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Sabino Canyon Lower Loop, AZ

Guide 4 Triplogs  0 Topics
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Canyons are inherently risky. Flash floods occur without notice on sunny days. Technical skills & surrounding topography knowledge required yet does not eliminate risk.
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Route Finding 2 of 5
Distance Loop 5.6 miles
Trailhead Elevation 2,731 feet
Elevation Gain 479 feet
Accumulated Gain 1,239 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 5 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 11.8
Interest Off-Trail Hiking, Seasonal Waterfall & Seasonal Creek
Dogs not allowed
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Photos Viewed All Mine Following
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6  2021-02-28 andrewp
12  2015-03-15 gloope
Author andrewp
author avatar Guides 2
Routes 11
Photos 198
Trips 14 map ( 223 miles )
Age Male Gender
Location Tucson, AZ
Historical Weather
Trailhead Forecast
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, May → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Winter to Late Spring
Sun  5:37am - 7:22pm
Official Route
0 Alternative
Historic Fire Perimetersacres
🔥 2020 Bighorn Fire119.5k
🔥 2003 Aspen Fire87.7 mi*
🔥 View All over Official Route 🔥
*perimeter length in miles

Gotta love a hike that requires a wetsuit
by andrewp

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This route involves off-trail hiking, boulder hopping, swimming, and other activities which are inherently risky. Be sure to carefully evaluate your skills and comfort before attempting. Although this is a reasonably easy route compared to other canyoneering activities, it still presents some challenges in which a bad decision could have a very lasting impact on your life (no pun intended).

Know your limits!!

The concept here is simple:

1) Hike into Sabino Basin
2) Find the stream (east or west fork)
3) Follow the water out

In practice, it's a lot of fun!

You'll need somewhat different preparation for this one as the water presents its own challenges. Not only is the slip-and-fall risk greater, but you'll be in and out of the water to the point that you need to prepare for potential exposure-related issues.

Things you need:
• Waterproof pack: You'll need some sort of waterproof pack or keg to keep your stuff dry. Assume that this item will get submerged, so choose appropriately. There are a few 30L drybag backpacks on Amazon for less than $30, and they appear to work great.
• Wetsuit: Needed for all but the warmest months (at least through April). A 3/2 full suit is a good option.
• Towel: Compact microfiber towel, not a beach towel
• Footwear: This one is a personal choice, but you need something which has good wet traction, sheds water easily, and provides good support. Think trail runner, not surf bootie. If you're prone to getting cold feet, then you might want some neoprene socks as well.
• Common sense: This is a pretty straightforward route, but there are a few spots where you could get into really big trouble. Make every step a thoughtful one!

Things you might want to bring along:
• PLB: There's no cell service in the canyon, and although you're close to the trail at all times, you won't be visible from the trail. If you get into trouble, an SOS button may be your savior.
• Helmet: There are some spots where you may easily lose your footing and introduce your head to something hard and immovable.
• A Buddy: This route is a lot of fun and even better with a friend or two. There's also safety in numbers in case something bad happens.
• Rope: Lightweight rope (like paracord) to lower your pack or otherwise tether it while you work through an obstacle. If you're an experienced climber, you might want to bring more gear for a short rappel, but this shouldn't be needed.

Either walk the tram road or take the tram to the last stop. Hop on Sabino Canyon Trail #23 all the way to the junction with the east and west fork trails. Hang a left onto the West Fork Trail #24 and jump into the stream at the first crossing (this is the east fork). Change into your wetsuit when appropriate, and follow the water out. It's just that simple.

Alternatively, you can continue on the west fork trail to several different points to enter the west fork stream bed. This will be similar terrain to the east fork, but somewhat longer.

Once suited up, you're ready to get wet. As you progress, you'll encounter some larger pools before the east and west forks converge. These are a blast to blow through and relatively sane in terms of exposure.

After the confluence of the east and west forks, the canyon opens up a bit, and the stream becomes slower and less wild. For the most part, the water is shallow, and the terrain is marshy. As you continue, the canyon narrows and becomes more technical.

At the narrowest point, you encounter Miner's Pool which is deep on the approach side and a fun spot to spend some time. Downstream from here, you'll encounter the most technical terrain, and you'll need to be paying attention. It is possible to traverse these more technical sections without too much trouble, but it will require careful observation and thought. Please pay attention to the depth of the pools below, as many of them aren't deep enough to allow for a jump from above without some serious injury potential.

Once you're through the technical section, the canyon opens up again, and the stream slows down. Soon you'll encounter the trail that leads back up to the end of the tram road. You can exit here or continue down to the next road crossing near tram stop 8.

Check out the Official Route and Triplogs.

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

2021-03-01 andrewp
    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.

    Permit $$
    Visit this link for full details.
    2021 - FAQ
    $8 per vehicle per day
    $10 per vehicle per week
    $40 per vehicle per year (valid for one year from date of purchase)

    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.

    2021 Catalina State Park
    Per vehicle (1-4 Adults): $7.00
    Individual/bicycle: $3.00

    2021 Sabino Canyon Tram is $12 extra. [ website ]

    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
    page created by Vaporman on Mar 01 2021 1:56 pm
    90+° 8am - 6pm kills
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