This park is located on the northeastern area of Tucson, about 12 miles from downtown, and is extremely popular with the locals. Its hills and canyons feature huge Sonoran Desert plants, birds and wildlife of all types.
Open air shuttles ferry people into the canyon along a 3.8 mile paved road, to offer a taste of the beautiful desert scenery and possibly a glimpse of the wildlife inhabiting the canyon. Drivers offer a narration along the way, describing the area and providing tidbits from the canyon’s history.
From April through December, the shuttles offer moonlight rides. Call the visitor center for reservations.
The park features a number of trails, from very easy to strenuous, in difficulty. There are trails for horseback riding, hiking and biking. Bikes are allowed before 9:00 a.m. and after 5:00 p.m., except on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
From approximately mid-February to the end of March, spring runoff swells Sabino Creek to create Seven Falls, a popular destination for swimmers and sunbathers. In making its way from the mountain peaks, snowmelt twists and turns like an Olympic skier, cascading down the elevation until it reaches the bottom, where it runs along the canyon floor.
The trail to the falls is extremely popular and carries a lot of traffic on weekends. It is a moderate to difficult hike which crosses the stream several times. Hikers need to be constantly alert for cairns, or markers, along the trail indicating crossing points. It is very easy to get off the trail. Be certain to carry plenty of water, especially when temperatures begin to reach 100 degrees. Carry at least 3 quarts, depending on your length of time at the falls.
When entering the park, which requires a day-use fee, visitors receive a brochure which details the features of the area. It also warns of mountain lions. A number of years ago, a female hiker was attacked and severely injured by a mountain lion, so this is no joke. It is not unusual to see the big cats in the area. It also is home to javalina, rattlesnakes, hawks and a wide range of desert wildlife.
Sabino Canyon Visitors Center: 520-749-8700 or www.sabinocanyon.org.