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Bear Canyon Trail #29, AZ

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Guide 86 Triplogs  1 Topic
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson N
3.9 of 5 by 22
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance One Way 8.3 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,760 feet
Elevation Gain 2,100 feet
Avg Time One Way 4 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 15.3
Backpack Yes & Connecting
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
Inaugural Calculation on Button Tap!
7  2018-11-04 ALMAL
10  2018-03-11
Thimble Peak
15  2018-03-03
Sabino - Bear Loop
23  2018-02-13
Bear Canyon to Sycamore Dam
22  2018-02-02 rvcarter
4  2017-11-08 ALMAL
4  2017-10-04 ALMAL
13  2017-04-23
Molino Basin Trail #11
Page 1,  2,  3,  4,  5,  6
Author fricknaley
author avatar Guides 93
Routes 383
Photos 3,724
Trips 2,746 map ( 18,187 miles )
Age 44 Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Jan, Feb, Mar, Nov → 8 AM
Seasons   Autumn to Spring
Sun  6:11am - 6:20pm
Official Route
27 Alternative
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Meteorology Nearby
Named place Nearby
Culture Nearby
Second Fiddle to None
by fricknaley

Bear Canyon shares it's lowest elevations in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area with it's famous neighbor to the west (Sabino). Like Sabino, Bear Canyon thunders relentlessly up into the coniferous Catalina highcountry and is simply huge. Bear Canyon's claim to fame is, of course, the spectacular Seven Falls. But there's more, so much more to the huge, beautiful canyon than that. Bear Canyon is no Boy Wonder to anyone!

This description starts from the common parking area at Sabino Canyon and assumes one will be walking the entire way. There is a tram to the official trailhead that saves you about 1.8 miles...but come on, this is a hiking website:)

Anyway, take off due east from the far east end of the parking lot on the wide sandy path to Bear Canyon. After about 0.4 miles the path intersects a road, make a right and follow the road. Roughly 0.3 miles after this the road splits, make a right and continue on the road. About 1.4 miles from your car a signed trail breaks off the road and starts heading into the desert, this is the Bear Canyon Trail #29. You could stay on the road if you wanted, but it's now shorter and more direct to start the trail. There is also a path paralleling the road that you can follow if you'd like, but it just makes this part of the approach take longer. Walking swiftly, you can erase these 1.4 miles in no time flat. There is nice scenery of Blackett's Ridge and the Catalinas to keep you occupied. After 0.3-0.4 miles from taking off of the road on trail #29 you come to the formal trailhead for Bear Canyon, the road ends off to your right. Enter Bear Canyon at roughly 1.8 miles total from your car.

Immediately the canyon closes in with it's towering walls of distinctive banded gneiss. The rocky creek bed is initially to your right and is lined with nice trees, including sycamore and cottonwoods. There is often water trickling along, sometimes it is roaring and sometimes it is dry. The trail will gradually climb over the next 2.2 miles to Seven Falls. There are numerous creek crossings, generally these have enough rocks to cross without getting wet. If the water is going strongly, there will be a number of little falls everywhere. In the early winter the tree color along the creek is superb. There are basically 6 crossings before the falls. The last one crosses west to east, and after attaining the east bank of the creek, begins to climb up the east wall of the canyon. This is a little steeper, but levels out on a shelf looking down over the creek. After another roughly 0.4 miles you will see Seven Falls and come to a signed sput trail to the falls. The spur drops down to your left. If you have time definitely hit the falls up for a visit.

From the spur, follow the signed continuation of Bear Canyon #29 up and to the right. The trail is going to switchback rather sharply higher up the east wall of the canyon offering multiple awesome views of the falls, and allowing you to hear their beautiful song for that much longer. Eventually the trail will cross over a side draining canyon and climb above the falls to continue further up Bear Canyon. Things change here. You enter the beginnigs of a grassy, more shallow and intimate canyon. After all that climbing you end up still on the east side of the canyon, but again much closer to it. If there is water there will be a number of pools and falls, and the colorful trees are back. This section of the trail is absolutely excellent. Any number of spots would be a great point to head down to the creek and chill out. At about 6.2 miles from the car, you make the last creek crossing (punctuated by a nice sycamore), heading back over to the west side and then climbing away rather sharply up above the canyon into the endless rolling grassy hills high above Bear Canyon. Looking back south will afford increasingly great views down canyon, including Thimble Peak and the mighty Santa Ritas south of Tucson. Shortly thereafter, Bear Canyon falls away to your right heading out towards Sycamore Reservoir. Meanwhile you enter the low end of Sycamore Canyon, which is more shallow and narrow. This area was burned in the fire, but is coming back. There are scattered trees and burnt ghosts, and overall the area is remniscent of Geronimo Meadows on the Esperero Trail. Along this passage you will attain the highpoint of the trail, at about 4838 feet. From here it's a gradual descent the rest of the way.

At roughly 8 miles from the car is a sizable cairn, and a discete trail breaks off right. This is an established, if unnamed, connector trail to the Sycamore Reservoir trail. Stay straight/left on Bear #29 and descend a gradual 0.5 miles to the end of the trail. The trail ends at an intersection of Sycamore Reservoir #39 and East Fork #24a trails at a superb saddle. The maps don't seem to name this saddle, though the Coronado National Forest webpage refers to it as Bear Saddle. From here you can head back the way you came or take the East Fork trail to Sabino Canyon trail #23 and come back home on the Phoneline trail. Another option would be a shuttle hike via Sycamore Reservoir up to Prison Camp.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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2008-11-30 fricknaley
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Coronado FS Details
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.

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 33 deeper Triplog Reviews
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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Overcast skies, light rain, and temps in the 60s made for perfect hiking weather for a 16+ mile day. When I hiked Thimble a month ago, the only water in Bear Canyon was a few stagnant pools. But with a little bit of recent rain, the canyon was transformed! Lee was impressed with Seven Falls and all the cascading waterfalls throughout Bear Canyon, which was a relief since I accidentally made us hike 6.5 miles more than we had originally planned by parking at the wrong trailhead and not checking my last trip log (*oops*). The scramble and ladder climb up to the top of Thimble is always fun; definitely nothing outside our comfort zones. The 360 deg. views from the top of Thimble are pretty incredible, and the Catalinas were looking extra dramatic with the overcast skies. We maintained a solid pace the whole day, and even ran the last 4ish miles to push through all the crazy crowds heading to and from Seven Falls. I was so impressed with Lee's trail running abilities that I stole his credit card and signed him up for his first 50K trail race. :)
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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Carrie and I left the pups at home to do Thimble today. We thought the hike was only going to be 10 miles, but that was because someone was looking at the description for Thimble from another trailhead and somebody else forgot how many miles it was the last time they did it. Anyways, we committed to the longer day and it turned out fantastic.

We beat the crowds to Seven Falls and the hike up canyon was great. It is hard to beat that area when water is flowing. From the falls we started the climb towards the intersection with the official route for Thimble Peak. The final push to the summit smoked me a little, but the little bit of extra work to get to Thimble was worth it. A nice summit with some great views! Had the ladder not had a top rung that I initially could not see, I may not have been able to do it and actually almost skipped the final climb due to still not entirely trusting my shoulder, but it proved pretty easy once Carrie pointed out the additional rung and I was up in no time. The hike down was quick a part from a quick stop at a scenic little cascade in Bear. That canyon was nothing short of spectacular today with the running water and dramatic clouds. Seven Falls was a zoo by the time we passed by there a second time and the trail was pretty crowded, but we knew that was coming and just pushed on to the trailhead. In the end, A nice quick big mile day today and not entirely by design, but it turned out perfectly and I left very impressed with the area.

Note: The AEG seems a little high, but it is out of Route Scout and it was "synced," so not entirely sure what is going o there.

Bear Canyon Trail #29
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I have been eyeing Thimble Peak for a while, and finally got on top of it (both sides) today!

We decided to do the approach from Bear Canyon trail. The first few miles to Seven Falls were unsurprisingly a little boring, but the trail was empty in the early morning hours. We made our way up to the plateau of Bear Canyon, and all enjoyed the beautiful canyon views along the way. From the plateau, we could see Thimble about a mile and a half in front of us. It was a nice, steady climb to reach the base, but nothing too strenuous.

Once we reached Thimble, we decided to summit the lower of the two peaks first - just to be able to say we'd been on top of Thimble in case the other peak was too scary. From the top, we saw the ladder calling our names on the other peak, and couldn't resist trying that approach, as well. We climbed down from the lower peak and made our way over to the chute. It was a really fun scramble up to the ladder. The ladder itself was pretty wobbly on the climb up (much easier going down), but we all made it to the top without issue. The views from the top of Thimble were pretty amazing. We took a nice, long break at the top, signing the log book and taking ample photos. We made great time on our way down, but were ready for the end once we reached the crowded Seven Falls trail with newbs playing music and littering. *eye roll* Post-hike beers with Chloe at Tucson Hop Shop!
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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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.
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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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.
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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I had to head to our southern Arizona yard on Tuesday, so I ended up camping out Tuesday night in Tucson so I could get a good hike in. I was going to camp right by the trailhead, but there was a whole troop of rednecks there when I pulled in about 7:30 so I kept going. I ended up camping up on Incinerator Ridge, oddly enough I happened upon a nice campsite that I had been at with my wife some 16 years earlier. Pretty chilly up at 8000', there was a good wind going most of the night but I slept pretty well. Got started at the trailhead about 8 a.m. on Wednesday. Everything is really green out here, you can tell the monsoon season has been good to the mountain. The trail is pretty overgrown from the Sycamore Reservoir on, Bear Canyon wasn't too bad, but the 'trail' over to the Thimble is really overgrown. I would strongly recommend having a GPS route if you are going to do this one anytime soon. There was a decent use trail to follow, but the grasses were so grown it it could be hard to find at time. I ended up getting off track quite a few times, but for the most part it is hard to go too far off course. I made it over to the Thimble and scrambled up to the first big rock shelf. I skipped the climb to the very top, it looked doable, but I was a bit dubious being solo and having seen no one on the trails. Awesome views all around for sure. Made it back to the van before one so I could head back in to town for a quick lunch and the usual drive home. Fun hike, I really like the Reservoir area.

No big shows, but many things in bloom here and there. Grasses of course, Fern Acacaia, a few Penstemons, and Fleabane Daisy
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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Used the Bear Canyon TH and needed to park out on the road in the divided road section. This added to our total mileage. Busy day on the trail as we expected, but the falls were great to see. Our first trip here. Explored the falls area and several sections of the creek. Handed out some water to a family of out of state visitors that were not fully prepared for the warm day. We made all creek crossings with dry feet.

A few Mexican Poppies were early bloomers
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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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?
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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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.
Bear Canyon Trail #29
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Our first trip to Sabino Canyon.
We took the tram up to the end of the road,
then hiked back down along the Phone Line Trail.
Very scenic canyon, very enjoyable trail!
We agreed that a return trip will be made in the future for more.
Great afternoon of hiking and a real nice ending to our 3 day trip!

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 Sabino Canyon Recreation Trailhead
From the intersection of Tanque Verde and Grant/Kolb Rd head northeast on Tanque Verde. Turn left at the second light on Sabino Canyon Rd. Go about 8 miles up Sabino Canyon Rd and you come to a four way stop with Sunrise. Go straight through the intersection and take the next right into the parking lot of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. Signs marking the way start on North Kolb road.

This is the universal directions to Sabino Canyon Recreation Center. Hikes take off from all directions and some you might need to hike another trail to get to the start of your hike. Reference the hike summary for details.

From PHX (I-10 & AZ-51) 117 mi - about 1 hour 57 mins
From TUC (Jct 1-10 & Grant) 14.1 mi - about 30 mins
From FLG (Jct I-17 & I-40) 261 mi - about 4 hours 1 min
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