The Window and Window Peak
The Window sits perfectly perched upon the Pusch Ridge, overlooking the Tucson valley thousands of feet below. Though you will have to work hard to visit this superb arch, the trail is in great shape, and your lunch time views will be well worth the effort. For even better views, you can continue another half mile to Window Peak, where you will enjoy birdseye views of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness and distant mountain ranges. Some not-too-difficult scrambling (class 3) is required to get to the top.
Both Ventana Canyon Trail and Esperero Canyon Trail border the Bighorn Sheep Management Area of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. Traveling more than 400 feet off trail west of Ventana Canyon Trail or northeast of Esperero Trail is prohibited between January 1 and April 30 each year. Check with the Forest Service for more information about this closure. Dogs and other animals are never allowed in this area.
Ventana Canyon gets its name from the Spanish word for “window,” and this hike will take you up to the canyon’s namesake, “The Window” arch for the most glorious view through a window you have ever seen.
The access point for this trail is at the Ventana Canyon Trailhead. A sign in the middle of the parking lot says hikers can only park in the hiking lot. It’s unclear whether that means the entire lot or just the portion behind the sign and fence. We parked in the space closest to the start of the trail and had no issues. Another sign indicates that the trailhead is only open from dawn until dusk.
Ventana Canyon Trail #98
The first part of Ventana Canyon Trail is just an access trail to get you past the private property in the area. Gates and fences with “no trespassing” signs line the trail as you make your way toward the mountain.
Once the fences disappear, you’ll be hiking along Ventana Canyon Wash, which is often dry but can have running water after rain. The trail crosses the wash multiple times in this section, so if water is flowing, you can expect your tricky rock hopping techniques to slow you down a bit if you’re trying to keep your feet dry.
Almost immediately, you’ll notice this place is covered in beautiful, majestic saguaro cactuses, one of which stands ready for a photo op with you.
After the trail leaves the wash and starts going up the side of the canyon on the left, keep an eye out for a black and white rock basin on your right at 2.4 miles. This is Maiden Pools, and if it has rained recently, the pools should have water in them. If it has rained a lot, you may even see a waterfall flowing down the cliff into the wash below.
The day we hiked to Window Peak, there was only a little bit of gross, algae-filled water, but we hiked there years ago when water was flowing.
From here, the trail continues up the main drainage and juniper trees begin to appear as you gain in elevation.
This is kind of the calm before the storm. Enjoy the trees and the forested path. Things are about to get real.
At around 4.5 miles, the trail will begin to go up the slope to the right, ascending up a series of switchbacks to the ridgeline.
Esperero Trail #25
When you’re most of the way up, you’ll reach the end of Ventana Canyon Trail #98, at which point you will want to turn right onto Esperero Trail #25. A sign marks the junction.
When you get a clear view, look up and to your right to see if you can spot The Window. I know, it still looks really far way. Sorry ’bout that.
Just a little more uphill, though, and you’ll be on the ridgeline! Woohoo! Can you feel it? If you look ahead, The Window is within the rocky formation in front of you. Fortunately, this section of trail is not so steep. It could be windy, though.
You’ll also be able to look over the other side, where you can enjoy views of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness and Cathedral Rock.
Enjoy your little reprieve from the steep switchbacks. As you get closer to The Window, it gets a bit steeper, but it will all seem worthwhile when you step into the opening and behold the view from the arch.
It’s really hard to capture the whole experience. The arch is quite massive, and the drop-offs to either side of it make getting a picture with the whole thing in the frame a bit of a challenge. I did my best, y’all!
Continuing to Window Peak
If you’re not completely exhausted, I highly recommend taking the short trip up to Window Peak. To get there, get back on the main trail and continue following it 4/10 of a mile to a small saddle. Just before the saddle, you’ll see a cairned route on solid rock to your left. We found that if you stay right of the rock mass ahead, roughly atop the ridge, the trail is a bit less steep than if you go to the left of the rock mass, but either way will get you there.
If you’re in the right place, you’ll find yourself at the bottom of this short little scramble up to the peak. Getting over the first boulder is the hardest part, and we used a tree branch that someone placed there to help us up.
After that, use the next tree to help you up the final bit to the summit. You’ll soon see the views are worth the effort!
Note that the path to the peak is an unofficial trail within the Bighorn Sheep Management Area in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness. Hiking more than 400 feet off the trail in this area is prohibited between January 1 and April 30 each year. However, according to my measurements, Window Peak is only 288 feet from the official trail, so it should be fine to hike to it any time of year. Yay!
Now, when it comes time to go down, you might be wondering, “How did I get up here?” Don’t forget about that handy little tree.
Unless you’re super speedy, it’s likely getting close to dusk on your way down, in which case you can enjoy beautiful views of the evening sky on your way down.
Wow, I feel sorry for the past me who snapped this picture because it looks like we still had so far to go. Those last two miles seem to take forever, but hopefully your hiking companions are working up an appetite because El Charro is just down the road.
Bandera enchiladas. Need I say more?
Map & Directions
Location Pusch Ridge Wilderness, Tucson, Arizona
Google Maps Ventana Canyon Trailhead, open dawn until dusk
Trailhead Facilities None
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