Want to hike one of Tucson’s BEST hikes? In this guide we’re sharing how to hike the Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon.
We’re always blown away when we see water in the desert, so while spending a week in Tucson, Arizona and learning that there is a waterfall you can hike to, we knew we had to do it!
The Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon is rated as the #1 hike in Tucson on AllTrails and we can totally see why! With a gorgeous canyon to hike through, many of the area’s famous saguaros, plus a multi level waterfall at the end, it’s basically an oasis in the desert.
Watch our experience hiking the Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail!
However, when researching this hike, there were quite a few things to consider when planning our own journey. There are multiple trailheads you can start at, a shuttle you can utilize, as well as some other rules. In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know to hike the Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon, including where to start, what to expect along the trail, and more!
Looking for more things to do in Arizona? Check out our Arizona guides and vlogs!
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- Watch all of our Arizona Vlogs
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About the Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail
The Bear Canyon to Seven Falls trail is located in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area in Tucson, Arizona, at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. This canyon is one of the most popular hiking and recreation areas in Tucson, with 30 miles of trails to walk, jog, hike, bike, and view wildlife.
And by far the most popular spot in the canyon is Seven Falls, which are a series of waterfalls that cascade over smooth rock, tucked right inside the canyon! It is definitely an unexpected surprise in the desert and makes for a beautiful hiking destination.
But besides the waterfall at the end, the hike to get to the falls is also pretty incredible too, with towering canyon walls, fun water crossings, and even views of Tucson!
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
Different routes to hike to Seven Falls
There are few ways to hike to Seven Falls, including two different trailheads, as well as a shuttle to reduce some mileage. Below are your different options!
From the Bear Canyon Trailhead (How we went)
Miles (roundtrip): 6.8
Elevation: 925 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
This is the route we took and it starts from the Bear Canyon Trailhead parking lot, which is not inside the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. The trailhead has a parking lot that is large enough for about 15-20 vehicles and when we arrived right before sunrise on a Tuesday, we were the first car there.
You’ll leave from this parking area and follow a rocky, gravelly wash before the trail ends in the Recreation Area, where you’ll continue to follow that path through Bear Canyon and to Seven Falls. The trail is pretty easy, with a steady incline that almost feels flat until after all of the water crossings closer to the end of the hike, where it is noticeably steeper.
We chose this route for a few reasons:
- Since it is not in the recreation area, we could leave Kona in the van (dogs are still not allowed on this route, as it does go into the recreation area).
- The mileage was shorter and since Kona couldn’t come with us, it meant leaving her for less time.
- It seemed like the less popular way to go, which meant more solitude for part of the hike (which proved to be true).
From the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area parking lot (no shuttle)
Miles (roundtrip): 8.3
Elevation: 1,083 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
This is the most common route to Seven Falls and leaves from the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area parking lot, which is the last place that vehicles are allowed to go. You’ll follow a road (or you can take a trail off to the side) for about two miles before reaching the actual start of the trail. From there, the experience is about the same as the route we did above!
From the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area parking lot (with shuttle)
If you want to reduce your mileage by about 4 miles, you can take a shuttle to the trailhead, which leaves from the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area parking lot.
There are two shuttles: the Sabino Canyon Crawler and the Bear Canyon Shuttle. To get to Seven Falls, you will want to take the Bear Canyon Shuttle. This shuttle will make 3 stops and the last stop at the Bear Canyon Overlook Picnic Area is the stop you want to get off at to hike to Seven Falls.
The shuttle to Bear Canyon costs $6 per adult and $4 for kids (3-12). From December 15 to April 30 the first shuttle leaves at 9:15 and the last leaves at 4:15 and runs every 30 minutes. From May 1 to December 14 it operates the same hours, but leaves hourly.
Tickets for the shuttle are very popular and it is recommended to purchase them in advance at the Sabino Canyon Crawler website.
Crowd tip: Taking the shuttle WILL make the hike a lot more crowded for you, as you will not be able to start as early (we recommend starting at sunrise!) and you will be starting the hike at the same time as others on the shuttle. So if you want to beat crowds and do not mind the extra mileage, we suggest doing one of the two routes above instead.
When to hike the Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail
Due to its desert terrain, Sabino Canyon can get VERY hot in the summer and there is little tree coverage to provide shaded relief. We recommend visiting between November to March, when the temperatures are more bearable.
We hiked at the very beginning of February and had a chilly morning and by the time we finished the hike it was still pretty cool!
We also suggest hiking on a weekday if possible. Being located right in the city of Tucson, this is a very accessible hike and does get extremely crowded on the weekends. We had heard how crowded it was, but on a Tuesday in February we had the entire hike to the falls to ourselves and only saw one other group at the falls.
What to Bring
To see everything we take hiking, check out our hiking gear as well as our guide about how to make a 10 essentials kit. But for this specific area, we have a few items we really want to stress bringing with you.
Because of how exposed this hike is to the sun, you’ll definitely want to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from its rays.
Make sure to pack lots of water! Our 3L Camelbak bladders make it easy to stay hydrated on the trail. There is a water fountain and restroom just past the Bear Canyon Overlook Picnic Area, which is where the shuttle drops off. There will likely be water flowing on the trail as well if you want to bring a filter to fill up!
Shoes with good grip
Depending on when you visit, you may be walking on slippery rocks or in water. We recommend bringing shoes that have good grip, like water resistant hiking shoes or Chacos (no traditional flip flops!) to ensure you don’t slip and fall.
Things to know before visiting Seven Falls
If you park at the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area parking lot there is an $8 per car fee for the day, but the America the Beautiful pass will also cover this fee.
If you park at the Bear Canyon trailhead outside of the recreation area, there were no signs that stated you needed to pay, but we displayed our America the Beautiful pass just in case.
If you hike or take the shuttle from the Sabino Canyon parking area, there are restrooms there, as well as at the Bear Canyon Overlook Picnic Area. If hiking in from the Bear Canyon trailhead (like we did), you will not have access to a restroom until the picnic area.
This hike has about seven water crossings and depending on when you visit, they may be rushing with water or it will be super shallow. During our visit, we were able to step on rocks easily and avoid getting our feet wet, but we suggest checking recent AllTrails reports to see the conditions.
Dogs are not allowed
Dogs are not allowed in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, not even in your air conditioned RV or van. Parking at the Bear Canyon Road Trailhead allowed us to leave Kona in the van for a few hours while we did this hike.
Learn how we travel with a dog and what we do with Kona when she cannot join us on our adventures.
We almost always recommend starting your day early for hikes to beat the crowds, but for the hike to Seven Falls you’ll also want to do this to beat the heat. With very little tree coverage and many sunny days, even on a cooler day, the sun beating on you can feel very hot.
This trail gets BUSY on the weekends, but we didn’t encounter anyone on the hike to the falls by starting right before sunrise on a Tuesday in February. However, when we got back to where the shuttle drops off around 9 AM or so, it was a lot busier.
Our Experience hiking the Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail
Bear Canyon Trailhead to Seven Falls Trailhead
We got to the trailhead around sunrise and were stoked to be the only car in the parking lot. After hearing about how busy this hike gets, we decided to hit the trail right away, before anyone else could arrive, and we were so glad that we did. Minutes later the sun started to rise and we were treated to one of the BEST sunrises in recent memory!
After about ¾ of a mile down this path, we reached the entrance to Sabino Canyon, which was noted by an open gate and fence. From here, we walked the path a little bit longer until we met up with the Bear Canyon road in Sabino Canyon. This is the road that the shuttle drives on and will take you to the official Seven Falls trailhead!
Shortly after starting the official Seven Falls trail, we reached the famous water crossings! There are seven total on this hike, all very close together, but lucky for us, the water was pretty low during our visit, so no wet feet required. 🙂
These were a lot of fun to hop through and as we always say, seeing water in the desert is always such a treat! For the most part, all of the crossings are very straight forward, with it being obvious how to get back on the trail, but the final one was pretty confusing for us.
Right before the final water crossing, there is a sign that someone wrote “down and sharp left” on, but we got a bit turned around going down onto the rocks that way. While we knew the general direction that the trail was, finding how to get across all of these rocks was tricky. We climbed around a bit and eventually found a path and climbed up back onto the trail, but it seemed partially wrong.
However, on the way back, it was slightly more obvious and we found an easier way. This way took us across the rocks a bit further up than where we crossed and ended up bringing us back onto the trail behind that sign. So we advise not listening to the “down and sharp left” and go past that sign to find a way across the rocks.
We are not sure which way is technically correct, but that way seemed easier for us. This suggestion also assumes the water levels are similar to when we visited. If they are higher, we are not sure if that route would still work.
Up to Seven Falls
After the water crossings, the trail goes much more uphill to get to Seven Falls. This was the biggest incline on the hike, but not too bad! Along the way you’ll get to look down into the river below, see the canyon from a higher perspective, and if you turn around, see downtown Tucson!
A little less than a mile after this stretch we reached the first overlook of the falls, which was very exciting to see! But the best is still yet to come. To get to the falls, the trail goes downhill a bit, taking you right to the base.
We made it to the bottom of the falls, and WOW what a view! The falls cascade down a rock face, with desert mountains around and behind them. The water was flowing very well and it’s always so neat to get to see a waterfall surrounded by desert terrain, instead of the typical lush, green scenery you’d expect. It was magical!
The trail takes you to a good flat spot to view the lower part of the falls, but you can also climb up a tiny bit higher (which we did), to get a different perspective. While we did not venture to see all seven of the falls, the few cascades we got to see were very worth the hike out to them!
We were lucky to have the falls all to ourselves for about 10-15 minutes, until another small group showed up. We can imagine this gets VERY busy in the hot summers, so we were thankful to experience it with such solitude.
Finishing the hike + post-hike treat!
We booked it back down the trail, which was getting progressively busier, but we only saw 15 people or so from the falls to the Seven Falls trailhead (where the shuttle lets off), but could see a shuttle driving up the road, bringing many more people to the trail. We can’t stress this enough…start early!
After making it back to the van, we had to celebrate the hike with one of our Tucson favorites…Eegee’s! There is a location just minutes from the trailhead and getting one of their frozen fruit drinks (highly recommend a strawberry + piña colada combo) and ranch fries was the perfect way to end the hike!
Looking for more things to do in Tucson?
Check out our guide to the BEST things to do in Saguaro National Park West, which includes information about the park, and watch this video to see how we spent two days exploring, hiking, and eating in Tucson!
Ready to hike the Bear Canyon to Seven Falls Trail?
Pin this guide to hiking the Seven Falls Trail in Sabino Canyon to help plan your own adventure!