such as me inconceivable calm and bringing life atop the mountain. 

We were nearing the end of the trail with only a few more angled turns remaining until the trail finally dissipated. When we finally made it to the top we were exhausted and ready for a much-needed break, thankfully it was well shaded. It was incredible just how high up we were, To be able to see the full skyline from 5,00ft in the air is completely surreal. The experience was long but worthwhile, truly an incredible adventure into nature.


Julien Nygaard is a freshman at the University of Arizona majoring in information of science and arts. He thoroughly enjoys hiking, camping, and in general the great outdoors.