If there’s one thing I wanted to do on our recent weekend getaway, it was the Seven Falls Trail in Tucson, Arizona. There’s something magical about hiking to a waterfall, and this is a set of seven in the middle of the 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, 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
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.
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 CamelBak if you tend to need a lot of water.
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.
Address: 5900 N Sabino Canyon Rd, Tucson, AZ 85750
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. After the last creek crossing, we hiked a series of switchbacks to climb up the side of Bear Canyon. 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.