Sabino Canyon is a desert oasis in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains northeast of Tucson. This rugged wilderness is a popular destination for its canyon views, self-guided nature trails, wildlife and scenic picnic spots.
Miles of paved roads and dirt trails of varying difficulty wind their way through the canyon. Pick up maps and guides from the visitor center near the main parking lot before you begin your trek.
Start your canyon exploration on the 0.3-mile (0.5-kilometer) nature trail loop that begins near the visitor center. This trail, with information panels about native plants and animals, is a good introduction to Sabino’s ecosystem.
Venture deeper into the desert by walking along the main road leading to a variety of trails. Alternatively, climb aboard the tram for a narrated tour of the lower canyon. These 45-minute rides ferry visitors along a 3.8-mile (6-kilometer) loop throughout the day. Nine stops en route connect to hiking trails.
For some of the best views into the canyon take the Telephone Line Trail that travels several hundred feet up into the mountains. One of the most strenuous hikes is Hutch’s Pools, which takes six to eight hours to complete. The route is long with terrain that is difficult in places, but the reward is reaching natural pools deep enough for swimming.
Most of the year a stream runs through the canyon providing a habitat friendly to birds and wildlife. Among the birds you may see are the curve-billed thrasher, black-throated sparrow and ruby-crowned kinglet. Animals living in this creek floodplain include deer, bobcats, opossums and raccoons.
Experience the canyon at night with a moonlight tram ride offered several times a month when there is a full moon. Visit the canyon’s website for information about ticket prices.
Sabino Canyon’s mountains, creek and trails can be enjoyed year-round and are located 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Tucson. Getting there is easy along roads that lead from the north and center of the city. There is a fee to park in the large on-site lot. Private vehicles aren’t allowed into the canyon and there is no public transportation access.