Access and Facilities
Both ravines are part of the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
, a very popular if rather commercial and domesticated place. To get there from Interstate 10 requires quite a lengthy drive right across town, aiming for the north-south Sabino Canyon Road
which crosses the usually dry Tanque Verde Wash and then a range of low hills before reaching the large parking area for the canyons. This is located at the edge of an upmarket residential area, with houses nestled in the surrounding hills right up to the park fence, yet all this urban land is still quite densely covered in bushes and cacti. Since 1978 private vehicles have been prohibited on the roads to Sabino or Bear Canyons; instead visitors may travel by tram, bicycle, horseback or on foot. Parking (2015) is $5 per vehicle, while tours on the tram are charged at $8/$4 for adults/children for Sabino Canyon, or $3/$1 for Bear Canyon. Next to the carpark are a visitor center, bookshop, vending machines, (free) drinking water supply, and many people - this is often quite a crowded location, especially popular with local residents who come for jogging and cycling. For them, a yearly pass is available for $20, and all fees are good for other nearby sites in the Coronado National Forest
including all those along the road to the summit of Mount Lemmon
Trams leave the visitor center every 30 minutes for the journey into Sabino Canyon, stopping at nine places along the way.
The full trip takes about 45 minutes, crosses the creek nine times on sturdy stone bridges, and is made to the accompaniment of narration from a tour guide, who gives details of the local wildlife, plant life, geology and history. The trams are certainly the most popular way to visit, though many prefer to walk or cycle. Of the various paths in the area, one starts next to the carpark - the short, self-guided Desert Nature Trail
- which has informative notices about local plants and animals. Others are found along the Sabino Canyon Road; the Phoneline Trail
(#27) is perhaps the most popular, starting 1.4 miles from the visitor center by climbing up the south side of the canyon then following it for several miles, before descending to the far end of the road, where it intersects the Sabino Canyon Trail
(#23), a continuation route further north into the mountains. Another short path, the Sabino Lake Trail
(#30), leads to a seasonal reservoir along Sabino Creek, a good location for bird watching.
Bear Canyon and the Seven Falls can be explored by a relatively easy 5 mile round trip hike
beginning at the end of the side road, reachable by tram - or 8.5 miles if starting from the visitor center, a walk that in season is one of the most scenic in all Arizona.