A spot for quiet reflection


Photos by Jim Davis / Staff
All Creeds 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 Mountains.


An open-air chapel with a rock lectern is just west of the building.

Sanctuary Cove also lures hikers

Clip 'n' Go

Sanctuary Cove
See map below
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.
Hikers' note:
Cove trails: Carry a quart of water, use sunscreen, and wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and pants, and comfortable shoes.
Safford Peak: 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.
By Ed Severson

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 without charge.

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 80-acre property.

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, experienced hikers.

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 severson@azstarnet.com or 573-4137.