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Tanque Verde Falls, AZ

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147 46 3
Guide 46 Triplogs  3 Topics
Rated  Favorite Wish List AZ > Tucson > Tucson
Rated
4.1
4.1 of 5 by 14
 
23
Statistics
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Difficulty 2.5 of 5
Route Finding 1 of 5
Distance Round Trip 2 miles
Trailhead Elevation 3,140 feet
Elevation Gain 300 feet
Accumulated Gain 370 feet
Avg Time Round Trip 2 hours
Kokopelli Seeds 3.85
Interest Off Trail Hiking & Seasonal Waterfall
Backpack Possible - Not Popular
Dogs not allowed
feature photo
Photos Viewed All Mine Following
9  2012-08-01 Timknorr
10  2011-07-07 writelots
4  2011-07-07 sirena
5  2011-03-22 kbunny
9  2011-03-13 tdefrane
4  2011-03-11 writelots
18  2010-08-19 sirena
13  2010-08-19 writelots
Page 1,  2,  3
Author Lizard
author avatar Guides 15
Routes 0
Photos 403
Trips 17 map ( 75 miles )
Age 39 Male Gender
Location Phoenix, AZ
Historical Weather
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Preferred   Mar, Apr, Jul, Aug → 9 AM
Seasons   Late Spring to Late Autumn
Sun  6:08am - 6:26pm
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Water
Fauna Nearby
Flora Nearby
Named place Nearby
Desert Oasis
by Lizard

Tucson is a waterfall lover's dream. Seven Falls, Seven Cataracts, Ventana Falls, Bridal Wreath, Bridalveil... not to mention the dozens of unnamed falls deep in the backcountry of the Catalinas and Rincons. For my money, though, the sweetest waterfall in the Tucson area can be found at Tanque Verde Falls. Tucked away in the middle of some very harsh desert country is a little slice of paradise, seemingly more like Hawaii than Arizona.


From the parking area, cross the road and head south down a gently switchbacking trail maintained by the Southern Arizona Hiking Club. Along the way you will pass a set of signs warning of the dangerousness of the area ahead. This warning is not to be taken lightly; it is my understanding that more people have died here than in any other hiking area around Tucson. After a very easy half-mile, you will reach the floor of the canyon. If the water is flowing well here, the falls upstream should be spectacular.

From this point on there is no defined trail. You simply turn left and head upstream. There are lots of little pouroffs and small waterfalls to hold your interest. After approximately 0.75 miles from the trailhead, the canyon grows a bit more serious, and much scrambling and climbing over boulders is necessary. Finally, you will reach the mouth of an exciting looking narrow section. Just around the corner is a thunderous 30-foot waterfall surrounded by steep canyon walls. This is a very pretty waterfall, but it is not the actual Lower Tanque Verde Falls. To reach the actual destination of this hike, you must scramble up the rock wall to the right of the 30-footer, which is not easy when you are getting blasted with spray. However, the reward is more than worth it. Tucked into a little grotto is a 75-foot waterfall, Lower Tanque Verde Falls. After enjoying your visit to paradise, turn round and head back the way you came.

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2004-03-15 Lizard
  • sub-region related
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 11 deeper Triplog Reviews
Tanque Verde Falls
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Tanque Verde Falls is located on the east side of Tucson in the area known as Reddington Pass. I chose this hike for today primarily because it was relatively short and had good reviews from other hikers. I was hiking with a few others who I’m not sure had ever been hiking really before this and I thought it would be pretty straight forward. To get to the trail head is really not difficult. You basically take Tanque Verde east until it turns into Reddington. Eventually the pavement will end and you’ll be on dirt road for what couldn’t have been more than a mile. There’s signs clearly pointing the way to a parking area and the trailhead is directly south from there. The trail down into the canyon is very well defined and not difficult. Right away you’ll be greeted by huge metal signs explaining in a very long winded way that this area is very dangerous due to slippery rock, flash floods and of course the biggest danger humans being humans. Mosey on past the signs for a short steady decline to the stream bed. Once you’re at the bottom your destination is east by northeast up the stream bed. This is where this hike gets some points from me as it’s different than most Tucson area hikes. Rather than hiking along any kind of trail you’re literally hiking along the stream bed. This might conjure terrible images in your mind of trudging through big sandy washes which is what stream bed means everywhere else in the desert but this isn’t the case. Instead you’ll be navigating slick rock slabs and boulders most of the way. Using your hands for climbing and figuring out exactly which boulders to go over or around or between is really kind of fun. I wasn’t sure what the water situation would be since it hasn’t rained in quite a while and my understanding is that these waterfalls are fueled by mountain runoff. There wasn’t a lot is the short story. There were sporadic pools of water here and there the whole way up the canyon. Some of them seemed quite deep considering how small they were meaning water up to at least chest level if I were to actually go in them. The pools themselves seemed old and most of them had a fair amount of algae and so I avoided them. It might not be possible to avoid them however during wetter times. A short distance, but fair amount of time with the boulder navigation ,up the canyon you’ll get to the lower Tanque Verde Falls. This narrow rock canyon is pretty pleasant to rest at even without the falls actually running. The falls themselves were dried up but the pools that are notorious for cliff jumping are still there. They seemed fairly deep though the water is dark and murky and it’s hard to tell exactly how deep. Not exactly inviting for swimming and with soot on the rocks showing previous water levels definitely not for jumping off a cliff into. My friends stayed at the lower falls but I had to see what was up at the upper falls. To get between the two there’s no way up but to climb. Ordinarily the kind of climbing you do to get up there wouldn’t be a big deal but in this instance the rock is so smooth from the running water (when it is running) it’s really quite precarious and I would give my feeling of safety a 6 on a scale of 1 being “I’m going to die what am I doing up here?” to 10 being “oh this is easy”. I can only imagine what climbing this next to a running waterfall would be like. Probably not too bad since when the waterfall is actually running the pools probably inspire a much greater sense of a safety net. These pools, while they looked deep, inspired no such feelings. I did not want to go in there. After the short climb which was probably 30ft you get to the real deal. I imagine this upper area is really fantastic when that waterfall is going. This pool was much larger and deeper than the previous pools. I imagine there’s far less evaporation happening up there as the pool is surrounded by steep rock canyon on three sides. I still don’t know if would venture a swim. Something about still, dark, murky water gives me the willies and this water was still. I was afraid to touch it lest I awaken something lurking underneath or set off some kind of chain reaction. I’ll leave the swimming to the drunk college kids. Which brings me to the only real negative, aside from the water not running at all, about the hike. TRASH. It’s all over the place. It’s clear this hike is not for hikers so much as for younger ‘daredevils’. Don’t get me wrong the canyon is very pretty and the hiking bit is fun, but between the tagging on the rocks, the obvious remnants of party camping, and the trash I think I’ll be staying on hikes that are maybe a little more out of the way. The advantage to trail hiking is that for the most part the trails are established, maintained and used by people who love nature and have a strong desire to keep nature natural. This area is obviously used more for parties and drunken exhibitions of bravery. Which is fine, if that’s your thing I’m not going to tell you to not have a good time, but to see all the trash was just a huge turn off. I still count this as a good hike and I’m glad I saw Tanque Verde Falls. I don’t know that I’ll make my way out there any time soon again, at least not without the promise that a good rainstorm might bring.
Tanque Verde Falls
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First hike down the T.V. Falls with my wife, though have brought my son a couple of times before. Hot day, COLD water! I jumped in but couldn't stay in more than a few seconds, it was so cold it was painful! We were able to watch a male and female mallard duck enjoying themselves on a hot date just downstream a few feet the whole time we were there.

Great way to spend our 12th wedding anniversary :y:

Finished the day out by driving Reddington all the way around to San Manuel, and basically making a giant loop around the Catalinas in the Jeep.
Tanque Verde Falls
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Took a second trip down the the falls to do a little swimming. Saw what looked like a dead tarantula floating on the water was it fell down the small waterfall, and when we pushed it away we realized it was alive taking a swim of his own. Ran into about a half-dozen others this time...the season is definitely winding down out there.
Tanque Verde Falls
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Took my son out here for some water fun and a campout overnight. Went all the way to the second waterfall. The first (smaller) waterfall was just a trickle, the larger waterfall farther out was not running at all. Were still several pools with water, but quite chilly. The shallower pools were a little warmer but had a good bit of algae and insects.

Camped out at the top there, with a nice night view of Tucson!
Tanque Verde Falls
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It was a friend's birthday in Tucson so he invited me down for a swimming party at his favorite swimming hole. I was a bit skeptical about how much water would be there but it sure did not disappoint. The falls weren't flowing but the pool was huge, deep, and cool. The ten of us spent all afternoon swimming, diving, lounging, and feasting. It was an awesome time. I still can't believe we had the whole place to ourselves all day-- on a hot Saturday. :)
Tanque Verde Falls
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Sirena and I celebrated the re-opening of the Catalina district by heading out to our most accessible and dependable swimming hole. Even at 6:30 when we got started it was already warm, and when we reached the canyon floor, I was seriously worried that my sweat glands would be providing the lions share of the moisture on this trip. The canyon was dryer than expected, with only a few stinky pools and no flow at all. We hoped conditions would improve up canyon, so we hiked on - and we were right (though we could never have guessed how right)!

Around 15 minutes up from that first small fall (you know, the one that stops most of the picnic hikers) we heard water running. It was a bit confusing as the creek bottom we were hiking in was bone dry. As we came up and over another rock pile, there was the creek coming toward us, literally. In what was probably the world's slowest flash flood, the creek was filling with water that likely fell on the mountain top in the monsoon storm yesterday evening! As we watched, the water filled one small pool after another, gradually making it's way into the the rivulets and then falls we were familiar with. It was magical to watch.

After a very brief discussion about the safety of heading upa narrow canyon while water levels were rising, we continued on. It was hot and sunny, no new water was going to fall while we were out, and we could easily outrun this flood even if we were in wheelchairs. We made it past the tight spot that we've come to call "The maneuver", though my new Merrel's were less than helpful there (I ended up barefoot). At the big pool, we had an impressively rushing waterfall, shade and lots of good swimming. The water was dirty - as is typical for early in the monsoon season - but the temperature was perfect and the floating was sweet. A little bit of heaven that the gov'ment just opened up for us again.

We started back when the sun told us it wasn't kidding around about the heat thing, around 9. As we hiked back it was fun to identify pools that had been dry or exceedingly low on our way up. Then we passed the flood. That's right, after more than an hour luxuriating at the pool and a slow return hike, we still passed the advance of the stream. We just couldn't get over it.

Just after we left the running water behind, we met our first hikers of the trip - a young group heading in search of swimming. We gave them our beta, shared some information about the Colorado toads that were infesting the pools, and promised them that there would be running water if they just went far enough -or- waited long enough.

By the time we hit the hill it was over 90 and with the canyon's added humidity, it was just icky. It just made the AC in Bu feel that much better on the way home...
Tanque Verde Falls
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This hike taught me that hiking shouldn't always be goal-oriented! The promise of the falls lured us, but despite rain the night before and recent reports of things flowing well, the lower falls were a pleasant trickle, while the upper falls were little more than a few wet spots on the rock (though you could see how the water at full force tumbling down the sheer rock wall must be impressive).

Rather, the real payoff of this hike is the gorgeous canyon that closes around you as you scramble up its creekbed. Had I been more aware of this starting out, I might have taken my time and enjoyed my surroundings and the challenge of negotiating the boulder-choked creekbed, rather than pushing to make the upper falls before we lost the light.

On the day of our hike the creek was little more than a series of shallow pools and small trickles. I've no idea whether this is normal for this site and season, or whether the water was unusually low. Not that this kept us from having to get wet in a few places - usually no more than knee-deep, but Sid did decide to wade right through a waist-deep pool at one point; I opted to keep picking my way through the rocks.

One thing I would note: If, like me, you have minimal bouldering experience, this hike *will* present you with challenges! Based on descriptions I read beforehand I was not totally prepared for the amount of scrambling, balancing, gripping, hauling, and at-times bewildering route-finding it would take to cover less than a mile of canyon floor. Perhaps it is easier when the water's higher? (But I can only imagine the challenge when the rocks are slippery!) Anyway, fortunately things mostly stayed at the level of "fun if unexpected challenge" for us, though there were a few scary moments. Forewarned, however, I would have allowed a lot more time for this hike, and probably taken more provisions: It took us a good 4-5 hours to make it back to the parking lot, and we hiked the switchbacks up to the rim in full darkness (lovely in its own way, with the saguaros silhouetted against the night sky and the near-full moon rising over the canyon rim). It would also have been nice to have time in the heat of the day to enjoy the pools and sandy patches on the canyon bottom - even at this early date the water was quite pleasant. I hope to return sometime in late summer/early fall to catch the falls at their peak!
Tanque Verde Falls
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Beauty day - not quite warm enough for a swim, but definitely warm enough for the 'brellas on the climb out. Brought my dog, who did very well except for one little spot where she simply wouldn't climb. She wouldn't allow herself to be picked up, either (and I'm not strong enough to overpower a 50lb dog who REALLY doesn't want to go there). But, we found an easy way around that's probably better anyhow.

Love this spot!
Tanque Verde Falls
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Once again meeting Sirena at the butt-crack of dawn, this time we headed to the swimming hole at the base of Lower Tanque Verde Falls. While she had been down to the creek at the base of the trailhead a number of times, neither of us had ever been all the way to the falls! Can you imagine! When we got to the bottom of the hill, it was obvious that a relatively recent flood had come through the creek and stripped the canyon bottom of nearly all vegetation. The majority of the bushes that were left were stripped of their leaves or crushed down to the ground by the power of water. We saw signs of flood debris 20' above the bottom of the creek in some places, and it still smelled of fresh lumber. Looking at the USGS Stream Data for the creek, it seems that there was a peak of nearly 800CFS flow on July 31st, which was the weekend the whole state got so much rain. While that's nowhere near the 6000CFS recorded during the 2006 flood, it is certainly a decent flow rate, and would have been amazing to see!

As we scrambled up the creek, I was impressed by the variety of the rocks in this particular canyon. It seemed that each boulder was completely unique, and each new bend in the canyon brought us into a whole new geology. It was fun!

There were millions of tadpoles in the pools, and a few of them were beginning to emerge onto the rocks with little tiny,tiny legs. It was SO cute, we spent a good amount of time trying to get a picture that communicated just how itty-bitty these little guys were.

Finally, we reached the scramble up to the big waterfall, and were both totally flabergasted. We'd seen the pictures, read the trip reports, but nothing can really prepare you for the glory of that amazing waterfall and acre-sized swimming hole. We drank in the scene, still in the shade from the morning sun, got our swim on and spent a luxury hour just floating around in the beautiful Catalina Tea. I wonder - do you think that it might dye your skin a little?? It would be a fantastic alternative to tanning :lol: We had the place entirely to ourselves, with nothing but birdsong to interrupt the amazing peace and the lullaby of the waterfall.

Although the water was the perfect swimming temperature, we started to get a bit chilled because the canyon was still so shaded, so we got out and lazed about on the rocks for a bit. Waiting for the sun to hit the waterfall was just eternal, and we ended up giving up and packing up to head back down the canyon (but not before we threw our Wendy to celebrate this awesome spot).

Coming back, it wasn't more than about 10 minutes before we encountered a group of young men (I'm being generous here by not saying boys), shirtless, in flip-flops and board shorts, headed up. No doubt there would be much rock jumping, splashing about and shouting up at the falls once they arrived. Our timing had been flawless. We picked our way along the slick rocks and flood debris, and reached the bottom of the hill at around 9:30.

The climb back out was brutally hot already. I don't know what the exact temp was, but since it hit 103 in the Old Pueblo this afternoon, I'd assume that by then it was already in the mid-to-upper 90's. Way to hot to be hiking uphill in full sun. Smart Sirena brought an umbrella. Silly writelots only brought a baseball cap. I'll let you guess who was cursing their evil luck ;)

All and all, a fantastic little morning jaunt, and the perfect way to spend my last free Thursday before starting my new job. Also, the perfect way to enjoy Tucson before it's completely overrun once again by students and snowbirds!
Tanque Verde Falls
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For some dumb reason, I've never been out to Tanque Verde Falls. Well, I'll be back a million times now. Who knows what the heck I was waiting for...this place rocks!

Hit it too late, lighting wise. It's another one of those rough Rincon falls for photos. Gotta hit it early, I guess.

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Road
FR / Dirt Road / Gravel - Car Okay

To hike
Take Tanque Verde Road east out of Tucson. Tanque Verde Road becomes Reddington Road and becomes dirt. Keep following this dirt road for a short distance (no more than 2 miles) and you will see a sign on the right which says "Tanque Verde Falls" and a sign on the left which says "Parking." Turn left here. After 10 a.m. on weekends this parking lot is generally full.
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