It’s been a while since we’ve had a good, long hike. A few short and easy trips here and there, but nothing that makes our feet hurt and our legs sore. We were in need of a good hike so we decided to take ourselves back to Mount Lemmon’s Butterfly Trail, the first trail we ever hiked in the Catalina Mountain Range.
We’ve hiked Butterfly Trail twice previously here and here in 2010 and knew there was a jet crash site somewhere along the trail but had never actually found it. Well 3 is the lucky number because this time around we actively looked for it… and found it!
We knew the crash site was near Novio Falls. We made the mistake of hiking down to the bottom of the falls and bushwhacking around there looking for other footsteps. That got tiring fast so we heading back up to the main trail. It turns out, the crash site is further above Novio Falls, about a quarter of a mile upstream.
If you continue on the trail, you’ll eventually see that the trail splits, part is the main trail, the other behind the rocks being a beat-in hiker’s path that heads up the canyon another tenth of a mile to the crash site (coordinates to this area are 32.42549 N, 110.71816 W).
Success! The bits and pieces of the jet blend in quite easily in the forest. This crash site dates back to July 8, 1957. Three F-86D Sabre Dogs from Davis-Monthan AFB were attempting an arrow formation when one jet pulled up and the tail struck the belly of another jet. The two pilots ejected out of each of their planes and parachuted a half-mile apart on Mount Lemmon. They were both rescued the next morning. One jet crashed near the Butterfly Trail, the other disappeared. 3 months after the disappearance, a rancher called the Air Force to report a mysterious crash. It was the other Sabre-dog, which had corrected itself and continued on its easterly course before crashing in Truth or Consequences (350 miles away).
Hurray! We did it! Now we never have to hike the Butterfly Trail ever again! ^_^ We ended up hiking 10 miles total, which probably wouldn’t have been so bad if the 5 miles back weren’t such a brutal uphill climb! We definitely got our fill of a good hike that day!
Butterfly Trail Plane Crash Overview
- Coordinates: 32.42549 N, 110.71816 W
- Fees: FREE
- Difficulty: Moderately Difficult
- Usage: Light
- Pets allowed: Yes
- Camera info: Canon 6D, Canon 16-35 2.8L III, Canon Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L