Hiking Sabino Canyon, Tucson, Arizona

Entertainment Magazine: Tucson: Sabino Canyon

Hike Sabino Canyon year round

Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona by Robert E. Zucker

The adventurous hiker, horseback rider or backpacker can slip away into the mountains off the beaten path. There are dozens of trails which lead from the main road along the river. There are several spots to ideal for picnics and swimming.

The canyon actually begins on the slops of Mt. Lemmon, and winds down the canyon with lush cottonwoods, flowering plants and refreshing swimming holes. Majestic saguaro cacti dot the mountainsides.

Although Sabino Canyon can be enjoyed throughout the year, the intense summer heat requires special caution. Summer hikes should only be done in the early morning.

Bring a jug or container of cold water to sip along the way. Even if you ride just the shuttle, the desert heat will dehydrate your body faster than you might think.

Container water and drinks are sold in vending machine by the main entrance, but drinking water is more scare the further up the canyon you travel. There are rest rooms along the way, but drinking water is only available at the first few stops.

Swimming is a popular attraction in the canyon. There are some deep swimming holes and large flat rocks ideal for short-term suntanning. Be sure to bring sun tan lotion if you plan to swim or lay on the rocks.

No dogs, glass containers or alcohol are allowed in the area. Bicycles are prohibited weekdays from Wednesday through Saturday, and 9am-5pm during the rest of the week. Camping is not allowed in the canyon.

Camping is allowed in Sabino Canyon. To camp in the canyon park, you must hike at least a quarter mile from the trail heads.

During April-June and September-December, Moonlight Rides are offered on evenings when the moon is full. Call 749-2327 for fares and schedules.

Sabino Canyon Trails

Blackett’s Ridge Trail. There are several steep switch-backs on this trail. See some breathtaking views. Get off at tram stop #2 or Bear Canyon Shuttle.

Telephone Line Trail. This trail overlooks the Sabino Creek. Get off at tram stop #9 and walk down to stop #1.

Hutch’s Pools. This area is popular when the Sabino Creek contains water. Take the tram up to Stop #9.

The main Sabino Canyon road ascends from 2,800 to 3,300 feet. The road crosses the Sabino Creek over 9 stone bridges. This is a very popular area for both hikers and bicyclists.

Shuttle through the Canyon

Shuttle buses, operated by Sabino Canyon Tours, Inc., run every half hour to take visitors deep into Sabino Canyon's crevice and through the winding river which seems to be wet throughout much of the year (unlike most Arizona riverbeds).

Shuttle Stop No. 9, the last stop at the top of the Sabino Canyon road has reopened. Pedestrians can also walk to the top once again. The road which runs 3.8 miles into the canyon.

The Sabino Canyon tours has a narrated 45-minute tour that winds 3.8 miles into Sabino Canyon.

When the road was open to the public, cars could parks at the end or along dug out areas. But the increase in visitors forced the closure in the 1970's and shuttle method was used to transport people into Sabino Canyon. The 45 minute round-trip shuttle has narrative tour guide about the canyon.

There are nine stops along the way (hence the name Shuttle Stop #9). Tram riders can get on and off as many times as you want throughout the day. Be sure to catch the last shuttle and hold on to your shuttle ticket. It is a long walk to the main entrance even from the first stop. Most visitors ride to the end of the road and make a stop along the return trip. Shuttle fares range from $6 for adults to $2 for children (3-12). The shuttle runs from 9am-4:30pm.

During April, May, June, September, October and November, Sabino Canyon Tours offers evening rides three nights per month.  For more information or to make reservations, please call (520) 749-2327

Sabino Canyon Visitor's Center

While waiting for the shuttle, the nearby visitor center is open weekdays from 8am-4:30 and weekends from 8:30am-4:30pm. The facility houses a gift shop and exhibits describing the history and environment of the canyon and the Santa Catalina Mountains

To drive to the main entrance (free parking- but arrive early to avoid the crowds and heat), take Tanque Verde Road east, turn left onto Sabino Canyon Road and drive 4.5 miles to the entrance on the right. For more information on Sabino Canyon Shuttle Tours, call (520) 749-2861.

Catalina Mountains Pass and User Fees

The Catalina Mountains Pass covers both Mt. Lemmon and Sabino Canyon. Daily passes are $5 per vehicle. Weekly passes are $10 for each vehicle. Annual passes are $20. The passes were established in February 2001.

Residents are excluded from needing a Mt. Lemmon pass. Current Mt. Lemmon passes and the new Sabino Canyon passes are interchangeable. Camping fees are separate.

For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us/r3/coronado/fees

Sabino Canyon Tours address: 5900 N. Sabino Canyon Rd., Tucson Arizona 85750

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