Bear Canyon Hiking Trail to Seven Falls
★★★★★ Moderate / Tucson Area:
Seven “Wows!” might be a better name for this incredibly unique and special Sonoran hike. As a moderately difficult trail that hopscotches Sabino Creek up a beautifully striated canyon and leads to one of those rare natural features that make hiking so worthwhile, the Bear Canyon Hiking Trail to Seven Falls is a hike worth taking. The consistent sounds of water flowing playfully downstream and light mountain breezes which accompany hikers on the trail, make for a relaxing experience – despite the trail’s popularity. On weekends numerous hikers enjoy the area’s natural assets – so don’t go with an expectation of solitude. As a hike I would revisit again and again, this trail now has a deserved place on my list of favorites.
TRAILHEAD: sabino canyon visitor center, corner of sunrise blvd. and sabino canyon road, tucson • DIFFICULTY: MODERATE • DISTANCE: 4.1 MILES (8.2 MILES RT) • APPROX. TIME: 4-5 HOURS • ELEVATION GAIN: 917 FEET (65 STORIES) • APPROX. CALORIES BURNED: 1,230-1,400 RT • BEST TIME OF YEAR: year round (hot in summer) • PETS: NO • KID FRIENDLY: YES • FACILITIES: YES • FEES: $5 coronado recreational area day pass OR $20 ANNUAL PASS
The trail begins at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center, a busy hub that runs trams to and from many of the area’s trailheads. You can start the Bear Canyon Hiking Trail right behind the Center, or hop on a tram to be taken 1.5 miles into the hike. Here the trail begins its gradual trek up Bear Canyon, along Sabino Creek. The going is easy, with sandy paths and lovely views of the creek and canyon. Birds and butterflies flit about, happy with the area’s ample water. At multiple points the trail crosses the creek on stones made from the region’s grey and white stripped rocks. The canyon walls become increasingly dramatic with tiered sides of graphically contrasting stone.
At about three miles into the hike, the trail becomes a bit steeper, switchbacking up the final canyon side. Looking back, there are great views of Tucson in the distance, or down to the creek – looking increasingly small below. Finally, a second canyon connects with Bear Canyon on the left, and Seven Springs comes into view. It is a pretty glorious site! A series of falls (many as high as 40 feet) cascade one after the other down this steep valley, creating pools of clear water at the base of each fall. There are grand flat stones to sit on. And people tend to rest and wade in the first pool. If desired, the Bear Canyon Hiking Trail continues another four miles up to the top of Bear canyon, and away from the falls (that mileage is not included in the facts above).
The golden tint of Sabino Creek’s clear, cool water is the result of a color given off by the roots of the Mexican Oak trees that line the banks.
Directions From I-10 outside of Tucson, take exit 248/Ina Road. Drive 7.1 on Ina Road to where it becomes Skyline Drive. Continue 1.9 miles on Skyline Drive to where it becomes East Sunrise Drive. Continue 6.3 miles on East Sunrise Drive to North Sabino Canyon Road. Turn left/north on North Sabino Canyon Road – where the entrance to the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center will be on the right. The trailhead for the Bear Canyon Hiking Trail is located at the back of the center.
- Dayhike, Family Friendly, Moderate, Sabino Canyon, Southern Arizona, Stream, Tucson
- March 7, 2015