Mileage: 17.3 miles from TH to TH
Elevation Gain: 2100 ft
Map: Sabino Canyon Trail (FS #23), East Fork Trail (FS #24) and Bear Canyon Trail (FS #29) or a Coronado National Forest map.
As always, practice Leave No Trace. Pretty Please.
3/5/2015 I took a long weekend down to Tucson with a friend and while we there we decided to get a hike in. How could I not? I had done a bunch of searching online and found a 17 mile loop up Sabino Canyon, across the AZT and then down Bear Canyon back to the parking lot. Sounded prefect for a great experience at hiking in the desert.
We drove over to Sabino Canyon and found a little information in the visitor’s center and then took the tram up the canyon to the TH (you can hike it, adding another 3 miles and saving $8 each). It was March so although is was warm, it was not scorching as I imagine it could be.
I was glad we went at this time of year, there was very little water until you get over on the Bear Canyon side. There was also very little shade except for beside a few pools of water.
The Sabino Canyon Trail connects in about 2.5 miles with the East Fork Trail, which is part of the Arizona Trail.
This is the dry part of the trail, there was no water to be found. There are several junctions with other trails so make sure you keep track of the turns.
I loved all the cacti and the contrast of the blue skies with the variations of vegetation different from what this PNW girl normally sees. I think sometimes about doing the AZT as a long trail, but just like the last 700 miles of the PCT, I’m not sure the lack of water is my thing. It sure is pretty, though.
The hike ends with the last 6.5 miles out Bear Canyon and the famous Seven Falls that were predictably crowded, but not bad since it was later in the day.
It was a sharp contrast to the rest of our day since we hadn’t seen anyone since leaving the tram that dropped us off at the Sabino TH. Most folks just ride the tram up and then back down!
Make sure you take your 10 essentials and plenty of water, especially if you are going to be doing this later in the season. I was glad we had my filter because my friend did not bring near enough water. I also tried out hiking with an umbrella (Walmart special) and loved it for blocking the sun. The only downside was on the descent when those desert winds picked up!
Directions: Get on plane to Tucson! Then, from Tanque Verde Road, turn north on Sabino Canyon Road 4 miles to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area Visitor Center. 5900 N. Tanque Verde Road, Tucson.