The Sabino Dam East Trail at Sabino Canyon is an easy and fun hiking option if you’re short on time or have small children along with you. It falls squarely in the beginner’s category since it’s partially paved and does not require climbing or intricate footwork.
Begin at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center. Be sure to fill any water bottles and use the bathroom before heading East.
This is the sign you should follow.
When you get to the restrooms, veer off to the right across a bridge and follow the signs to Sabino Dam East. Congrats! You’re over halfway.
Keep walking until you cross another bridge with a slightly more rocky exit. Walk along the sandy creek for a few minutes and you’ll arrive at the dam (pictured).
Where is the Sabino Dam East trail located?
In Sabino Canyon.
What are the hours?
Visitor Center Hours are 8:00am to 4:30pm, seven days a week. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
The canyon is open 24/7.
Why would I visit Sabino Canyon?
- To hike
- To walk
- To run
- To take photos
- To watch birds
- To sketch wildflowers
- To picnic
- To pray
- To cool off in the water
How much does it cost?
Admission is $5/vehicle for a one-day pass. An annual pass is $20 and includes daily admission for one vehicle to Sabino Canyon, Mt. Lemmon, and Madera Canyon. An annual pass for seniors (62+) is $10.
Where should I park?
Route to the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center and you’ll find a large parking lot with plentiful, free parking. Note that the parking lot does fill up on weekends and holidays. Plan to arrive early to claim a convenient spot.
What is the length/distance of the hike?
Approximately 1 to 1.5 miles each direction.
How much time should I allot for this hike?
2-3 hours is about right if you plan to stop at the dam to splash, take photos, and eat lunch.
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 mid-April, the waterfall at the dam was running and there was a decent amount of water for splashing & swimming.
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, and (5) sunglasses.
What should I bring with me?
Plenty of water, snacks or lunch, a camera and/or phone.
Are bathrooms available?
Yes. Restrooms are available at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center and about halfway to the dam (pictured above). The Family Restroom at the Visitor Center is spacious and includes a toilet, a changing table, sinks, mirrors, soap, and a hand-drying machine.
Which days are most and least crowded?
Weekends and holidays tend to be the most crowded so your best bet is early morning or early evening on a weekday if you’re hoping for less “traffic” on the trail.
What is the best season for visiting Sabino Dam East at Sabino Canyon?
October thru April are ideal because the temperatures tend to be more moderate than in the summer months. That said, late summer visits (after the monsoons) 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, lizards, white tail deer, cottontail rabbits, coyotes, bobcats, sycamore trees, and tarantulas.
Is outside food allowed at Sabino 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 Sabino Canyon have a restaurant?
No. There are concession machines with snacks at the Visitors Center.
What restaurants are located NEAR Sabino Canyon?
Our top restaurant picks within a 5-mile radius are:
- El Charro Cafe, 6910 E. Sunrise (1.3 miles away) – innovative, Tucson-style Mexican food, tacos, chimichangas, quesadillas, enchiladas, margaritas
- Le Buzz, 9121 E. Tanque Verde Rd (3.8 miles away) – espresso bar, baked goods, breakfast, homemade soup, sandwiches, salad
- Whole Foods Market, 5555 E. River Rd (3.9 miles away) – coffee, smoothies, baked goods, salad bar, pizza, groceries
- Renee’s Organic Oven, 7065 E. Tanque Verde Rd (4.1 miles away) – pizza, pasta, organic ingredients
- Zona 78, 7301 E. Tanque Verde Rd (4.7 miles away) – artisan pizza, Italian specialties, wines, beers, happy hour
BABIES & KIDS
What ages would be best suited for the Sabino Dam East hike?
All ages! We recently went with a group of four adults and ten children (ages 2 to 8).
Should I bring a stroller?
Sure. If your little one is three or younger, you may want to bring a stroller or wear a baby carrier. Most of the hike is paved or dirt roads (our umbrella stroller fared relatively well).
What about my other “baby” (dog, cat, etc)?
Pets are not allowed in Sabino Canyon.
Can I have my wedding or rehearsal dinner in Sabino Canyon?
Sure…but your guests (and the bridal party!) will have to hike a bit! ;)
Is Sabino Canyon active on social media?
What else do I need to know before I go hiking in Sabino Canyon?
- Don’t forget to wear sunscreen – even on overcast days!
- The dam has water at certain parts of the year so you (+ your kids!) may want to splash a bit. Wear lightweight clothing that will dry easily or wear your swimsuits. A change of clothes for small children is a good idea.