Seven Falls is a picturesque series of small waterfalls flowing in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson, Arizona. The hike to Seven Falls is popular and with good reason; the combination of accessibility, scenery, and water features make Seven Falls an attractive adventure. Seven falls is accessed via Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. The trail to Seven Falls is called Bear Canyon Trail, FS #29. This trail is well maintained and winds along a stream for much of the hike. Hiking Seven Falls is a must if you are in the Tucson area and are looking for half to full day excursion. I chronicle a recent Seven Falls hike with trail descriptions and high quality photos below.
Seven Falls Hike: The details
- Location: Santa Cantalina Mountains, Tucson Arizona
- Starting Point: Sabino Canyon Recreation Area about 30 minutes from downtown Tucson, AZ.
- Trail: Bear Canyon Trail, FS #29 to Seven Falls. This trail is most suitable for hiking or trail running.
- Length: About 8 miles round trip
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Cost: 5$ day pass (per car) or $20 annual pass (Valid at multiple Coronado National Forest areas)
- Bottom Line: This hike offers a pleasant trail, nice views, and the chance to play in waterfalls in the desert. In other words, go for it!
Directions to Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
Seven Falls Hike: Trail Report
Today, I am hiking Seven Falls. I collect my friend Jose and together we drive to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. We grab a free map, smile at the ranger, and head out. Jose and I will need to follow Bear Canyon Trail #29 for about four miles, splitting off the trail near the end to reach the actual falls. Initially, the “trail” to Seven Falls is more of a pedestrian walkway. If you are looking for a casual taste of the Sabino Canyon area without committing to an actual hike this beginning path would be a nice place to go for a stroll.
After the dirt pedway Jose and I come to a paved tram road. We have the option of walking the road or taking a small hiking trail that runs along the same route. Eventually, both the trail and the road lead to the mouth of Bear Canyon. We proceed into the canyon via Bear Canyon trail #29. If you would rather take a tram to this trail marker you can do that as well. Taking a tram is not free, but will save you (round trip) from about three and half miles of walking. I’ve never actually seen a tram on this route, but apparently it does exist. If you are interested in taking the tram you will need to check with Sabino Canyon Tours about the details.
Seven Falls Hike: Bear Canyon and Stream Crossings
Proceeding further into Bear Canyon Jose and l find the trail well maintained and generally easy to follow. There is an elevation gain along the way to Seven Falls, but much of the journey is a slow rise and not too noticeable. I appreciate that the trail route winds along a stream which makes for a pleasant hiking environment. Thankfully, there has been water in the stream every time I’ve visited Seven Falls. Consistent water may not seem like much if you are accustomed to a wetter climate, but a somewhat predictable stream in southern Arizona is pretty awesome.
The trail crosses the stream at a handful of spots. The water crossings are fairly straight forward and there seems to be more then one way across at each juncture. Jose and I simply hop and walk rocks to other side of the stream. Depending on the seasonal water level these crossings could prove more challenging, but having hiked Seven Falls several times I’ve never had a serious issue finding a dry way to go. There may also be some points when it’s not ultra-apparent where the trail picks back up after jumping the stream. However, the trail follows a narrow canyon and finding it again shouldn’t really be much of an issue.
Seven Falls Hike: The Fork
After about four miles of total hiking distance Jose and I reach a fork in the trail. We leave Bear Canyon trail #29 at this point and descend towards the lower portion of Seven Falls. As Jose and I make our descent the trail rounds the bend of the canyon and we are rewarded with an excellent view of Seven Falls. We are almost there!
Seven Falls Hike: Reaching the Falls
Jose and I arrive at Seven Falls and have the place to ourselves for a short while. Soon, another couple shows up, followed eventually by a group of high schoolish young people. There are plenty of places to poke around and ten or so additional people is no big deal. Jose and I scramble up to a higher fall where we decide to get into the water and cool off.
I slowly wade into the pool. A waterfall rushes down before me and I move forward until the water line is up to my waist. The water is cold and refreshing. Later on I dunk myself completely in a shallow pool. The shock of plunging under the water is there, but the shallow depth and the warm rocks take some of the bite away.
Jose and I kick around the falls for awhile. There are plenty of nice spots to sit and relax which make Seven Falls an ideal place to eat lunch and refuel. We munch Clif Bar and some Gatorade mix before eventually packing up and departing. The way out of Seven Falls is straight forward, we simply go back the way we came. By the time Jose and I reach my Explorer, open the doors, and sit down I am spent. It has been a full morning and I feel a sense of satisfaction as we roll out of the Sabino Canyon lot and head back towards the busyness of the city.
Seven Falls Hike: The Bottom Line
Seven falls is a great hiking escape for a desert climate like Tucson. The trail is easily accessible, the scenery is good, and the water features make the hike in my opinion. During hotter portions of the year you may even consider hiking Seven Falls at night. A hike to Seven Falls can be made in a half day or easily extended to a full day adventure. Jose and I had a great half day hike and were back before two so he could go to work.
For more information about Seven Falls: Sabino Canyon Visitors Center: (520) 749-8700. I also found this trail guide by Andy Flach to be well done.
Special thanks to Jose for accompanying me on this hike. And thanks to Todd W. for allowing me to use your excellent camera.
Share your Adventure
Have you been to Seven Falls? I’d like to see your pictures and hear about your adventure. Leave a reply below, post your pics and/or stories to the Ruin Your Knees Facebook page, or email them to me at Robb@RuinYourKnees.com. If there is a particular story or photo that catches my eye I may just highlight it on the site.