Gates Pass evolves from shortcut to scenic getaway


Nestled within Pima County’s western outskirts, Gates Pass is a botanical treasure within the Sonoran sightseeing community.


Towering peaks enclosing Gates Pass create an intimate canyon for exceptional sunset viewing.


Leisurely hiking trails reaching elevations of 1,253 feet provide ideal vantage points for viewing Tucson Mountain Park’s 20,000-acres landscape.


This scenic escape has a sinister side, however. Recognized as one of the most dangerous drives in Pima County, it has long been a communal concern.


The road’s 2006 reconstruction, resulting in $524,000 tax dollars spent, topped Roads & Bridges Top 10 list for the most complex roadway reconstructions.


The notoriously narrow road, menacing bluffs and winding route of Gates Pass Road provide a dangerously breathtaking drive.


“Bubbling springs, streams and lush growth” were the characteristics that attracted pioneer Thomas Gates to the area in 1883.


Gates, a rancher by day and a saloonkeeper by night, purchased Gates Pas for $1,000 out of pocket. He used the pass to establish a faster trade route for carbonate minerals obtained from a nearby Avra Valley mine.


Present-day, what began as one man’s shortcut has evolved into a local road trip providing a scenic getaway.


The road to Gates Pass starts within the Tucson city limits as the westward continuation of Speedway Boulevard. It assumes its Gates Pass title just past North Camino De Oeste. On the west side of the pass, adjacent to Old Tucson, the route becomes Kinney Road.


Gates Pass trailhead, providing parking for 50 vehicles, serves as the foremost overlook of Tucson Mountain’s expansive Sonoran scenery. Arrive early to secure a spot on weekend evenings.


Proceeding down the pass, scenic pullouts provide other look-outs along the drive.


Continuing west past the pass’s prominent outlook, the David Yetman West and Richard Genser Starr Pass trailheads can be found on the roadside.


The Yetman trailhead provides space for 12 vehicles. The Starr Pass trailhead offers equestrian staging from dawn to dusk, with room for 44 vehicles and five horse rigs. For details on equestrian staging, call 877-6000.

Gates Pass Stomping Grounds 2013 Sep. 10
Gates Pass is a popular destination for families and friends to hike, bike and ride horses. “Rachel White/Aztec Press”

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