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Aspen Loop Professional Review and Guide
"A day loop through the high country near Mount Lemmon. This trail offers a popular day loop through high montane country from the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area. It is often crowded during summer and early autumn, especially on weekends. The aspen stands for which the trail is named are among the largest in the state, and put on a brief fall color display that generally peaks in late October.The trail begins on a southward bearing as it climbs the slopes above the west bank of Sabino Creek. After a short distance, a rocky overlook just below the trail offers views of the granite-walled canyon, sprinkled liberally with tall ponderosa pines. The path turns westward into a moist swale. This level glade is populated by groves of quaking aspen, their stately colonnades capped by clouds of bright-green leaves that tremble in the slightest breeze. The dark green spires of spruce and fir rise in the midst of the aspens, thrown into high relief by lighter foliage surrounding them."
--Erik Molvar, Hiking Arizona's Cactus Country (Falcon Guides).
When I did this trail, it turned out to be a bit tedious: Lots of fallen trees blocked the trail, making it necessary to find a way around around or to climb over them (getting charcoaled hands and clothes, as some of them have been burned in the big fire). Additionally, the parking lot at the Marshall Gulch Picnic Area was closed when I did the trail, adding about 0.7 miles one-way or 1.4 miles (round-trip), so the total of the hike was 5.3 miles instead of the advertised 3.0 miles.
Having said this, the hike offered good views on the first half of the trail and the way down from the Marshall Saddle via Marshall Gulch is simply gorgeous (and much better maintained). Lots of green, the songs of the birds and the bubbling of the water make this part worth the whole trip. This was what made me enjoy the whole hike!
Once the first part of the trail is again in a better shape, this hike is good for a solid rating!
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