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Sabino Canyon - Attraction Guide

Sabino Canyon Tucson

Sabino Canyon, located on the northeastern edge of Tucson as part of Coronado National Forest, is one of the city’s most popular hiking destinations. This comes as no surprise given the canyon’s diverse hiking opportunities, convenient location, and gorgeous scenery, not to mention the spectacular views of Tucson’s sunsets. It is a must see for both Tucson tourists and locals!

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GENERAL INFORMATION

Where is Sabino Canyon located?

The parking lot and entrance to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is located at Sunrise & Sabino Canyon in northeast Tucson. The address is 5900 N. Sabino Canyon Rd.

What are the hours?

The recreation area is open 24 hours a day, although camping is not permitted. Visitor Center hours are 8:00am to 4:30pm daily.

Why would I visit Sabino Canyon?

  • To hike
  • To picnic
  • To trail run
  • To enjoy the scenery on a shuttle tour
  • To birdwatch or enjoy other wildlife and nature
  • To cycle *Note that bicycles are allowed only during specified hours. They are not permitted between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm or anytime on Wednesdays or Saturdays.

How much does it cost?

***FEES WILL BE CHANGING IN THE UPCOMING MONTHS***

The current fee is $5.00 per vehicle per day. That amount will rise to $8.00 per vehicle per day.

Currently, you can purchase an annual pass for $20 at the Visitor Center. That amount will increase to $40 in the upcoming months.

Overview of current prices:

  • $5 per day per vehicle
  • You can purchase an annual pass for $20 at the visitor’s center. 
  • If you have an America the Beautiful national parks pass or an Interagency Senior Pass, you can use that pass for admittance. 
  • If you have a 4th grader, you can get a free pass for your whole family.
  • Shuttle rides (optional) are an additional fee. Babies & toddlers (ages 2 and under) ride free!

What should I wear?

Dress for the weather. We recommend comfortable hiking shoes/boots, a hat, light layers, sunscreen (lots of it), and sunglasses.

What should I bring with me?

Bring plenty of water, snacks or lunch, a camera/phone, and extra sunscreen.

Is the water in the canyon creeks clean enough to drink?

Absolutely not.

How many drinking fountains are in Sabino Canyon?

There are many water fountains throughout the canyon. Note the locations below.

  • Drinking fountain at the Bear Canyon TH (east end of Sabino Canyon main parking)
  • Two Drinking fountains at the VIC public restroom (Sabino Gateway)
  • Spigot in the island ¼ mi. up the shuttle road
  • Spigot at Cactus Environmental Education Site
  • Drinking fountain at Restroom 1 Upper Sabino Canyon
  • Spigot behind Restroom 1 Upper Sabino Canyon
  • Drinking fountain at Shuttle Stop 1 Upper Sabino Canyon
  • Drinking fountain at Shuttle Stop 8 Upper Sabino Canyon
  • Drinking fountain/Spigot at Shuttle Stop 2 Lower Sabino
  • Drinking fountain/Spigot at Restroom 2 Lower Sabino (Environmental Education)
  • Spigot at Restroom 3 (Sabino Dam)
  • Drinking fountain/Spigot at Shuttle Stop 3 Bear Canyon
  • Spigot at the Seven Falls Trailhead/Bear Canyon

Are bathrooms available?

Yes. There are a total of 12 restrooms throughout the canyon. The Visitor's Center also has a Family Restroom with a changing table.

Which days are most and least crowded?

Sabino Canyon is one of the most well-known and popular hiking spots in Tucson. If you prefer to hike without crowds, arrive early on a weekday morning.

What is the best season for visiting Sabino Canyon?

October through April is the ideal hiking season in Tucson due to cooler temperatures. If you are looking to get wet, though, late summer is the time for you.

What kinds of plants and animals might I see?

Depending on the time of year, you may see saguaro cacti, palo verde trees, mesquite trees, barrel cacti, rattlesnakes, javelina, jackrabbits, roadrunners, mountain lions, lizards, hummingbirds, and much more!

SHUTTLES AT SABINO CANYON

Can you tell me more about the shuttles?

The shuttles in Sabino Canyon are operated by Regional Partnering Center. Shuttles leave on the hour during slow season and half-hour during busy season. With both shuttles, you can hop on and off at any of the nine stops along the route. 

There are two shuttle routes available.

Upper Sabino Canyon Shuttle is an hour-long, narrated ride with nine stops. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children (ages 3-12). The Upper Canyon Shuttle departs from the Visitors Center every 30 minutes between 9:00am and 4:00pm.

Bear Canyon Shuttle is a non-narrated, two-mile ride with three stops. The final stop is the trailhead to Seven Falls. Tickets for $6 for adults, $4 for kids (ages 3-12). The Bear Canyon Shuttle departs from the Visitors Center every 30 minutes between 9:15am and 4:15pm.

*Electric shuttles will replace the gasoline-powered shuttles in the near future. 

PARKING AT SABINO CANYON

Where should I park?

Sabino Canyon has two parking areas, both off of Sabino Canyon Road.

The main parking lot affords access to the Visitor’s Center, bathrooms, and the shuttles.

The overflow parking lot is located around a quarter of a mile north of the main parking lot at the end of a short road. This road begins as asphalt, but then transitions to dirt, so be careful of the dust if you have just washed your car! The overflow lot is open seasonally from mid-October through late April.

HIKING AT SABINO CANYON

What is the length/distance of the hike?

One of the best things about Sabino Canyon is the great variety of trails it has access to!

Upper Sabino Canyon Road: If you are planning on hiking with small children, jogging, or cycling, the road into Upper Sabino Canyon may be the trail for you. This trail is an out-and-back, 7.5-mile-long paved road with an elevation gain of 807 feet. The shuttle does run along this road until around 4:30pm every day so be sure to keep an eye on your kids, but the shuttle ($) can also give you a lift back to the entrance if you need it.

Bear Canyon Trail (leading to Seven Falls): This 9-mile trail is easily one of the most heavily trafficked trails in Tucson, with an elevation gain of 1105 feet. Seven Falls is considered a "moderate to difficult" hike. The out-and-back trail features breathtaking views and a series of seven waterfalls. The trailhead is south of the Visitor’s Center, not on the road that leads to Upper Sabino Canyon. Also of note: This trail crosses a creek seven times and may be inaccessible after storms and during wet times of the year.

The Phoneline Trail (#27) is four miles in length and rated as moderate. It is a rocky narrow trail on steep slopes and contours the east side of Sabino Canyon. The trail can be accessed at the lower ends from Shuttle Stop #1 in Upper Sabino Canyon or east of Shuttle Stop #2 in Lower Sabino Canyon. Signs are present at both trailheads. The hike will be uphill with an elevation gain from 2,800 feet to 3,060 feet above sea level. The upper end of the trail can be accessed at Shuttle Stop #9 in Upper Sabino Canyon. From there, the hike will be downhill. This hike is not recommended for people who have a fear of heights. It is exposed, without shaded areas, and hikers should dress for the weather, wear sturdy shoes, and carry plenty of drinking water.

Blackett’s Ridge Trail (#48) is a 1.6 mile trail rated as difficult. It is a one-way, dead-end trail with a steep climb from 2,800 feet to 4,400 feet and contains sharp switchbacks. It can be accessed by taking the Phoneline Trail (#27) from east of Shuttle Stop #2 in Lower Sabino Canyon for 0.6 miles, then taking the Blackett’s Ridge Trail to the right. Signs mark the trailhead and trails.

Sabino Dam: If you have little ones with you but would still love to splash in some water, the Dam is a great option for you. The whole hike is 2-3 miles! Easy to navigate with small kids in tow! You can push a jogging stroller for most (or all) of this hike. 

Remember that Sabino Canyon is home to many smaller trails that branch off of in many directions so don't be intimidated if you just want to go on a quick adventure. With water, snacks, and a hat, you should be set for fun!

How much time should I allot for this hike?

A hike at Sabino Canyon can really be as long or as short as you want to make it.

Longer hikes, such as Seven Falls, may take most of the day, but there are plentiful other opportunities for quick hikes, bikes, and runs. IF you take the shuttle to and from the trailhead, the hike to Seven Falls is 9 miles roundtrip. If you do not take the shuttle and hike from the entrance, plan for 13 miles roundtrip.

Is there water to play in?

There is frequently water in the winter (on account of snow run-off from Mt. Lemmon) and after significant rain storms. The creeks especially flow during monsoon season. Water does cover the trail in some areas, so be prepared to get your feet wet.

BIKING AT SABINO CANYON

Can I bike the trail?

Biking is permitted (and is a popular activity) at Sabino Canyon, but note that there are some restrictions.

  • Bicycling is permitted before 9:00am and after 5:00pm on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.
  • Bicycling is prohibited on Wednesday and Saturday.
  • Cycling is not permitted in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness that surrounds the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

CAMPING AT SABINO CANYON

Can I stay overnight at Sabino Canyon?

No. Camping is not permitted in Sabino Canyon.

DINING

Is outside food allowed at Sabino Canyon?

Yes. Sabino Canyon is a popular picnic destination with several tables along parts of Upper Sabino Canyon Road. Be sure to bring a way to store your trash until you return to the Visitor’s Center.

Does Sabino Canyon have a restaurant?

No.

What restaurants are located NEAR Sabino Canyon?

Try one of the following restaurants, which are within a 6-mile radius of Sabino Canyon:

  • Brewd Coffee Lounge, 4960 N. Sabino Canyon Rd. (0.9 miles away) - coffee, tea, espresso, paninis, salads, open until 2pm
  • Eclectic Café, 7053 E. Tanque Verde Rd. (4.4 miles away) – American cuisine, Mexican cuisine, café setting, $8-$16 lunch/dinner
  • Frost Gelato, 7301 E. Tanque Verde Rd. (4.9 miles away) – Authentic Italian gelato
  • Zona 78, 7301 E. Tanque Verde Rd (4.9 miles away) - Italian, lunch, dinner, dessert, happy hour
  • Prep & Pastry, 6450 E. Grant Rd. (5.6 miles away) - Breakfast, Brunch, Lunch, Pastries, Coffee
  • Zinburger, 6390 E. Grant Rd. (5.5 miles away) – Handcrafted burgers, fine wines, $10-$15 lunch/dinner

BABIES & KIDS

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

All ages!

Should I bring a stroller?

Yes. Many of the paths are paved. For longer hikes or hikes off the beaten path, a baby carrier would be a better option.

Does Sabino Canyon have a Junior Ranger program? 

Yes. Visitors can inquire at the Visitor Center for details.

DOGS AT SABINO CANYON

Are dogs allowed at Sabino Canyon?

Pets are not allowed in Sabino Canyon. Service Animals as defined by The Americans with Disabilities Act are authorized.

EVENTS

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

Two group sites may be rented for group gatherings. Picnic sites in the canyon can accommodate very small groups. Any group exceeding 74 people requires a Special Use Permit.

MISCELLANY

Is Sabino Canyon active on social media?

Sabino Canyon does not have its own social media accounts, but you can LIKE Coronado National Forest on Facebook. Use hashtag #SabinoCanyon and you're sure to find other fans of this gorgeous hiking destination.

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

  • Don’t forget to wear sunscreen – even on overcast days! Bring extra so that you can reapply when you need to!
  • There is often water in the canyon, so be prepared for you (and your kids) to splash around. Lightweight clothes, swimsuits, and/or water shoes are a good idea.
  • Always tell someone where you are going to be hiking (especially if you are hiking alone). Keep your phone handy at all times in case of an emergency.
  • Bring your camera to capture Sabino Canyon’s beauty.
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