Chivo Falls, Italian Trap, Compass Tank, East Loop and the Tanque Verde Loop trails in Redington Pass

August 1995

Written by John Hill Sun Aug 20 14:08 MST 1995

We had a very exciting trip last Saturday. Here are a few of the highlights: John Waack, Dana Taylor from Iowa, Bob Peterson and his kids, Jeff Rill, Shawn Callahan and myself went into Chivo Falls via the "Italian Trap" trail (mile 12.6 off Redington Road). This was Shawn's first off-road trip with his recently acquired `89 Toyota extended cab, so we were breaking him in on a pretty serious trail. Fortunately his "new" truck is already lifted and wearing 31-inch tires, so he didn't have much trouble keeping up. (Translated: Shawn is now a seasoned off-road veteran.) Some minor winching assistance was required. There was enough monsoon rain water flowing in Tanque Verde creek to make us drive around the deeper holes. Much of the morning's excitement came in winching my Chevy K2500 extended cab off a boulder in the middle of the wash. (Kirk O. is sure to remember this place from a previous trip --- where there are big boulders surrounded by soft sand.) One of my frame cross-braces now has a 3-inch bow in it that wasn't there before, but it was time for some new iron under there anyhow.

After lunch and a short visit to the (crowded) Chivo Falls, Waack, Peterson, Rill and Hill set off on the "West Loop" (a.k.a. Tanque Verde Loop) trail. Shawn wisely returned to town at this point. The hill-climbing and rock steps on the "West Loop" trail were everything they were advertised to be. After we had successfully negociated the steep hills without towing or winching, John and Bob admitted that they didn't think that stock differential trucks (without lockers) would be able to make it. Score one for Chevrolet posi-traction and long wheelbases! The adventure really began at the place where we had to recross Tanque Verde Creek twice. By this time, the monsoon thunderstorms to the East were looking pretty ominous and we were hurrying to get back on the North side of the wash. The crossing happens at the place known as "The Minefield". Here you drive through the wash in about 2 feet of water, then drive about 200 yards across boulders the size of beachballs then cross the wash again in soft sand.

I was the last truck across the first crossing. Everybody else made it through and they were bouncing across the minefield, but I dropped a wheel into a hole and hung up my frame on a boulder. Let me tell you that sitting in the middle of the Tanque Verde with water lapping over your door sills and a thunderstorm upstream provides quite an adrenaline rush! I wasn't in any personal danger, but any flash flood was going to turn my truck into a home for "Tanque Verde trout". I called on the radio for some towing help, but it took John, Bob and Jeff some time (10 minutes that seemed like 30 minutes) to get back. I later learned that this was because all three of them had been stuck themselves in the soft sand/mud at the second wash crossing. We winched my truck out of the wash and into "The Minefield" by pulling on John's Suzuki which itself was strapped to a tree (otherwise my 9000# winch just drags it across the rocks). I also learned that my WARN winch is quite happy to work while it is submerged in water. Part of this extraction involved John driving in reverse across the minefield (wish we had video). Then we re-rigged and winched me across the Minefield. There was remarkably little damage to my rocker panels considering the speed at which we were working.

After escaping from the wash, driving up "The Chute" center route for the first time in my full-size truck was fairly anti-climactic. Stay tuned for photos by D. Taylor of J. Waack on two-wheels in the western route of "The Chute". Picture 1, Picture 2, Picture 3

After a nice Mexican dinner at Casa Vallarta, we were all quite ready to go home. Unfortunately, my starter motor decided to freeze-up in the parking lot --- better in the parking lot than in the middle of the West Loop. So a few more hours were spent removing the starter and finding out that the truck is too new for auto parts stores to stock the starters yet. I finally had it towed to the dealer for warranty repair on Monday. Chevrolet's 1-800 Warranty Road Service Number really works. I got my truck back Monday afternoon with a new starter. No charge, no hassle.

Looking underneath the truck, I found that the rubbing noise I heard after lunch was the bent frame cross-member rubbing on the driveshaft. No damage there, but farther down the driveshaft was a big spiral gouge that was done by a rock somewhere along the way. I also made the remarkable discovery that my driveshaft is made of carbon fiber with two aluminum end caps held on with RTV. (so it's easy to hike in with a new one!)

Stay tuned for next week's adventure. Probably we'll choose a tamer trail for next Saturday. Or at least one with less flash flood risk!

September 1996

On Saturday, September 21, 1996 J. Hill, J. Waack with Skip, and Bob Peterson ran the Italian Trap trail. The water in the Tanque Verde wash was low, so the only challenge was getting the big Chevys around the boulders in the wash.

January 1997

On Wednesday, January 1, 1997 the Tucson Rough Riders took a group of 18 vehicles around the Tanque Verde Loop trail (a.k.a. West Loop or Redington Loop) starting from the Chivo Falls side. The weather was sunny and beautiful --- a perfect day for wheeling. Everybody took their favorite route down the Chute. There were no real stuck vehicles until we got the whole way around to the minefield at the second crossing of Tanque Verde wash. There was only about a foot of water in the wash -- just enough to make your tires slippery. We spent a couple hours there getting all the open differential and low clearance vehicles across the boulder field. We didn't get back to town until after dark thanks to a couple Jeep breakdowns --- it is even harder to get across the boulder field without your engine running.

October 1999

Saturday's (October 30, 1999) wheelin' trip took us to the Italian Trap trail in Redington Pass. The participants were John Hill in "The River...", John Waack in "Over Easy" and Ed "Prop 200" McCullough in his F-250. Bob and Robbie Peterson followed us down to the Tanque Verde in their new 1990 Blazer, but we couldn't convince Bob to take it through the Trap. He had some feeble excuse like wanting to keep the running boards. Ed made it the whole way down the Italian Trap and up the chute at Three Feathers in his completely stock 1999 F-250 Superduty. He did gain a new dent in his passenger door while manuevering across the boulders in the Trap. We had a leisurely lunch under the cottonwoods along the creek and still made it back to town by 4PM. We met two other Tucson Rough Riders in Jeeps and a large number of deer hunters. Two hunters, each packing a deer on their back, passed us on foot while we were eating lunch beside our trucks in our folding chairs!

January 2000

On Saturday, January 1, 2000, J. Hill and the Peterson boys in "The River ..." and J. Waack and Skip in "Over Easy" joined 17 other trucks from the Tucson Rough Riders club on the annual New Year drive around the Redington Loop in the Chivo Falls area of Redington Pass. We were respectively the largest and smallest trucks on the trip as all the rest of the pack were Jeeps and Toyotas. With a locker and a bit of lift, this trail is not very difficult, so it makes for a lovely drive in the countryside. We made the run in the clockwise direction. The Tanque Verde was bone dry, so the boulder fields at the wash crossings didn't provide the usual entertainment.

The best breakage of the day wasn't in our group. But, we passed an ancient Land Rover with both rear U-bolts broken. They had it under tow with the rear axle held in place with chains.

Since it was still light when we got back around to the Chute at Three Feathers, we had the opportunity to play. "Grumpy", the trip leader, climbed the difficult stairstep on the west side of the loop. The next vehicle tried it, but decided to back down to save his paint job. It isn't really such a difficult obstacle to climb except that short wheelbase vehicles tend to wind up with at least one wheel 4 feet in the air. I decided it was time for some big Chevy iron to attempt this climb. The first thing that happened was that I put a big dent in the passenger door. As the driver, I'm claiming that this was a spotter error, but the spotter claims that this dent matches the one that I put in the rear fender previously. I don't mind the dent, but it is a bit annoying that I'd done the same climb before without getting a scratch when nobody was watching. The Jeep guys all thought I was crazy, but the big Chevy did manage to climb the obstacle with a little smoking of the BFG mud terrains. The trip leader informed me that I was crazy when I was most of the way up. One of the next vehicles was a Toyota that was not with the Rough Riders. He managed to turn at all sorts of interesting inclinations before breaking a rear axle and having to winch out.

Bob had a much more interesting adventure coming down from plowing snow on Mt. Lemmon on Sunday. "Coming down Mt. Lemmon in my Blazer the A/C clutch froze and burned up the pully bearings which also froze which burned up the fan belt which stopped the alternator, power steering, cooling, power brakes. To maintain enough battery power to operate the fuel pump, spark and injectors I had to turn off the defrosters and head lights. It was a blizzard with 6" of snow on the ground. I drove the Blazer dead stick for 20 miles, what a ride."

August 2000

Here's the wheelin' report from Saturday August 19, 2000. This trip goes in via Three Feathers, around the Redington Loop and out via Italian Trap. The only breakage of the day came before we got to the trailhead. Mike Drake broke a transmission mount and had to turn around before we left Redington Road.

Last week my 3/4-ton Chevy was the smallest truck on the trip. This week my 3/4-ton Chevy weighed more than all the other vehicles put together! The other participants besides myself and Uwe Schwarzkopf in "The River" were John Waack and Rick Marsh in "Over Easy" (Samurai) and the Wood brothers in a 4-seat buggy. While both of the other vehicles are great fun, I claim that the big Chevy WITH AIR-CONDITIONING is clearly superior for these summer runs.

We headed in the trail at Three Feathers around 10 AM. We had lots of fun crawling over the boulders of the minefield in Tanque Verde Creek. It took about 5 hours to go around the Redington Loop going counterclockwise including a leisurely lunch under the cottonwoods. There were a few occurrences of wheel spinning and the occasional strategic rock placement, but nobody got actually stuck. Wildlife sightings included a few deer and a small water turtle.

With no thunderstorms in sight, we went out by going up Italian Trap. I enjoyed a tepid soak in the pool at the Trap --- the water was almost too warm, but better than the spring snowmelt.

We finally broke out the tow strap for a '67 Impala that had quit on Redington Road. We were back in town before the evening rains caught up with us.

Trail Directions

From Tucson, go East on Tanque Verde Road and follow it as it turns into Redington Road and then turns into graded dirt. The turnoff (to the South) for "The Chute" or "Three Feathers" trail is at milepost 7.5 where there is a big parking lot for people hauling quads and bikes. Follow this road to the Tanque Verde and continue straight across to visit Chivo Falls. The upper entrance to the "West Loop" trail is a steep hillclimb to the right (West) before you reach the falls. The turnoff (to the South) for the "Italian Trap" trail is at milepost 12.6 on Redington Road. After following the wash for several miles downstream, the "Italian Trap" trail joins the "Three Feathers" trail just on the North side of the Tanque Verde. There is also the easier "Middle Route" or "Compass Tank" trail in between these two at milepost 11.2 on Redington Road.

The road in through "The Chute" and turning toward "Italian Trap" before you cross the Tanque Verde wash is signed as F.R. 4426. F.R. 4417 runs parallel to this one for a while. These roads got new signs in the Spring of 1996.

Other Redington Road turnoffs: (from Tucson Rough Riders)
Buehman Canyon (north at mile 17.8)
Chimney Rock West Entrance (north at mile 10.4)
Chimney Rock / Bullock Canyon East Entrance (north at mile 17.3)
Espiritu Canyon (south at mile 14.7)
Tequila Tank (north at mile 9.2)

Tanque Verde Creek Flow Rate

Safe crossings are usually at flow rates of less than 100 CFS. The USGS Water Resources Information for Arizona page provides historical data and on-line flow data retrieved via satellite for the Tanque Verde Creek at Tucson.

Topographic maps needed

Agua Caliente Hill, Piety Hill, Mica Mountain, Tanque Verde Peak

Adjoining Topographic Maps

Area Maps

GPS Coordinates

Landmark UTM Easting UTM Northing Altitude
ABCO at Tanque Verde Road and Catalina Highway 12 5 19 073 E 35 69 089 N +2400
Redington Road: crosses Tanque Verde Wash 12 5 30 744 E 35 68 625 N +2829
Redington Road: Three Feathers turnoff 12 5 34 553 E 35 71 570 N +3980
Three Feathers Trail crosses Tanque Verde Wash 12 5 37 411 E 35 70 033 N +3785
Redington Road: Compass Tank turnoff 12 5 37 950 E 35 73 825 N +4200
Redington Road: Italian Trap turnoff 12 5 40 192 E 35 74 301 N +4340
Italian Trap trail enters Tanque Verde Wash 12 5 39 389 E 35 72 781 N +3958
Chivo Falls 12 5 38 095 E 35 68 927 N +4000
Tanque Verde Loop trail: south entrance 12 5 37 640 E 35 69 240 N +3940
Tanque Verde Loop trail: north entrance 12 5 37 250 E 35 70 250 N +3760
Tanque Verde (West) Loop trail meets East Loop trail 12 5 38 220 E 35 67 760 N +4490
Tanque Verde Loop trail turns west (FR ____) 12 5 38 346 E 35 67 365 N +4580
Tanque Verde Loop trail: western limit 12 5 33 886 E 35 67 896 N +3530
Tanque Verde Loop trail: Minefield wash crossing 12 5 34 000 E 35 69 250 N +4490
East Loop trail: entrance near Tanque Verde Wash 12 5 37 970 E 35 70 200 N +3910

Trail Ratings

The Chute Trail to Chivo Falls: 3.5 (but be sure to have a spotter for your first trip through the chute, and remember that going in is easier than coming out)
Chivo Falls East Loop: 3
Chivo Falls West Loop (a.k.a. Redington Loop): 3.5 (add difficulty of 0.5 for each 6-inches of water flowing in the Tanque Verde)
Italian Trap: 3.5 (add difficulty of 0.5 for each 6-inches of water flowing in the Tanque Verde)

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Last modified: Thu Jun 25 15:56:42 2009