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Pima Canyon Trail - Hiking Guide

Pima Canyon Tucson Arizona

Pima Canyon is a major canyon located in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness in the Santa Catalina Mountains in northwest Tucson. The trail is part of the Coronado National Forest and is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Because Pima Canyon provides a secluded, peaceful nature experience and breathtaking views without being far from the city, it's a very popular hiking spot.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Where is the Pima Canyon Trailhead located?

Drive north on Oracle Road. Turn east on Magee Road and drive to the parking area and trailhead at road’s end.

What are the hours?

Dawn to Dusk

Why would I visit Pima Canyon?

  • To hike
  • To trail run
  • To picnic

How much does it cost?

Admission is free.

Where should I park?

The Pima Canyon trailhead has a large 50-spot parking lot with a drinking fountain, signs, and a memorial to a hiker.

What is the length/distance of the hike?

The lower section of the trail (by far - the most popular option) runs from the trailhead to the lower dam for a one-way distance of 3.2 miles. Elevation starts at 2900 feet and rises to 3750 feet for a gorgeous view of the city below.

The distance from the dam to Pima Spring is another 2 miles. The trail gets steeper and more difficult in this stretch.

From Pima Spring to Mount Kimball, the trail is very steep and hard to follow. The hike from the trailhead to Pima Saddle and back is said to take eight or more hours.

How much time should I allot for this hike?

Hiking times are subject to the hiker's ability.

As such, the below times are approximate.

  • Trailhead to lower dam: 2-3 hours
  • Trailhead to Pima Spring: 4-5 hours
  • Trailhead to Mount Kimball/Pima Saddle: 8+ hours

Can I bike the trail?

Neither mountain bikes nor motorized bikes are permitted.

Is there water to play in?

Occasionally, but not year-round. On our hike in late February, there was a lovely lunch spot with a babbling creek about 1.5 miles in.

What should I wear?

Dress for the weather.

Recommended:

  1. Comfortable, closed toe shoes or boots
  2. Light layers
  3. Sunscreen
  4. A wide-brimmed hat or visor
  5. Sunglasses

What should I bring with me?

Plenty of water, snacks or lunch, a camera, and/or phone.

Are bathrooms available?

No. If nature calls, you'll have to answer in nature. ;)

Which days are most and least crowded?

Be sure to go early on the weekend because the parking lot fills up early. You will probably see a lot of people on the trail unless you go very early or on a weekday.

What is the best season for visiting Pima Canyon?

October thru April are ideal because the temperatures tend to be more moderate than in the summer months. That said, summer visits can also be fun if you watch the weather and plan your visit accordingly.

What kinds of plants and animals might I see?

Saguaro cacti, rattlesnakes, javelina, jackrabbits, birds, bighorn sheep.

What do I need to know about the bighorn sheep at Pima Canyon?

Pima Canyon's trail is in the Sonoran Big Horn Sheep lambing season closure area. Between January 1 and April 30, hikers are restricted to no more than 400 feet off of any “system trail.” During this time of year, group size limitations are 15 for day use and 6 for overnight.

DINING

Is outside food allowed at Pima Canyon?

Yes. Food is permitted and there are several enjoyable spots to stop for lunch. As with all parks, hiking trails, and state/national reserves, be sure to stow away all your trash in your bag or pocket until it can be properly disposed of.

Does Pima Canyon have a restaurant?

No.

What restaurants are located NEAR Pima Canyon?

Try one of these restaurants, which are within a 5-mile radius of Pima Canyon:

  • Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, 2985 E. Skyline Dr (2.8 miles away) - American cuisine, personalized service, $15-$18 lunch, $28-$32 dinner
  • AJ's, 2805 E. Skyline Dr. (2.9 miles away) - salad bar, soup, sandwiches, sushi
  • Vivace, 6440 N. Campbell Ave (2.9 miles away) - fine Italian dining, $18-$26 at dinner
  • Tavolino, 2890 E. Skyline Dr (3.0 miles away) - handmade pasta, signature pizzas, patio dining
  • Wildflower, 7037 N. Oracle Rd. (4.0 miles away) - American cuisine, lunch, dinner, happy hour
  • Tohono Chul Garden Bistro, 7366 N. Paseo Dr. (4.1 miles away) - breakfast, brunch, lunch, garden setting

BABIES & KIDS

What ages would be best suited for a hike in Pima Canyon?

All ages! We recently went with a group of four adults and seven children (ages 3 months to 11 years old).

Should I bring a stroller?

No. The trail is somewhat narrow and rocky. A baby carrier or backpack would be a much better option.

Can I bring my dog with me to Pima Canyon?

Dogs are prohibited in Pima Canyon because bighorn sheep see them as predators and are frightened by them.

EVENTS

Can I have my wedding or rehearsal dinner in Pima Canyon?

Sure...but your guests (and the bridal party!) will have to hike! ;)

MISCELLANY

What else do I need to know before I go hiking in Pima Canyon?

  • Don't forget to wear sunscreen - even on overcast days!
  • The creek has water at certain parts of the year so you (+ your kids!) may want to splash. Dress accordingly.
  • If your destination is the dam, you needn't worry about getting lost. Just turn back around and head back the way you came. We hear the trail becomes less obvious after that point. Always be sure to tell someone where you are going before setting out on the trail.
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