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Seven Falls

Santa Catalina Mountains

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Total Length7.8 miles
Highest Elevation:3250 feet
Lowest Elevation:2600 feet
Elevation Change:650 feet
Difficulty Rating:C
Best Seasons:Spring Summer Fall Winter
Hiking Time:3 hours
Dogs:Dogs not allowed

This is a very easy and popular hike to the incredible Seven Falls. Everyone who lives in Tucson should make the trip at least once. Even though this hike is in the hot lower elevations, I list it as a summer hike because you can cool off in the pools at Seven Falls, and get your clothes wet so they keep you cool on the hike back.

Directions to 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 6 miles up Sabino Canyon Rd. Go straight at the intersection with Sunrise and take the next right into the parking lot of Sabino Canyon Recreation Area.

•The Sabino Canyon parking lot can fill up on nice weekends, so get there early. Do not try to park on the side of the road near the entrance; several people have reported getting $100+ tickets for parking by the side of the road near Sabino Canyon.

•Dogs are not allowed in the main canyon area, or on the Bear Canyon or Sabino Canyon trails.

Trail Description

Diagram of the hike, omitting most of the section on the road.

Bear Canyon Trail, FS #29
(Sabino Canyon Visitor's Center to Phoneline Trail)

Length: 0.8 milesHiking Time: 0.2 hours
Highest point: 2700 feetLowest point: 2600 feet
Trail goes uphill

In the parking lot at Sabino Canyon, head to the eastern, or far right hand (as you face the visitor's center) end of the parking lot. This is the end farthest from the entrance. Take the wide dirt track that heads straight east from this point. There is a sign here indicating that this track is the Bear Canyon Trail.

The wide track continues nearly level, and completely straight, for about a half mile. Turn right on the pavement when you hit the road, although it is possible to take a trail that parallels the road to the south. Take this paved road a few hundred yards until you get to restrooms at a road junction. Turn right here, and cross the bridge that is a short distance from the restrooms. At the far side of the bridge there is another road intersection (T shaped). The Phoneline Trail is directly opposite you as you reach this intersection, and there is a sign a short ways up the trail.

If you are continuing to Bear Canyon, you can either turn right on the road at this intersection, or go up the trail a short distance, and turn right on the trail that parallels the road.

Turn right on the road here.

Bear Canyon Trail, FS #29
(Phoneline Trail to pavement end)

Bear Canyon from the road to Bear Canyon.

A view off the road to Bear Canyon.

Length: 0.9 milesHiking Time: 0.3 hours
Highest point: 2750 feetLowest point: 2700 feet
Trail goes uphill

This trail runs parallel to the road from the last bridge crossing Sabino Creek up to the end of payment in Bear Canyon. There is an hourly tram that can take you from the visitor's center to Bear Canyon, but it is usually quicker to walk it unless you happen to be there just when it is leaving.

After you cross the bridge over Sabino Creek, turn right on the road, or head up the trail opposite you at the road junction and turn right on the trail that parallels the road.

The road climbs up a small rise, then descends towards the mouth of Bear Canyon and you pass a picnic area near the top of the rise. After a short while, you come to the end of the pavement, where there are restrooms. The trail takes off from the left side of the restrooms and continues in the same direction as the road was going.

Bear Canyon Trail, FS #29
(Pavement end to Seven Falls turnoff)

Seven Falls from the trail.

The lower part of Seven Falls.

The upper part of Seven Falls.

Bear Canyon creek from the trail.

Inside Bear Canyon.

Length: 2.2 milesHiking Time: 1.1 hours
Highest point: 3250 feetLowest point: 2750 feet
Trail goes uphill

This scenic but easy trail segment is very popular because it leads to picturesque Seven Falls. If you only do one hike in the Catalinas, this should be it. There are exactly 7 stream crossings on the way to Seven Falls.

After the trail leaves the restrooms it continues straight, and climbing gently, until it descends a bit to the first stream crossing after about 7 minutes. The second through seventh crossings are each about 3 to 6 minutes from each other, so you reach the seventh crossing after about only 35 to 45 minutes.

The seventh crossing is the hardest when the water is up. But it is usually possible. After this seventh crossing, the trail climbs up the south wall of the canyon on a couple of long switchbacks, and then heads up-canyon, gently ascending. After you round a corner, you see the rock formation that towers over Seven Falls ahead. About 20 minutes after the seventh crossing you are directly opposite Seven Falls, which is a gorge on the north wall of Bear Canyon with a series of small waterfalls and pools. The trail forks here, with the left hand fork taking you down to large pool at the base of Seven Falls, and the right hand fork continuing up Bear Canyon. There is a forest service sign indicating that the Bear Canyon Trail continues on the right-hand fork.

Seven Falls has a number of pools large enough for swimming, and lots large smooth rocks where you can sunbathe and relax in beautiful surroundings. Its a great place to hang out, and lots of people do it, so get there early if you want to avoid the crowds. There is enough water to swim even in the driest months, so this is a good destination, even in the hottest part of the summer.

To return, go back the way you came.

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