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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 purists should form clubs and grasp their Abby bibles.
The drive up the Catalina mountain range is Arizona to the bone. Nowhere 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 forgotten as the Catalina Alpine Vortex whips out the howdy sign.
Soon you're down at a creek crossing. This is the uppermost 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 microbeads in its 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.