The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

72° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Sabino Canyon a scenic one-day getaway

    Sabino Canyon
    Sabino Canyon

    Everyone, including the Arizona Daily Wildcat, says you absolutely must go to Sabino Canyon. It’s a jewel, they say. It’s breathtaking. But you don’t go — or at least, I didn’t — until more adventurous family come into town.

    With my mom in the driver’s seat, we traveled the shockingly short 15 minutes from campus to the corner of East Sunrise Drive and North Sabino Canyon Road. The last Sunday in March, it seemed, was a popular day to make this trek. The parking lot attendant who collected $5 in exchange for a daily permit enthusiastically advised us to park in the elementary school lot down the block because the visitor center’s lot was full.

    Upon parking and retrieving several pamphlets regarding our hiking options, we decided on a 5.2-mile roundtrip hike along Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls. The noon tram ($3 per person), which leaves from the ticket booth once an hour, on the hour, took us to the trailhead.

    Not knowing where to go, we followed the surprisingly solid flow of people along a broad, flat gravel path to “”the real trail.”” The ups and downs and rocky terrain were expected of “”the real trail,”” but its tendency to weave through the river was less so. The first crossing seemed optional until it became clear that forging onward, parallel with the abnormally high stream, put us in pathless piles of rocks hard to walk through and even harder to navigate. So we waded.

    “”Oregon Trail,”” the game framed by the colorful first generation iMacs, came to mind as we forded the river, though we risked only the dryness of our pants and tennis shoes, not the lives of tiny digital oxen, dysentery and death.

    But after less than a mile, we kept going, wet shoes and all, urged in part by those returning from the falls, proclaiming that the destination was “”worth it.”” And even as I began to char, having left any source of sun protection behind in the car, it became clear that whether the falls lived up to the hype, the hike definitely did. Between truly frightening near-vertical points in the path, the entirely serious mountain lion warnings — they go after the kids 90 percent of the time — and other slippery spots (I fell down twice in the river and twice in the path), tiny “”worth it”” moments would happen. A butterfly nearly careened into my face, strangers stopped to let us pass, and sometimes the next river crossing came at the perfect time to rinse our sandy socks and feet.

    It took us just over two hours of wading, climbing and wondering how so many people could be brave enough to make such an arduous trek to see exactly why we all had: Seven Falls. There were — count them — seven waterfalls gushing as I’ve never seen anything in Arizona gush, one into another, with shallow pools and flat rocks perfect for picnics and tanning in between. The teenage crowd had discovered this, and the entire area was overrun with bikinis and shrieks, but somehow the unmistakable sense of “”beach”” redeemed it.

    The trip back was quicker — a scramble back to the trailhead in time for the 3:10 p.m. tram back to the ticket booth. With pink shoulders, empty water bottles and stomachs and the thought that next time we’d bring a picnic and some sunblock, we were thrust back into the parking lot as abruptly as if we’d stepped off a plane returning from a getaway. And for less than $6 each, with only a half-day gone, this vacation was entirely worth it.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search