Rincon is one of the finest hikes in the Tucson area – it’s one of my two favorites, the other being the Mount Lemmon Grand Loop.
The trail is about 16.4 miles round trip, so with the drive it makes it a good day. The hiking is varied and wonderful, the views on the trail are beautiful, and the views from the top are simply spectacular.
Despite being so close to Tucson, there is really only one way up Rincon, and it starts on the east side of the mountain. There used to be another, longer route from the Madrona Ranger Station on the west side, a few miles off Old Spanish Trail, but access to the ranger station was closed to the public many years ago (some history can be found here.)
Drive east on I-10 to exit 297 for Mescal Road. Turn left (north) and drive 4 miles to where the pavement ends and the road becomes dirt. Follow the good dirt road for about 12 miles to where it forks. Take the left fork for 0.2 miles and park near the gate. The dirt road is fine for passenger cars in normal conditions but there are places that appear to be impassable if conditions are very wet.
From the trailhead follow the Miller Creek trail up the easy canyon for about a mile. The trail then steepens and becomes very scenic, zig zagging across beautiful rocky areas. After you’ve been hiking for 4.4 miles you reach the shoulder.
Turning left, you get an amazing view of the beautiful rock face on Rincon Peak. From here it’s 3.8 miles to the top. Follow the trail southwards towards the peak, climbing gently. Maybe half a mile from the summit the trail steepens dramatically as it climbs through the trees. Make the steep ascent until it levels off, then follow the trail as it loops around the south side of the mountain looking for the easiest way to the top.