Hiking in Tucson Arizona Best Hiking Trails for Solo Travelers

Tucson Arizona offers many opportunities for solo hiking with the option of desert or mountain hikes. Enjoying nature as well as more time for hiking were part of my decision to adopt a nomadic lifestyle earlier this year. I started out my solo road trip adventure with a couple of weeks visiting small towns in West Texas and some fantastic hiking at Big Bend National Park.

Next I lived in Tucson Arizona for seven weeks and enjoyed solo hiking at Mt Lemmon, Sabino Canyon, and the Saguaro National Park.

 

Hiking Tucson Arizona - hummingbirds common sight

 

Many of the locals told me that I had picked a good time to visit Tucson. The hot temperatures of summer continued into early fall. I arrived in Tucson in mid-October. Thankfully this is when daytime temperatures became comfortable for hiking and outdoor activities around Southern Arizona. Read my guide to Tucson AZ Places to See and Things to Do

 

Sabino Canyon hiking trail information sign

Sabino Canyon hiking trail information sign

 

Best hiking trails in Tucson Arizona

Sabino Canyon hikes

Address

5900 N Sabino Canyon Rd, Tucson AZ

Allow 30 minutes driving time from downtown

Admission fee

$5 parking fee per vehicle (FREE with National Parks pass)

Sabino Canyon features both desert and mountain hikes. My favorite hike at Sabino Canyon was Bear Canyon to 7 Falls.

I visited Sabino Canyon more than once because it’s a magical place for hiking in Tucson. Variety of terrain makes Sabino a wonderful place to explore the Sonoran Desert. With mountains, desert, and waterfalls, it’s a great place to enjoy nature and do some wildlife viewing.

While hiking in Tucson when weather is warmer be aware of snakes, particularly rattlesnakes. Fortunately in cooler weather the rattlesnakes do not make an appearance.

 

Sabino Dam Trail at Sabino Canyon near Tucson

Sabino Dam Trail at Sabino Canyon near Tucson

 

Seven Falls (also known as Bear Canyon trail)

  • Duration: 9 miles (14.5 km)
  • Elevation gain: 750 ft (229 m)
  • Type of trail: out and back
  • Time: Allow 5 – 6 hours
  • Note: several water crossings

From visitor center take Bear Canyon Trail. At the junction of Phone Line Trail/Bear Canyon Trail turn right onto Bear Canyon/7 Falls.

 

Susan at Seven Falls hike in Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

Susan at Seven Falls hike in Sabino Canyon Tucson Arizona

 

Sabino Dam and Lake/Esperero

  • Duration: 2.3 miles (3.2 km)
  • Elevation gain:
  • Type of trail: loop
  • Time: allow 1 hour

From visitor center take Bear Canyon Trail and turn left onto Sabino Lake Trail. After Sabino Dam continue to Bluff Trail and turn left on Sabino Canyon Road to Esperero Trail back to the visitor center.

 

While hiking in Tucson you will see many Saguaro cactus in the Arizona Sonoran Desert

While hiking in Tucson you will see many Saguaro cactus in the Arizona Sonoran Desert

 

Saguaro National Park

2 locations located east and west of Tucson:

Tucson Mountain District – Saguaro West – 2700 N. Kinney Road, Tucson AZ

Rincon Mountain District – Saguaro East 3693 – S. Old Spanish Trail, Tucson AZ

Admission fees to Saguaro National Park:

  • $15 per vehicle (good for 7 days)
  • $10 per motorcycle (good for 7 days)
  • $5 per individual on foot or bicycle (good for 7 days)
  • $35 annual pass to Saguaro National Park
  • $80 annual pass for all National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands (FREE to active military personnel and only $20 for seniors aged 62 and over)

All of the hiking trails at the Saguaro National Parks are desert hikes. Be prepared for you hike with water, snacks, hat, sunscreen, etc.

 

Panoramic mountain view along the scenic byway to Mt Lemmon

Panoramic mountain view along the scenic byway to Mt Lemmon

 

Mt Lemmon

Located in the Coronado National Forest northeast of Tucson Arizona

Mt Lemmon is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains, at 9,159 ft (2,792 m) and beautiful scenic drive. It takes about 90 minutes to drive from Tucson to Mt Lemmon.

Call the Pima County road closure hotline at 520-547-7510 to get the latest road conditions report.

 

Snow in November at Ski Valley Mt Lemmon Arizona Coronado National Forest

Snow in November at Ski Valley Mt Lemmon Arizona Coronado National Forest

 

Even when I visited in November there was some snow at Mt Lemmon. Sometimes the road is closed in winter due to hazardous road conditions. Call to find out if it is advisable to have snow chains on your tires or 4-wheel drive.

Remember to bring a variety of outdoor clothing for the hiking trails because the weather will be much cooler at higher elevations.

Some areas of the National Forest require either a National Parks pass or Coronado Recreational Pass. Check the Forest Service Coronado National Forest page for details.

 

Molino Canyon Vista is a recommended stop at Mt Lemmon

Molino Canyon Vista is a recommended stop at Mt Lemmon

 

Can hiking improve overall well-being?

Seems like every day that I go hiking or spend some time immersed in nature I feel like I’ve been rewarded with a cheap therapy session. There is something magical and meditative about observing nature. And I am not the only one that has adopted this belief – there is a field of study known as ecopsychology. Some researchers believe that one’s connection with nature can improve relationships and overall well-being.

My solo hiking around Tucson included desert hikes and mountain hikes. While I prefer hiking in the mountains, the desert hikes are a great way to become familiar with some of the wildlife and the plants of the desert. It’s interesting learning about how the various plants and animals  have adapted to life in the Sonoran Desert.

 

Orange cactus blooms at Saguaro National Park in Tucson

Orange cactus blooms at Saguaro National Park in Tucson

 

Animals on the trails in Tucson Arizona

Here are some of the creatures I captured with my camera while doing some solo hiking around Tucson Arizona. When looking for wildlife in the desert I found that the best times early evening right around sunset and early mornings just before sunrise.

If you are into birding then Arizona is a great location to take a winter break.

 

Saw this Cactus Wren hopping about the cholla cactus while solo hiking in Tucson

Cactus Wren on a teddy bear cholla cactus – Tucson Arizona

 

Desert cottontail rabbit foraging for food in Tucson Arizona - Sonoran Desert

Desert cottontail rabbit foraging for food in the Sonoran Desert

 

Solo hiking Sabino Canyon - hummingbird sits on a branch - Tucson AZ

Hummingbird sitting on a branch – 7 Falls Trail – Sabino Canyon

 

Harris's Antelope Squirrel - recognizable by the narrow white strips along the side - Tucson AZ hiking

Harris’s antelope squirrel – Tucson Arizona

 

Lesser Goldfinch is a small bird with bright yellow breast and dark face and head - Tucson AZ hiking trails

Lesser Goldfinch sitting on a tree branch – Tucson Arizona

 

Solo hiking Sabino Canyon - 7 Falls Trail - a Canyon Tree Frog is well camouflaged while resting on a rock

Canyon Tree Frog blends with the granite rock he sits upon at Sabino Canyon – 7 Falls Trail

 

Stark contrast of a raven with light blue sky in the background and the white bark of an Aspen tree at Mt Lemmon - Tucson AZ

Raven in Aspen tree at Mt Lemmon – Tucson AZ

 

Large butterfly with rust colored wings and black and white spots - resting on a rock at Sabino Canyon - 7 Falls Trail - Tucson AZ

Butterfly on a rock at Sabino Canyon – Tucson AZ

 

House Finch with a seed in it's beak - Tucson Arizona

Red face and breast – the tiny House Finch munches on a seed

 

A tiny House Finch beside a barrel cactus - Tucson Arizona - Sonoran Desert

House Finch beside a barrel cactus – Tucson AZ

 

Grey and black lizard resting on a rock at Molino Basin - Mt Lemmon - Tucson AZ

Lizard at Molino Basin at Mt Lemmon – Tucson AZ

 

Bright yellow face of the Verdin bird - sitting in a tree - Tucson AZ

Bright yellow face of the Verdin bird – Tucson AZ

 

Lizard blends with rock background - Saguaro National Park - Tucson AZ

Lizard at Saguaro National Park – Tucson AZ

 

Red crowned female Cardinal feeding on seeds - Tucson AZ

A female cardinal feeding on seeds – Tucson Arizona

 

Grasshopper on a rock at Sabino Canyon - Tucson AZ

Grasshopper on a rock at Sabino Canyon – Tucson AZ

 

A male Gambel's Quail feeds on yellow flowers - Tucson AZ

Gambel’s Quail feeding on flowers – Tucson AZ

 

Gila Woodpecker sitting atop a Saguaro cactus in Tucson AZ

Gila Woodpecker sitting on top of a Saguaro Cactus – Tucson AZ

 

Tucson Arizona offers many trails that are excellent for solo hiking and there is plenty of interesting wildlife to see along the way. Out of all the hiking trails around Tucson, Sabino Canyon was my favorite but I enjoyed all of my hikes in Tucson. Southern Arizona is a great place to enjoy the outdoors especially from autumn through early spring.

Explore other destinations for your next solo travel adventure

 

Hiking Tucson Arizona - hummingbirds common sight

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 4 of living a nomadic life, roadtripping around the USA and Canada and writing about her experiences. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

1 Comment

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  1. The Travel Team says:

    Nice! I’m looking forward to visiting this thrilling place.

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