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This is likely a great time to hike this trail!  Check out "Prefered" months below, keep in mind this is an estimate.

Bear Canyon from Catalina Highway, AZ

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Guide 12 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
4 of 5 by 9
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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 213
Routes 824
Photos 10,834
Trips 4,261 map ( 21,471 miles )
Age 49 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  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
5 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Named place Nearby
Feel like a kid again
by joebartels

Likely In-Season!
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.

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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.

Most recent Triplog Reviews
Bear Canyon from Catalina Highway
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We decided another trip down 7 Cats was in order before it got too hot. This is a special canyon with lots of excellent rock formations and 4 very nice drops, the last is about 130 feet. Three of the 7 are so small that you can scramble down. This time, we took two 60m ropes, and avoided the make-shift process for the last drop. There is a good bit of flowing water, definitly more than the last trip, and lots of pools. We got off to the left at one point and had to fight our way through the brush, but overall the route was the same. In at Windy Point and out at the 7 Cataracts Vista. The climb up to the vista is very steep. All I can say is to stay in the wash as long as you can. Footing is a lot better than to either side. The path is pretty clear until the last 100 feet or so.

There were 4 of us, all with some or a lot of experience with rock climbing and canyoneering, to share the gear carrying. I personally wouldn't take someone without some climbing/canyoneering experience on this route. The anchors and runners are in good shape, but we placed a couple of runners along the way to beef up and add redundancy. There is no avoiding getting wet at the first drop, but is only up to the knees. There is potential at a few other points and while reppelling in the cracks. Only one person slipped into the last pool, but we were leaving the canyon at that point anyway.

Excellent day, but I'm sore in a few spots today.
Bear Canyon from Catalina Highway
rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5rated 5
Where to start? First, a beautiful, raw, powerful canyon on a sunny, 80 degree day with two good friends, with a Sauce's pizza and beer on the way home (and on my birthday). Hard to top.

This deceptively short and low aeg hike/rapel outing is a real charge. My first attempt at canyoneering. There are three (really 4 since the middle one is actually a double drop) serious rapels along the way, the last ending in a pool unless you have a long reach. You can see the location of the three drops if you look for clusters of track points on my gps track. Climbing out to the 7 Cataracts Vista is something I hope I never have to do again, especially with a wet 60 m rope.

My hat's off to Mrbadbern and his group for doing this when the water was really flowing in Sept. It was hard enough with just a trickle. Wet slickrock is something else. I can't imagine what it would be like after the monsoons.

There are solid bolts at the top of each rapel, two sets (past the rock to the right) on the middle one. There are good other, natural anchor options if you choose. We contributed a couple more runners at two points and a bale biner at one location. Some of the bolts need some rated screw ovals.

I wouldn't recommend doing this without an experienced climber along. Luckily we had Mike. Also, the last drop is about 150 feet, so be prepared with enough rope(s). We managed with one 60 m and one 30 m, and always used double rope, although we had to tie the two together for the last rapel.
Bear Canyon from Catalina Highway
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There's an easier alternative to reach Seven Cataracts than the description given by Joe. Starting from the Gordon Hirabashi Recreation Site (aka Prison Camp), take the Sycamore Reservoir trail an easy, gentle 1.8 miles to Sycamore Reservoir. Then, head north cross-country, following Bear Creek 1.5 miles to Seven Cataracts. This makes for a slightly longer trip (roughly 6.6 miles roundtrip), but is far easier than bushwhacking down the steep slope from the highway at Seven Cataracts lookout. Quite a bit of wading is necessary to follow this route.

Seven Cataracts was in full flow this Saturday following the last month's rains, and was quite impressive. Even better was the short narrows and misty waterfall along Bear Creek upstream from seven cataracts.

Permit $$
Visit this link for full details.

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.

Catalina State Park $6 per day. Sabino Canyon Tram is $10 extra.

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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