Some of the Northwest’s wildest, most iconic Sonoran Desert lands are directly north of the region’s largest new commercial development.

The Tortolita Mountains of northern Marana are a trove of open space, jagged 4,000-foot peaks, and thriving desert vegetation with robust saguaro, cholla, palo verde and mesquite.

There’s a growing network of smartly built, well-marked trails extending north from the Wild Burro Trailhead off Dove Mountain Boulevard.

Wild Burro Trail extends up the wash in Wild Burro Canyon directly above the new Ritz-Carlton hotel and resort that’s due to open later this fall. From the wash, hikers can stay on the 3.7-mile Wild Burro Trail, ascend to the ridgeline on the 3.7-mile, 1,215-foot rise of the Alamo Springs Trail, strike out on Wild Mustang (4.3 miles) or the Javelina loops, or connect over to the Cochie Spring Trail to the west. That trail goes to the Pinal County line.

Along the way, hikers can find historic stone remnants and foundations from homesteaders and prospectors.

While the crowds are often light, plenty of people know about the Tortolitas. The Dove Mountain Hiking Club schedules hikes into the range (call Joel Tormoen at 579-7513), and the town of Marana parks and recreation department is putting together a hike this Saturday, Jan. 17 (call Tom Ellis at 382-1950). And, on Feb. 7, the organization Blue Pants Racing holds one of its Winter Trail Series runs on the Wild Burro and Alamo Springs trails in a timed, seven-mile race on rough terrain.

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