You’re probably thinking: How on earth is there a waterfall in the middle of the Arizona desert? We’re not sure, but it’s there! If you are looking for a fun day hike where you can see a beautiful waterfall then Seven Falls in Tucson, Arizona is the hike for you!
We were lucky enough to visit our wonderful friend Lauren in Tucson and she said that Seven Falls is one of the local favorites. So we took her word on it and decided to try out this moderately difficult hike with her.
Be prepared to start early and to bring a lot of water! We realized during our first desert hike in Phoenix that water is even more essential here than on a regular hike because it gets so damn hot in the desert! Especially when you’re exposed to the sun the whole day like we were on this Seven Falls hike.
Seven Falls Waterfall hike is an exciting hike in to do in the Tucson area
The hike itself isn’t too difficult because there is not a whole lot of elevation but the weather can play a big factor in the difficulty on any given day. If it rains a lot and there’s been lots of water then you may have to do a few river crossings which aren’t too hard but be prepared to get wet. So plan your footwear accordingly.
Along with that you are in the Arizona desert and it gets very very hot. But as long as you’re prepared and know what you’re getting into then you should have no problems conquering this awesome hike in Tucson.
One of the special things about Seven Falls Tucson is the amount of Saguaro cacti you will see. Did you know that Saguaro cacti can only be found in Arizona, Mexico, and California? It’s true – and they’re massive! This just makes it even cooler to go on a hike here since you will be surrounded by them.
It’s magical and different unless you’re from here. For us being from Canada and Denmark the only cacti you would usually see are magnets and drawings so seeing the Saguaro’s in real life was really cool.
The Sabino Canyon Recreation Area
All the locals say the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is the best place to hike in Tucson. You’ll see cacti that are over 30 feet tall and just Saguaros literally all over the place. On top of that being able to see a waterfall in the middle of the Arizona desert is pretty awesome.
The landscape is so unique and different than you’d get anywhere else in the world which makes Seven Falls an awesome day hike if you’re in or around Tucson. And one of the best parts is that it’s only about a 15 minute drive from downtown Tucson to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Visitor Center where you park your car and begin your day hike.
The car park itself is pretty big and has restrooms and a water fountain to hydrate yourself before and after the hike. Make sure to bring your America The Beautiful pass if you have one so you don’t have to pay the park entrance fee. Because Sabino Canyon is in a National Park, the America The Beautiful pass works here.
Seven Falls via Bear Canyon
The hike itself has two options. Once you get to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Center you will either be able to take a shuttle for a portion of the hike (essentially you skip the boring part) or you can walk directly from the parking lot and do the whole 13 kilometers.
Dom was disappointed when we chose the first option but after a day in the heat he realized this actually was the better option 😉
This is the option we took and it makes more sense if you’re tight on time or just don’t want to be out in the sun all day then we definitely recommend taking the shuttle next to the visitor center.
It costs $6 USD per person to ride the shuttle. It has 3 stops and will drop you off at the beginning of the Seven Falls Trailhead. It will also pick you up from the trailhead once you are done the hike.
The shuttle runs every 30 minutes or so (check the timetable) and stops at all three stops. You take away 2.9 km (1.8 miles) each way. So in total it will save you about 5.8 km (3.6 miles).
For us, personally, we chose this option because hiking in Tucson can be unbearably hot so you don’t want to be outside for too long. We found that the distance of the hike was perfect and it was super convenient taking the shuttle back after being out in the heat all day.
This is more if you’re really looking for a workout and wanting to get your sweat on. You’ll leave your car at the carpack and essentially just start walking on the gravel road until you reach the trailhead.
The route takes you along the gravel road and you just have to follow the signs that say Seven Falls Trail. You will continue until you see the trailhead which is where option 1 starts. It’s definitely doable but we would highly recommend going early in the morning if you want to do the whole thing.
It seems very manageable but hiking in the desert and especially hiking in Tucson can be very very hot most of the year. So go prepared and make sure you’re ready for a warm day ahead.
Practical information about Echo Canyon Trail via Camelback Mountain
Distance: First option is 7.9 km return / 4.8 miles return
Distance: Second option is 13.7 km return / 8.5 miles return
Elevation: 324 m / 1062 ft. elevation gain
Type: Out and back
Length: First option is about 2.5-3 hours and the second option is about 4 hours return.
Difficulty: First option is moderate and the second option is hard.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Here’s a map of the beginning of Seven Falls Trail
Here’s a picture of the beginning of the trailhead up to Seven Falls in Tucson
So if you’re really looking into finding a hike in Tucson we highly recommend this one. Seven Falls has it all. And depending on the conditions, you may even end up doing a minor river crossing during the hike. While we were there it was extremely dry and even the waterfalls were VERY small. Ultimately it was a wonderful hike with awesome views of Sanoras that we’ve never seen before.
If you have an America the Beautiful pass, just make sure you bring it. Since the parking is the National Park it would otherwise cost $5 USD for the day pass, and who wants to pay that if they can enter for free?
On top of that you will have to pay for the shuttle if you don’t want to walk the whole way. So bring a little bit of money with you. The ticket machine does take credit cards, but you never know with technology these days, so bring a bit of cash too just to be safe!
There are bathrooms and water fountains at the visitor center. So stop there before making your way to the Seven Falls Trailhead. There are also rangers and park workers who are very knowledgeable about the area and give insightful information about hiking in the area.
Here is some extra information on the hike if you’d like to know a little more about exactly what you will be getting yourself into.
How to get there
From anywhere in Tucson
- If you’re in Tucson then it will be a maximum of 20 minutes to drive to Sabino Canyon Recreation Center. It is located on the north side, right on the edge of the city. Sabino Canyon also leads up to Mt Lemmon which is one of the highest mountains in the area.
- Here is a map on how to get there from downtown.
From anywhere in Phoenix
- It’s also a very doable hike if you’re coming from Phoenix since it’s only about 2.5 hours from the centre of Phoenix. It’s a bit of a boring ride but for the majority of it you will be cruising on the 10 down from Phoenix to Tucson.
- Here is a map on how to get there from Phoenix.
Before you go
Make sure to check the weather forecast and plan accordingly. We went later in the year in October and it was very dry and hot.
Our friend Lauren who has done the hike multiple times went earlier in the year and said there was lots of water along the trail and even had to cross a few streams. So make sure you wear the proper footwear because you may be getting your feet wet on this hike!
Pack a lunch! At the end of the hike there is an awesome place right in front of the falls where you can relax and eat your lunch. We even found a shady spot and had the perfect afternoon picnic before going back to the shuttle.
What to bring
It’s most likely going to be very hot outside when you go. I mean, it’s Tucson, Arizona! So anything that can protect you from the sun is highly recommended!
- Water! Water! Water!
- Sunscreen is a must hiking anywhere in Tucson or Arizona! Even if you go early in the morning.
- A camelbak (backpack for water) or a few water bottles if you’re doing the full hike.
- Bring some food that you can snack on and will give you some energy. Dates, fruit, PB&J sandwiches, protein bars, vegetables, and smoothies are all great snacks for hiking.
- Also this is a great list of hiking gear that you may need on a hike!
Other useful info
- If you’re headed to Phoenix as well then try this hike out: Camelback Mountain!
- You can buy the America the Beautiful pass online if you’re planning on visiting a bunch of national parks this year.
We hope you enjoy this hike in Tucson as much as we did! Enjoy and stay safe out there!