Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is a very popular tourist destination in Tucson. But, there's a way to see Sabino, and avoid the crowds in the canyon... Get above them, climb Blackett's Ridge! My friends and I hiked this trail on a March Saturday, and we saw less than 10 other people once we were on the Blackett's Ridge Trail.
Blackett's Ridge is sandwiched between Sabino and Bear canyons. To reach the beginning of the Blackett's Ridge Trail you start out from the Sabino Canyon Visitors Center following the Bear Canyon Trail, which begins at the eastern corner of the parking lot, to the right of the visitors center. This first section follows a wide dirt track, formally a shuttle road, till it reaches a paved section of road. Turn right on the paved road, and follow it downhill to another intersection, next to a building containing restrooms. Here, you'll turn right again, and follow the road across Sabino Creek and uphill to the last intersection. Straight in front you, the trail leaves the road and climbs a short distance up to the spine of a ridge where it splits. To the right the Bear Canyon trail heads off toward Seven Falls. To the left, the Phoneline Trail heads gently up the ridge on it's way into Sabino Canyon. Turn left here, and follow the Phoneline for about 4/10's of a mile, where the Blackett's Ridge Trail turns off to the right.
Initially, the trail climbs gradually till it reaches the lower face of Blackett's Ridge, where it then begins to climb more steeply along a series of switchbacks. As you're climbing the face of the ridge, you'll be treated with views of the Tucson area, but those aren't the ones you came to see. As you near the top of the ridge, the switchbacks end and the trail climbs almost straight up, and onto the top of the ridge. Here, the views of Sabino Canyon, and it's backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains, begin to open up. Eventually, the trail moves to the right side of the ridge, and views into Bear Canyon appear. As you round a hill on the left side and approach a saddle atop the ridge, you get a nice view of Thimble Peak.
Follow the trail straight back, along the top of the ridge till you reach the end of the trail. Don't worry, you can't miss it and there's even a sign to help! As you sit here, if you think you're hearing voices, look down into Sabino. It's just the tour guides on one of the shuttles far below. The folks down there are getting guided tours of the canyon, but you have the better end of the deal! From where you sit, you have an eagle's eye view of the entire area!
Most people probably stop at the trail's end, take their seat on one of the many boulders, snack, rest, enjoy the views, then head back down. But, for an added treat, the more adventurous can continue a bit further to the end of the ridge. At the edge, as you sit facing Thimble Peak, within arms reach on your left is a breath taking view straight down into Sabino Canyon! But that's not all, because within arms reach on your right is a pretty spectacular view down into Bear Canyon! Hey, there's even a pretty good drop in front of you, too! When you're done soaking it all in, turn around, climb back to the real "end of the trail" and head back down the the trail the way you came.