A spot for quiet reflection
Photos by Jim Davis / Staff
Chapel at Sanctuary Cove was built by an ex-rancher and his
friends for folks to meditate and commune with nature. Safford Peak,
at left, also called Sombrero Peak, is part of the Tucson
An open-air chapel with a rock lectern is just
west of the building.
Sanctuary Cove also lures hikers
Clip 'n' Go
The drive: Take Silverbell Road north to
Pima Farms Road. Turn left, or west, on Pima Farms Road
(slowly - construction zone) to Scenic Drive. Turn left on
Scenic Drive and go about a quarter of a mile to the Sanctuary
Cove gate on the right.
Hours: Sunup to sundown.
Evenings by arrangement.
Some permitted activities:
Meditation, hiking, memorial services, stargazing.
No-nos: Alcohol, rock-rolling, horses, dogs,
picnicking, disturbing native plants or landscape.
Cost: Free. When the activity involves more than 20
people for more than half an hour, there is a minimum
environmental impact fee of $25.
Cove trails: Carry a quart of water, use
sunscreen, and wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt
and pants, and comfortable shoes.
Full pack and gear, at least three quarts of water,
topographic map, sturdy hiking boots. There are routes but no
maintained trails. Beware of snakes.
Safford Peak is part
of the West Unit of Saguaro National Park. Parties of more
than 10 require a permit. Call
733-5158 for information.
Three trails to pick from.
Easy to hard - your choice.
Each one takes hikers a little farther into the sky.
Just what you'd expect at Sanctuary Cove, a place devoted to
helping Tucsonans stay emotionally and spiritually fit.
Located in Northwest Tucson below Safford Peak, Sanctuary Cove is
the home of the All Creeds Chapel.
The rustic stone building is nestled in a rocky corner of the
Tucson Mountains that's filled with saguaros, palo verdes, chollas
and prickly pears.
Residents and visitors include deer, javelinas, coyotes, foxes
and, yes, rattlesnakes.
Sanctuary Cove is open to the public from sunup to sundown
Thank the late Elmer Staggs for this retreat from Tucson's
clatter, rush and stress.
A rancher and forest ranger who also did a little real estate
dealing on the side, Staggs died in 1985 at the age of 93.
"He felt that in the rat race of society, it was very important
for people to have a place to draw apart for quiet prayer and
meditation," said Chuck Koesters, who, along with Anne Bunker, is
caretaker of the cove.
According to Koesters, about 50 years ago Staggs got together
with some close friends for an Easter sunrise service at the cove.
"That's when he got the idea of forming a non-profit corporation,
which became All Creeds Brotherhood," Koesters said.
The group built the chapel.
Now numbering more than 60 members, the organization oversees the
An Easter sunrise service is the only regular religious service
held there; other religious meetings can be held upon request.
Although Sanctuary Cove was once one of Tucson's most popular
wedding sites, weddings are no longer allowed.
"We try to discourage any kind of activities that would bother
someone else in the vicinity," Koesters said.
Hiking is encouraged, despite Staggs' tongue-in-cheek sign, which
calls it "dangerous to your health."
The easiest trail starts from the parking lot and does a small
loop around the lower part of the cove.
"Elderly people with a moderate amount of skills can easily do
it," Koesters said.
Another trail starts just behind the chapel and goes higher
around the cove.
Here and there, trail spurs might branch off to, say, a small
cave or an interesting rock outcropping.
The final trail leads to the top of the ridge behind the cove.
From there, hikers can follow a route to the top of 3,500-foot
Safford Peak, which locals have dubbed Sombrero Peak.
It leads up a steep, boulder-choked chute - prime rattlesnake
habitat - and over a couple of rocky false summits to the top.
This route can take about two hours for well-conditioned,
Naturally, Staggs clambered up to have a look from the top.
And who's to say the old cowboy's spirit isn't still up there
somewhere above the cove.
* Contact Ed Severson at firstname.lastname@example.org or