Planning on hiking the Seven Falls Trail in Tucson’s Sabino Canyon? Then check out these tips on when to go, what to bring, and what to expect along the trail.
If there’s one thing I wanted to do on our recent weekend getaway to Tucson, Arizona, it was hike the Seven Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon. There’s something magical about hiking to a waterfall, and this is a set of seven in the middle of the Sonoran desert.
When to Hike the Seven Falls Trail
The Seven Falls Trail is located near Tucson, Arizona, in the Sabino Canyon area. Late winter or early spring is the perfect time to hike the Seven Falls Trail as it is your best chance to see flowing falls in Sabino Canyon fed by snowmelt or heavy rains. We went in early February, and the falls were roaring and the creek was full. Weather-wise, fall through spring will provide comfortable temperatures in this part of Arizona. Summer heat can peak over 100°F, so plan an early morning or night hike and bring plenty of water.
This is one of the most popular hiking spots in the Tucson area (and in my opinion, it’s the best hike in Tucson!), so it’s especially busy on the weekends. The huge parking lot for Sabino Canyon was almost filled by the time we arrived at 9 am on a Saturday. Hike early or during the week for a smaller crowd.
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What to Bring on the Seven Falls Trail
The Seven Falls Trail goes through several creek crossings and you’re mostly exposed to full sun, so you’ll want to be prepared. Here are our recommendations on what to wear and pack with you for the 7 Falls hike.
- Quick-dry Hiking Shorts: Water at the creek crossings went up to my knees, so I was glad I wore shorts to stay dry. If the water level in Sabino Creek is low, it probably means warmer weather, so I’d still wear shorts. I really like these women’s hiking shorts from Gap (not too short and not too baggy) and Aaron’s a fan of these lightweight, fast-drying men’s shorts from RVCA.
- Shoes or sandals to get wet: The hiking path crosses Sabino Creek seven times each way. With higher water levels, there really is no way to avoid getting your feet wet. Other hikers crossed the creek with shoes on because it’s time-consuming to take your shoes off each time. I hate hiking in soggy shoes, so I started by stripping my tennis shoes off each time. Eventually, I left my shoes off and hiked barefoot for a few of the crossings that run close together where the trail is soft and sandy. It’s probably not the brightest idea as there is plenty of cactus around, but I didn’t end up with anything stuck in my foot. Next time, we’re bringing hiking sandals we don’t have to take off. I (Kelly) am a fan of my Chaco’s, Aaron likes his Teva’s, and Hudson wears these Keen Kids sandals practically everywhere.
- Swimwear: If you plan on hopping into the creek along the way or waterfalls and pools at the top.
- Sun Protection: Including a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. I mentioned before that we hiked in February, but it was still warm and very sunny.
- Water: And lots of it. Though it’s not a particularly strenuous trail, it is long and most of the path is in direct sunlight. It started to feel warm even in February. Bring an insulated, reusable bottle to keep your water cool, like a Hydro Flask, or a larger water reservoir (I really like this Platypus reservoir with a larger zip top) if you tend to need a lot of water.
- Hiking Carrier for Kids: If you are hiking with babies or toddlers, you’re going to want a baby carrier or hiking carrier for this one. Our son was small enough that I just used my Ergobaby carrier (the Cool Air Mesh Ergobaby is great for hikes since it’s really lightweight and breathable). For toddlers a bit older, we recommend the Deuter Kid Comfort.
The Seven Falls Trail in Tucson is rated medium due to the 8.2-mile distance and the creek crossings. Taking the tram almost cuts the hike in half (1.8 miles off each way), making the hike only 4.6 miles RT.
Plan about 4 hours for this hike without the tram unless you’re a trail runner. If you’re hiking with a little kid that likes to run the opposite direction, I’d plan around 5 hours.
Getting to the Seven Falls Trail
The Seven Falls Trail is 15 miles northwest of downtown Tucson in the Coronado National Forest. Park in the Sabino Canyon parking lot, which costs $5 for a day pass. From the parking lot, head east and follow the signs for Seven Falls Trail. The formal name for the path is Bear Canyon Trail, FS #29, but most of the signage uses the Seven Falls Trail name.
There are bathrooms and water fountains near the parking lot. Note that dogs are not allowed in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. This includes the Seven Falls Trail.
Seven Falls Trail
The first 1.8 miles of the trail is the wide and flat tram road. After reaching the Seven Falls Trailhead, there is a gentle incline as the path crosses Sabino Creek seven times. Depending on how high the water is, you may be able to use rocks to hop across at some of the creek crossing. For quite a few, we had to walk through the water. We ended up taking off our shoes and socks, but you could also opt for something you don’t mind getting wet.
After the last creek crossing, we hiked a series of switchbacks to climb up the side of Bear Canyon. The overall elevation gain up to Seven Falls is 917 feet. Soon the falls came into view and we finished the hike where the water was splashing down onto the rocks and forming big swimming pools. If you are planning on jumping in, just know that the water isn’t dirty; it gets its golden brown color from the tannins in the oaks on Mt. Lemmon.
This trail is in the Sonoran Desert, so you’ll see tons of saguaro, cholla, and ocotillo.
Catch the Tram for a shorter hike
If you really want to make it up to Seven Falls but don’t want to hike the full 8 miles, then you can take advantage of the tram in Sabino Canyon. The tram runs along two trails: the Sabino Canyon Trail and the Bear Canyon Trail. If you take the tram along the the Bear Canyon Trail route, you can hop off about 2 miles in, at the official start of Seven Falls Trail. This cuts off about half of the trail, so you’ll only have about 2 more miles to go to make it to the Falls. On the way back you can wait for the tram at the same spot you hopped off, or walk the two miles back to the visitor center and parking lot.
The tram costs $4 per adult and $2 for children ages 3-12. It runs every hour on the hour starting at 9 am and ends at 4 pm or 4:30 pm, depending on the season.
Have any questions about hiking the Seven Falls Trail? Let us know below. I think this is one of the best hikes in Tucson, so I wouldn’t miss it!