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Name: Sabino Creek Author's Rating:
Author: Rebecca Miller Avg. User Rating: Not rated yet
Type: Hike Difficulty: (beginner) below
Time: 1 - 2 hours Region: SE Arizona
Length: 3.15 miles Elevation gain/loss/change: +300 / -300 / +0 (loop)
Type: Loop Avg Elevation: 2800 ft
Best time to go: fall, winter, spring Fees: Sabino Canyon Parking Pass $5
Fitness rating: Medium Educational Merit: Low
Danger/fear rating: Low Scenic Beauty: High
Hours of Operation: 9 - 4 (Weekdays), 9 - 4:30 (Holidays and Weekends) Last updated: March, 2013
Short Description: This trail is an easy hike that leads to the Sabino Canyon Dam and across the creek. It offers plenty of scenic areas to take pictures.
Geocaches: A few geocaches in the area. Canyon View; On a Street Sign; Best Dam View
References / Contact Information: Sabino Canyon; Tucson Citizen
Points of interest: Access to many other trails, Sabino Dam, a small waterfall, Sabino Creek
Special Considerations: Parking pass is $5.00. Tram tickets are available for certain hikes.
How to get there: Going East on Speedway turn left on Swan Rd. Stay on it for 5 miles then turn right onto E. Sunrise Dr. Continue for 4.1 miles then turn left onto N. Sabino Canyon Rd. The Sabino Canyon Tours and Recreation center will be in a parking lot to the right. Click here for directions.

Trail Description

This trail is nice if you are looking to get out of the house for a couple hours. It’s fairly easy, although there are some steep areas. The middle of the trail leads to the Sabino Dam where there is a small waterfall and area to walk around in the water. About half of the trail is wooded, with an overhang of trees making it shady. At the end you will cross the Sabino Canyon Creek. This trail is diverse in its scenery and offers some great picture opportunities.

General Information and History

Sabino Canyon was formed 5 million years ago with the Santa Catalina Mountain range. In 1887 a massive earthquake in Mexico broke chunks of boulders free from the canyon walls creating the present day appearance. The Forest Service, in 1905, commissioned the building of bridges that pass over Sabino Canyon. The Sabino Creek Trail is not well known, but from doing some digging it was originally known as the Historic Sabino Trail. The trail is said to have been first used by soldiers stationed at Fort Lowell in 1888 as a route to get to Mt. Lemmon. The dam was built by crews of Great Western Power Co. between 1910 and 1912 to create a reservoir to generate electricity. But due to low runoff it proved unsuccessful. What is left today is the remnant of the Sabino Dam project.

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The Trail

Note: Although GPS coordinates are provided for this trail, a GPS should not be needed. This trail is well traveled and marked.

I honestly feel like Sabino Canyon is know mostly for the Seven Falls hike, that was the only hike in the canyon that I had heard of before going, but there are so many to choose from. Sabino Creek Trail is really something special, a gem that I think often gets over looked. So for a trail that might lead you away from the crowds and tourists, this might be one to consider.

From the Visitor center take the Bajada Nature Loop Trail, make sure to go straight instead of following the Nature Trail, otherwise you will be back to the Visitor Center in five minutes. This was a mistake I made, which left me a little confused. You will come to a trail marker, a few of the trails start from the same point so just keep in mind that you will be looking for the Sabino Dam Trail #30, which will be .5 miles from the Trail marker.

Staying on the dirt trail you come up to a road, take a right and the paved road will lead you to the Sabino Dam Trail Head. You will find the trail marker on the left side of the road. The dam is .4 miles from the marker and creek trail is .5 miles.

There are some rock steps on parts of the trail, as well as a few steep areas where it’s important to watch your footing. As you get to the height of the trail you will come to three saguaros, which act as a passage way or almost gate keepers to the dam, I got a picture of this scene myself. Heading downhill you will be able to see the dam and waterfall, depending on the amount of water there is. There are a few small side trails that can take you down to the waterfall faster if you don’t want to walk all the way down the main trail. These trails are a little steep though because they go straight down the slope of the hill.

When you get down to the dam there is a sandy area so you can take your shoes off and for a moment the soft fine sand and cool water might give you a nostalgic feeling of being far away from the desert and somewhere more desirable like a beach in California. This was one of my favorite areas to take pictures because there are lots of trees, which make for some interesting scenery with the staggeringly high mountains full of saguaros in the background. It’s also a great place to take a break from the heat because the cool water and shade provides a little bit of a soothing breeze. I imagine that this area would also be very pretty at late spring when the leaves have grown back, or around October and November when they start to change colors.

To the right of the dam will be the Creek trail head. The trail passes through some sandy areas as well as tree covered areas, which mix together at some points creating a very interesting landscape, like a dessert and forest combined. Continuing on you will reach a fork off to the left that is the Blacketts Ridge Trail Head, this trail is only another 1.7 miles if you are looking to extend your hike. About .4 miles north you will come to another fork which is the Phoneline Trail head. This trail is about another 3 miles, and from the looks of hikers up ahead was pretty intense.

I stayed on the Creek trail which zig zagged a little until it came to the Sabino Canyon Creek. You will have to step across some rocks to get to the other side of the creek, so depending on the time of year your feet may get wet, but also depending on the time of year it may not matter because the cool water would probably feel refreshing during late spring or summer. The water is very clear and beautiful, yet another picture pit stop (at least for me). Crossing the creek marks the end of the scenic route. Heading straight you will find some stairs that lead up to a rest area. This is also the area where the tram would drop you off if you were hiking to Seven Falls. Take the road to your left and it will lead you back down to the visitor center.

I really enjoyed this hike because of the variety of landscape I encountered in the course of 2 hours. I would suggest you take a detour or two down one of the other shorter trails if you have time, you might be as pleasantly surprised by them as I was with this trail.

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