A paved road runs 3.8 miles into the canyon, crossing nine stone bridges over Sabino Creek. It begins at an altitude of 2,800 feet and rises to 3,300 feet at its end.
Sabino Canyon’s history is as diverse as it is fascinating. The Santa Catalina mountain range began its formation over 12 million years ago, 7 million years before the earliest known human walked the face of the earth. In around 5 million B.C., the mountains ceased formation around the Tucson area, setting the stage for future ecological action. Plant life first appeared between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago, and some of the earliest predominant human occupants of Sabino Canyon were the Hohokam people.
Soaring mountains, deep canyons, and the unique plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert found here draw over a million visitors a year to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. The wonders of the desert foothills and rocky gorges of the Santa Catalina Mountains are marvelous and accessible.
Sabino Canyon Tours offers two tram routes that provide access to Sabino and Bear Canyons. Along both routes riders are free to get off at any of the stops along the way.
Sabino Canyon tram is a narrated, educational 45-minute, 3.8 mile tour into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The trams have nine stops along the tour with several restroom facilities and picnic grounds located near Sabino Creek. The tram turns around at Stop #9 and heads back down to the Visitor’s Center, at which point riders may remain on board and hike back down. Trams arrive on average every 30 minutes.
Tram drivers narrate the ride to the top of the trail, relating legends and pointing out features of interest: teddy bear cholla, a sandy beach that makes a good picnic spot, a formation atop a mountain that looks like Snoopy lying on his back.
A variety of trails are available along the way for hiking that range from easy to challenging. The main road is mostly flat and paved and crosses Sabino Creek over nine stone bridges.
Winding through the canyon, visitors who follow the road have views of the creek, the riparian vegetation, magnificent Saguaros on the canyon walls, and towering rock formations. Picnic areas are scattered along the road, as are trailheads leading to other sections of the National Forest or paralleling the road.
The only motorized vehicles allowed on the road that leads through the canyon are the Sabino Canyon trams and Park Service vehicles. Ramadas at the entrance give canyon visitors a place to sit and watch the wildlife while waiting for the shuttle.
Bear Canyon tram is a non-narrated 2 mile ride that travels to the trailhead of Seven Falls. This tram ride has three stops along the way for hikers to select their choice of trails. Visitors may get off the tram at any of the stops and re-board later. Trams arrive on average every hour.
If riding the shuttle does not stir your sense of adventure, there are miles of hiking trails that wander throughout the area and lead deeper into the Santa Catalina backcountry.
For those who just want a refresher course on its wonders, the nature trail at the visitor center offers wildlife and trailside interpretive information.
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Sabino Canyon is a popular spot for hiking. Trams run on the main, easily navigated Sabino Canyon Trail, with nine stops along the way, and on the Bear Canyon Trail, with three stops. During the 20-minute trip to the end of Sabino Canyon Road, shuttle drivers recount the history of the canyon and point out sights along the way.
Bear Canyon tram rides, which are not narrated, travel two miles to the trailhead of Seven Falls, from which it’s about a four-hour hike to the falls.
Your ticket enables you to get on or off at any of the stops—but not in between them.
Address: 5900 N. Sabino Canyon Rd. Tucson, AZ 85750
Directions: From Tanque Verde Road in Tucson turn north on Sabino Canyon Road 4 miles to the Sabino Canyon
Information/Tour Schedules: (520) 749-2861
Visitors Center: (520) 749-8700
Sabino Canyon Tram Fees: $8; children ages 3-12, $4
Bear Canyon Tram Fees: $3; children ages 3-12, $1
Newcomers to Arizona are often struck by Desert Fever. Desert Fever is caused by the spectacular natural beauty and serenity of the area.