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Bear Canyon from Catalina Highway, AZ

Guide 12 Triplogs  1 Topic
  4 of 5 
104 12 1
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Difficulty 3 of 5
Route Finding 3 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1 mile
Trailhead Elevation 5,370 feet
Elevation Gain 460 feet
Accumulated Gain 689 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1-3 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 4.45
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Backpack No
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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14  2016-04-01
Seven Cataracts
9  2015-05-09
Seven Cataracts
48  2014-11-28
Seven Cataracts
4  2009-10-05 keepmoving
2  2009-09-02 mattkieffer
5  2008-08-10 Blink
8  2008-04-28 sprottm
8  2005-01-10 Lizard
Page 1,  2
Author joebartels
author avatar Guides 241
Routes 829
Photos 11,947
Trips 4,756 map ( 24,360 miles )
Age 51 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Apr, May, Sep, Oct → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:48am - 6:22pm
Official Route
5 Alternative

Feel like a kid again
by joebartels

The Official GPS Route is not actual data. It is all off trail and ridiculous steep. As always, go at your own risk.

The safer option is ( 9mi RT ○ 1,600 ft ) out-n-back from Gordon Hirabayashi.

Bear Canyon cuts through the Catalina's exposing seven life zones along the way. In the lower reaches is the very popular Seven Falls. Seven Cataracts lies in the mid section of Bear Canyon. Seven Cataracts pullout is located at milepost 9.2 on the Catalina Highway. It's a steep descent down into the gorge cut by Bear Canyon. If you have hiked the Seven Falls trail you will recognize Thimble Peak further down the canyon. I read that Arizona Cypress is of excellent viewing near this area. The largest recorded tree is in the Catalina Mountains. I'm not sure if it's in Willow Canyon.

Hike Down: No maintained trail exists. From the pullout there is a trail of use according to other sources. On my journey the road was closed for repairs. The road was closed just before the pullout. I opted to jump the retaining rail and head on down. It was extremely steep from the road. In fact I'd say it was out right dangerous but I had a mission. Earlier in the week I came across the fact that there was a near hundred foot waterfall in the Catalina Mountains. It didn't matter that nobody would do this hike in December. I had to see it for myself.

The descent seemed to continue forever. You know it's rough when you're getting tired going down! I was curious to see how this compared with the Flatiron. Turns out the steepest ascent in the upper section of the Flatiron climb is at a grade of 67 degrees. This slope into bear canyon is only 52 degrees where I entered. Then again from the Seven Cataracts pullout the grade down is 62 degrees, so I guess I was blessed.

Down in the canyon there was slow running water. I cairned the point and headed upstream. The going was easier than I'd expected. Several small cascades and shallow pools were encountered. Several times I spotted eye catching rocks. I'd describe the rocks as white-gray marbled with shiny silver crystal. In addition I went over a short section of sand. The small bank was a mix of sand and large specs of the shinny metallic substance. Surely nothing of value, but it's cool to look at. I was unsuccessful finding a similar rock in my reference books. It took me an hour and a half to get to Willow Canyon. The Seven Cataracts are lined in Willow canyon, which comes in from the Northwest. There is a killer multi-tiered fall where Willow Canyon meets Bear Canyon. Unfortunately the lack of water flow wasn't enough to make it spectacular.

The idea is to work your way up Willow Canyon to some spectacular falls and pools. The Catalina Highway was set to reopen at 3pm. I turned back in fear of my truck being towed. Someday I'll return to explore the upper falls. I did catch Bear Falls a short distance up stream.

Sweating up a storm in December I can only imagine how refreshing the pools would be in the summer!

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

Leave No Trace and +Add a Triplog after your hike to support this local community.

2000-12-14 joebartels
  • sub-region related
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.

Permit $$
Visit this link for full details.
2021 - FAQ
$8 per vehicle per day
$10 per vehicle per week
$40 per vehicle per year (valid for one year from date of purchase)

There are four specific day use areas that require a Coronado Recreational Pass or a National Pass/America the Beautiful Pass.
1) Sabino Canyon - located on the Santa Catalina Ranger District (520)749-8700
2) Madera Canyon - located on the Nogales Ranger District (520)281-2296
3) Cave Creek - located on the Douglas Ranger District (520)364-3468
4) Mt. Lemmon at 11 day-use sites.

2021 Catalina State Park
Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
Individual/bicycle: $3.00

2021 Sabino Canyon Tram is $12 extra. [ website ]

Coronado Forest
MVUMs are rarely necessary to review unless mentioned in the description or directions
Coronado Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUMs)

Map Drive
Paved - Car Okay

To hike
From Tucson, at the intersection of Tanque Verde and the Catalina Highway, go North on the Catalina Highway. Park at the Seven Cataracts pullout at mile marker 9.2
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