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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.

Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area, AZ

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Guide 19 Triplogs  0 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3 of 5 by 5
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Difficulty 0.5 of 5
Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Round Trip 1.5 miles
Trailhead Elevation 8,335 feet
Elevation Gain -370 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 1 - 1+ hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.35
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
3  2013-09-29 fricknaley
24  2011-05-15 RedRoxx44
6  2010-09-01 sirena
4  2010-07-31
Lemmon Squeezin' Loop
8  2010-07-31
Lemmon Squeezin' Loop
15  2010-07-31
Lemmon Squeezin' Loop
18  2010-07-31
Lemmon Squeezin' Loop
10  2008-10-21
Aspen Draw Trail #423
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   Aug, Sep, Jul, Jun → 9 AM
Seasons   Spring to Autumn
Sun  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
1 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Arizona Screamer
by joebartels

Likely In-Season!
Low Down
1.5mi out-n-back hike. Explorers will rejoice in the short lived glory. Over half the hike is on a service road. Bickering "I refuse to hike a jeep road" wannabe purist should form clubs and grasp their Abby bibles.

The drive up the Catalina mountain range is Arizona to the bone. No where else in this universe can you drive from a lush saguaro forest to an alpine creek in under an hour. This day was extraordinarily special. Generous summer storms provided the mountains with a surreal feeling. The desert had kick! Pleats in the saguaros go plump plump plump. Ocotillo darted the hills in a game of we got shade, how 'bout you. Police were actually nabbing 100mph+ crotch rockets and letting +5mph seat-belted sedans pass with a tip of the hat and a smile. Southern Arizona pumped out Labor Day weekend invigorated with more energy than a nuclear turbine.

Unfortunately the pinnacle of desert life is difficult to grasp on film. It must be witnessed in person. When the elements click the experience explodes.

Directly across from the Iron Door restaurant the hike begins. Squeeze behind the guard rail and you'll see a path. There is no signage. The first few steps might keep you wondering if you're in the right place. Timid thoughts are all but forgetten as the Catalina Alpine Vortex whips out the howdy sign.

Soon you're down at a creek crossing. This is the upper most part of Sabino Canyon so that'd be Sabino Creek! The creek is fed by numerous seasonal springs in these upper reaches. The first appears to be Kingler Spring which was pumping out volumes on this day. It seemed almost impossible there was so much water. All of this water is somehow coming from that itty bitty slope with the ski run. This mountain must have high tech micro beads in it's pores!

You could hike all the way to the Seven Falls and back if you brought enough rations. That'd be tough to time with desert canyoneering in the heat and the cool alpine up top. Best make it a shuttle starting at the top in October!

Just across the creek is a junction. Hang left and follow the creek. You are now in the sweet zone. It's sweet but short lived. Venture over to the creek and work your way in for cascade views. Flora most couldn't fathom exist just fifteen direct miles from downtown Tucson.

The trail soon reaches a service road and the sweet zone ends. It's a nice forest hike to the end of the designated riparian area. Several variations of water storage units are in use or decaying from long ago. It's not uncommon to see plumbing in the forest. Return by the way you came.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2007-09-03 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
Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area
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Mt Lemmon Torture Fest
big day up on lemmon. i parked at the mt lemmon trailhead. went down aspen draw, upper sabino riparian to summerhaven and back. loaded up the pack then hit mt lemmon, wilderness of rocks, marshall gulch to TH and back, then died up radio ridge on the aspen trail back to my car.

i've recently highlited the post winter conditions of some of these trails. new reports:

Aspen Draw: from the top of radio ridge to the upper sabino riparian juntion is clear. there is a nuisance tree down on the spur to ski valley parking lot

upper sabino riparian: a couple of big down trees that are surprisingly tough to get over/around depending on the route you take (these are on the singletrack, not the nearby wider roadbed.

Mt lemmon: totally clear to WOR from my recollection. awesome of course

Wilderness of Rocks: clear from my recollection. love love love this trail. not much water in upper lemmon creek but definitely some

heading into the beastly final climb up aspen trail to radio ridge nearly killed me today. Wow

cold at the start (upper 30's at 9000 feet)

killer route
Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area
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upper sabino riparian out and back, then up aspen draw, down aspen, back on marshall gulch, mint springs, up radio ridge via the powerline road and back down aspen draw

i was post call and figured this would be rough since i wouldn't be starting very early, plus the record heat forecast. i ran the first half, shuffled marshall gulch and mint spring and took a savage beating on the powerline road. too hot and exposed. it was over 90 degrees above 8000 feet still :o

it's a beautiful high country route on mt lemmon
Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area
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Hiked from the Marshall Gulch TH. Went down the canyon a ways mostly scrambling in the creek, some small waterfalls, lots of trash that had washed down. Following the old trail was hard due to downed trees and scree from the old burn. Went down till you get to some of the bigger and more difficult boxes then turned around. One of these days will do the trip all the way down.
Got a granite and pine fix.
Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area
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Lemmon Squeezin' Loop
Great hike with a mostly nice group of hikers.

Made the mistake of hiking with Fraley. We were a little too close to the Fraley's all day and could not see much. Great meeting you.
Chris, nice meeting you.... yooou are a mad man. I hope you are not seeing all the colors anymore from the shrooms.
Berk, son of Steve Forbes, nice meet you also. I hope I get the chance to hike with all of you again.

I've hiked with JuLIZia, Bobby, and Joe-Joe the Wonder Chimp before, and it was great hiking with most of them again.

Even with all the poor visibility, this was a very nice hike. Lots-o-Green, Lots-o-Water, Lots-o-Rocks. The 150 or so creeks/streams crossings that were a bit more than a trickle when we started, were gushing from the driving rain for the last 1-1/2 hours of the hike.

I started out being careful to step on the rocks and logs to keep my feet dry when crossing at first, and then just gave up an trounced through the knee deep water.

I need to do this one again.
Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area
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Lemmon Squeezin' Loop
met the merry crew of lamers for a grand tour of some of the catalina highcountry. we made it further than i expected before getting poured on for the last 3-4 miles. for the record, the wilderness of rock and marshall gulch trails both become raging rivers when it rains...whee!

it was my absolute pleasure to meet and hike with you all (even you again, bob). you'll have to come back when visibility exceeds 10 feet. i swear there are some sweet views up there. :sl:
Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area
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Lemmon Squeezin' Loop
Marshall TH > Road to Turkey Run > Upper Sabino Rec > Aspen Draw > Lemmon #5 > Wilderness of Rocks > Marshall

One of my favorite summer loops with extra flair! Nick didn't think it would rain but I forewarned him to beware the mean growl of summer monsoon... [-X

Great hike (some may debate the great part) with creeks running all over the place! Good to meet Chris (aka MARLIN), nice guy. Thanks Bob for another grand adventure and driving us to La Pecos Galleria. Let's not forget... the "Eagle" has landed, I'd like to thank the Eagle too for driving me! You guys all rock!

Note: Wildflowers were moderate for the most part and substantial in areas
Upper Sabino Canyon Riparian Area
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Memorable hike up Aspen Draw to Radio Ridge, then cut over to Mt. Lemmon trail to Meadow and back up to Radio Ridge. Went back down the Aspen Draw and made a side trip to the Upper Sabino Riparian Area. The Aspen Draw is primo for color right now, loaded with maple and aspen.

Beautiful fall color hike...too bad I accidentally deleted most of my photos before loading them onto my computer... :doh:

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
Take Catalina Highway from Tucson to the Mount Lemmon Ski Valley. Park either to the right (un-gated) or to the left closer to the ski area facilities (gated, but open until 5 p.m.). Walk along the ski area-side of the highway back the way you came, and duck inside the guardrail as soon as you can, which is about 5-feet from the eastern edge of the ski area-side parking lot. Walk along the trail, which runs just outside of the guardrail on the ski area-side of the road. This section lasts less than 1/10 of a mile, and then dips down into the drainage to the right.
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