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Sabino Canyon Trail #23, AZ

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Guide 72 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.6 of 5 by 17
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Difficulty 2 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 2.65 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,350 feet
Elevation Gain 498 feet
Accumulated Gain 859 feet
Avg Time One Way 1.5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 5.51
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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38  2019-03-30 tibber
15  2018-03-04
Palisades Canyon
15  2018-03-03
Sabino - Bear Loop
16  2017-02-19
Sabino - Bear Loop
11  2017-02-19
Sabino - Bear Loop
29  2016-01-09
Bear 7 Thimble Sabino
8  2015-12-18
Sabino - Bear Loop
9  2015-03-31
Santa Catalina Mountains - AZT #11
Page 1,  2,  3,  4
Author keepmoving
author avatar Guides 34
Routes 206
Photos 1,847
Trips 517 map ( 3,846 miles )
Age 33 Male Gender
Location Portland, OR
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Nov, Feb, Jan → 7 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:08am - 6:27pm
Official Route
18 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Get Above the crowds!
by keepmoving

Overview: Sabino Canyon #23 is an excellent choice for hikers wishing to escape the tram infested Upper Sabino Canyon Road in search of more solitude. Upon arriving at the Northern end of Sabino Canyon #23 hikers will be treated with a variety of trails that lead into the heart of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.

Hike: From the end of Upper Sabino Canyon road head North from the pavement to the sign post that marks the beginning of Sabino Canyon #23. Follow the trail as it begins to work its way up a series of switchbacks. As the trail gains elevation, views of Sabino Canyon quickly open up as you leave the tourists and the trams behind. Half a mile later the trail arrives at the top of the switchbacks at a signed junction with the Phone Line Trail. Sabino Canyon #23 turns left at the junction and begins to curve along the hillside, eventually passing an old sign that warns hikers not to short cut the switchbacks you just finished climbing. Immediately after this sign the trail passes a well worn spur trail that leads along a short, narrow ridge to a great view point high above the canyon floor.

Continuing past the side trail Sabino Canyon #23 contours along the hillside as it approaches Sabino Basin. For the next mile or so Sabino Creek is hidden from view far below at the bottom of the canyon, however it is not long before the views begin to open up once more and Sabino Creek is soon visible again as it drains from Sabino Basin. As Sabino Basin comes into view look for another spur trail off to the West that follows a short path to an overlook that affords great views into Sabino Creek and Sabino Basin. Beyond the side trail Sabino Canyon #23 begins to rapidly lose elevation as it approaches its Northern Terminus with West Fork #24 and East Fork #24A.

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2009-08-27 keepmoving
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Coronado FS Details
These three trails offer access to the dramatic landscape of the Santa Catalina Front Range, famous for its deep canyons and soaring ridges. When traveled as a loop, they form a long but rewarding day-trip that offers memorable views and access to the riparian environments they shelter. A trip along either trail or around the entire loop will treat you to good views of the high ridges and peaks of the Front Range and, at sunset, of the city of Tucson with its lights framed by the black silhouette of surrounding mountains.

Since both Bear Canyon and Sabino Canyon trails are accessible from the extremely popular Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, both are used heavily. Sabino Canyon Trail begins at the end of the recreation area shuttle bus route and contours along the canyon’s eastern slope a good distance above the canyon floor. A number of paths branch off the trail along this stretch and lead down to the streambed.

Bear Canyon Trail leads upstream from the Lower Bear Picnic Area at the end of the Bear Canyon shuttle route. The trail crosses the stream several times in its first two miles and provides spectacular views of both Sabino and Bear canyons as it climbs to Bear Saddle. There it intersects the East Fork #24A and the Sycamore Reservoir #39 trails. The East Fork Trail follows Sabino Creek 2.1 miles to the junction with Sabino Canyon Trail. From this point it is 2.5 miles back to the end of the road where hikers can catch a shuttle bus ride (for a fee) or walk back to your car to complete a 13.4 mile loop. Since horses are not permitted on the shuttle road, equestrians must use the Phone Line Trail #27 (4.5 miles) to complete a loop.

Attractions: Spectacular canyon, lush desert, long distance views, backcountry access, more difficult loop possibilities, access to trail #24A a segment of the Arizona Trail.

One-Way Notice
This hike is listed as One-Way.

When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.
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 of 25 deeper Triplog Reviews
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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With the sky islands the recent recipients of 6"+ of winter rains, it seemed like a good time to chase waterfalls in the Catalinas. Palisade (singular) is a technical canyon, but we just hiked up from the bottom to the base of the last rappel.

There was a nice flow in the creek except for a couple hundred yards where it ran underground briefly. Travel in this creek wasn't too bad and featured numerous cascades and picturesque pools. On the way up we did a lot of hiking in the water, and even considered swimming! On the way back, after darkness had set in, we managed to keep our feet dry the whole way.

After cheating by taking the tram on the way up, the road hike on the way back was a peaceful treat in the dark, though oddly void of any signs of wildlife at all. It was a great day and a worthy destination that more than justified the late night.

I even pretended to be a photographer and took a bunch of photos with longer exposures to make that milky water FOTG likes so much! :)
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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as nice as the weather can get for this one

saw nobody on the entire bear canyon trail, except a rattler that buzzed me and scared the pumpkin out of me :lol:

just a couple of people the rest of the way. felt great on the whole ascent to bear saddle. the last 5 miles or so were more on the painful side. beat my last time by 15 minutes.
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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Pima to Sabino
Started up Pima Canyon on a Friday night and camped about 4.5 miles up the trail. There was water the entire way up, lots of greenery, and the trail was in the best shape that I'd ever seen it. The views out of the canyon at night were amazing, and the weather was beautifully mild.

As I headed further up the canyon the next day, the water became spottier. Realizing that my next guaranteed source of water would be Bridal Veil Falls several canyons over, I decided to top off my water here. Carrying the full pack up to the top of Kimball was quite challenging, and I was worried I might have to bail out through Ventana Canyon if Window Peak was too much. After an hour on the summit of just eating and drinking as much as possible, I actually felt great, and the hike up to the Window and Window Peak felt much better than Kimball. The late afternoon weather was perfect yet again, and after using my last bit of cell service to learn that Oregon didn't implode against Stanford ](*,) , I headed down Esperero Canyon to spend the night at the falls.

MSimmons came up early the next morning, and we easily regained the elevation I lost the night before. We had some bizarre snow/wind/sun on our summit bushwhack, but nothing too ominous. Though we didn't attempt the true summit, I found the rope, and feel good about finding it again with less effort whenever I decide to go back. I started up the formation about 10 feet, was reeeeeeally temped to keep going, but with an old rope, a bit of ice, and worn-out shoes, I didn't want to get too committed.

The rest of the hike was a bit of a blur, since we were utterly desperate to catch the final shuttle out of the canyon. I hadn't been through the West Fork before, and the upper portions of it are top-notch. The stream crossing after Hutch's pool was really tricky, but if I had time I'd probably just take the boots off and walk through it. Hope to be back in this area again with some more time on my hands...
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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Most of the hike was in light rain. Up Bear Canyon and down Sabino. My first time on #23, boy howdy does it sing! Steep and narrow up top. With the creek roaring below like a river reminded me of Vivian Creek Trail out of San Gorgonio California. I'm not sure if it was the sun making a bold appearance for the first time in days or the angels singing in the background but #27 seemed pretty cool to me. It rides high with commanding views out over Tucson and down to the bustling tram.
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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I did the Seven Falls hike and Sabino Canyon tram ride quite a few times as a kid, but hadn't been back in forever. This looked like a good reintroduction to both. The original plan was Bear to Sabino, but't happen...

The Phoneline Trail was entirely shaded and a nice warm-up. We had lofty views all the way to the East Fork Trail, with pretty minimal effort compared to other canyons in the Catalinas. Surprisingly, the East Fork was where we did most of our gain for the day - this section must be amazing on the northbound Arizona Trail. Sycamore Reservoir was a nice little detour; I'm curious what it looks like during other seasons.

Thimble Peak, our second detour, was well worth the steep/scrubby little hike to get there. Getting introduced to class 4 climbing sounds fun, but I figured that with >14 miles in my feet, it would best be saved for another time. At the base, we still had views worthy of inclusion with Spud Rock, Kimball and Wrightson.

I was a zombie most of the way down Bear Canyon, but there was water everywhere, some deer, and of course, the falls. The sun in our eyes led to some embarrassing route-finding issues, but as the sun went down it was quite pleasant. I wasn't really in the mood for 1.5 more miles once we got back to the TH, but we survived and saw another deer on the way.

Note to self: bring a filter on future hikes of this size

PS- my first GPS route! Hopefully the triplog/route automatic link works ok. You still have to enter mileage/AEG/time manually, right?
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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Bear 7 Thimble Sabino
Great day in the Catalinas. It was still raining off-and-on after midnight Friday (and apparently some of this group were still awake for some reason :roll: ) but in the morning the stream gauges were around 100cfs and seemed passable. The clouds shrouded the mountains, and ice coated my windshield, but clear skies illuminated the valley.

We started as a group of 5, but Mark was under the weather and hiking in cold floodwater wasn't in his best interest. Carol similarly decided the flooding wasn't all that desirable, and both turned back at various stages.

Seven Falls was awesome, and half the joy was that there were no other people who had any interest in hiking in snowmelt flood waters to get there. (The guy in jeans who made one crossing before turning back did not receive any judgemental comments from me :whistle: )

Having never hiked any of this before, I had proposed the Bear Sabino Loop with a side trip to Hutch or Thimble. Belinda voted on Thimble and I was surprised how cool of a peak it is. While climbing the chimney we found out that not only smoke rises, and it left all of us with a bad taste in our mouths.

From Thimble we trudged through the little remaining snow and down into East Sabino. We took a break at the Sabino junction and were happy to have decided not to go to Hutch's since there would be numerous additional deep, cold crossings with the ample flow in the creek.

On the return, Mike and Belinda opted for the Phone Line Trail to keep their feet dry. I had hiked it a week ago and decided to head down and play in the water along the road. The last tram left shortly after I started, leaving the road peaceful and quiet with only a handful of runners along the way.

This was a great loop. It would be nice in normal weather, but was extra special with the snow and runoff. After drying off and warming up we devoured a delicious Italian dinner before heading our separate ways.

Apparently I need to add more pineapple to my diet.
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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ran the loop with jen early this morning. really nice morning. upper bear canyon and east fork are pretty overgrown right now. the last hot, exposed 2 miles were pretty painful for this 'ol bird :sweat:

the elevation on my track seems too high, i'm going with The Dude's numbers
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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AZT Passage 11 Work Event
this was billed as "let's work an event and do some AZT which means a free shuttle"... sure. Sometimes I don't know what I was thinking ](*,) because when you work with Shawn, you WORK and this time with an overnite backpack to take on and off. Shawn also said something like the first section wouldn't be bad because they had taken care of a lot of dead fall last year. But then I looked at the over nite temp forecast and thot; what was I thinking again. I'm not good at 40 or below, well for that matter 50 or below. But if they'll listen to me whine; who am I to say no. Plus we are trying to do this as a group.

Ambika came down sick so she was unable to join us. We ended up staying in Tucson on Thur nite since the meet-up time was 7:30AM. I unpacked all my stuff on the bed for my backpack and realized I had forgotten one very important item, the tent :o . Fortunately, after Shawn texted out for help, one of our shuttle drivers, Lee, had one for me to use and it was light weight and everything. But, heh, at least I remembered the Fireball ;) and my trainer had made energy muffins too.
We met up with the group to be shuttled to the Marshall Gulch TH. There would be 10 of us, 1 would day hike so 9 for backpacking. Everyone had at least two tools and it was up the trail we went.

  • - got to finally hike the Marshall Gulch Trail
    - got to revisit the awesome Wilderness of the Rocks plus camp there overnite :D (Wendy had talked about camping down here when she first took me on the Lemmon Rock Loop back in 2010)
    - got to see some of the hardest workers I've ever seen work harder than I thot possible :worthy: including Shawn who had some competition with Doug (altho I think Doug is younger?)
    - the gang cut through about 8 trees I think
    - they hard-picked out numerous roots from shrubs so that they wouldn't have to be trimmed year after year; it is amazing how hard that was to chop out that nasty root :wlift:
    - the weather temps for the most part was nearly perfect; even before bedtime and in the AM. I was one happy camper :DANCE: .
    - it smelled good up there!
    - the views :y: coming down
    - got to hike from Romero Pass on the easier side.
    - the junction with Cathedral Rock was so beautiful, wish we had gotten to camp there.
    - seeing the infamous Hutch's pools for the first time from above, though briefly
    - all the water on display in the pools below us on the way out
    - the hike out, all the flora :D
    - think I'm one step away from getting my backpack back to the way it was back in the Spring of 2013
    - the tram ride through such a beautiful setting with water everywhere
    - meeting new folks and of course completing some more of the AZ Trail with Shawn and Tracy
The Not so highlights
- the taking on and off of the heavy backpack :sweat:
- the battle to get it comfortable again caused a bit of pain for me from time to time
- not bringing a lightweight shirt to avoid all the scratching my arms would take from cutting down the supposedly non-sticky shrubbery of the forest
- the constant buzzing of the bees after Cathedral Rocks Junction, it was like a movie or something as the buzzing was continuous and loud.
- the gnats :yuck: at Saturday's campsite until we got the fire going
- the pace was a little fast for me so I wasn't able to video much after Romero Pass. And the next morning, it was perfect conditions for taking pics of the fabulous flora but apparently some folks needed to get home to wash their socks ;) .

to the saddle - [ youtube video ] ...
from the saddle - [ youtube video ] ...
the big log - [ youtube video ] ...
Wilderness of the Rocks - [ youtube video ] ...
Wilderness of the Rocks, part 2 - [ youtube video ] ...
DAY TWO including a sunset view from camp [ youtube video ] ...

Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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What an awesome hike! My plans for a weekend backpack trip were quelled due to the impending weather, and not wanting to get stuck in the took me to Tucson for a second time this week so I got in a solid grinder to make up for it. This one has been on the radar for a while, and I finally had the time to get it in. I had done Bear Canyon about a mile past the 7 Falls, and I had done Sabino about a mile past the last tram stop, but everything in between was sweet, pristine desert. Got to the parking lot about 11, but I had to circle for almost 15 minutes before finally finding a parking spot. This is quite a feat considering there must be at least 250+ parking spots, but there were droves of retirees and also kids (must be school out for some folks), this had flashes of the Piestewa summit lot. I strongly considered going elsewhere, but I also knew I would have plenty of solitude once past 7 Falls. I really enjoyed the upper reaches of Bear Canyon once past the falls, and the East Fork trail was by far the highlight of the day. Only a few miles long, but boy the views are spectacular, 360 degrees of untouched desert. Everything was really green, and there was a surprising amount of bloom above about 4000'. So many great Sotols, Agaves, and Yuccas to see out here. I kept up a good pace with only a few breaks, at least half of my wait time was spent trying to finish a few work emails before dropping out of cell service for a good 3 hours. Made it back around to Sabino Canyon, I could not bring myself to hike the road this time so I took the Phone Line trail back. What is a little more mileage and AEG, I am a bit of a glutton for punishment, besides the Phone Line trail totally rocks! Much better views than the road, plus many fewer people. Back to the van a bit before 5, my only regret is not getting to make the side trip to Hutch's Pool, but I had to be home to Phoenix by 7:30 to take care of some stuff with the kids. This will be worth doing again for sure!
Sabino Canyon Trail #23
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Good After work hike in the afternoon. I started out from the parking lot and went Bear Canyon to Phone Line to Sabino, and took the road back. I really enjoyed the Phone Line trail, good views most of the way, with enough elevation gain to get some good exercise. I had 4.9 miles on my GPS from the visitor center to the intersection with the #23 trail, walking the road back saved me about 3/4 of a mile, but I did get some shade being deeper in the canyon. I didn't see anyone on the way out, but passed about a dozen folks on the road on the way back. Humid day, but not horrible, I brought a gallon and drank a little over 3 liters. I might actually have to opt for the tram one of these days so I can get in deeper to the Sabino trail, I only got to explore about 3/4 of a mile before i had to turn around and start heading back. Didn't make it home to Phoenix until almost 8:30 as it is.

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 Tanque Verde Road in Tucson turn north on Sabino Canyon Road and follow it 4 miles to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area Visitor Center. From the Visitor Center, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., hikers can take the shuttle bus (for a fee) to Bear Canyon and Sabino Canyon trailheads. If you prefer, or if the shuttle bus is not running, you can hike to the trailheads along the shuttle bus route. Equestrians must stay on the designated horse trails.
128 GB Flash Drive... $14
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