Monday, June 27, 2011

Sabino Canyon

White Tail Deer in lower Sabino Canyon.

Sabino Creek.  I feel cooler just looking at it!

Sabino Canyon is just on the north edge of Tucson in the Santa Catalina mountains. It's a great quick escape from town.  There is a nearly 4 mile paved trail up into the canyon with nine stops along the way and the shuttles come and go every half hour, but the wheelchair accessible shuttle is only every hour on the hour.  I suggest riding the shuttle up to the top and then hiking your way down.

We went in early May, and initially took a narrow trail that went along side of the paved road. It wasn't really wheelchair accessible, I probably made it maybe a quarter of way up the Canyon on the trail, then had to start using the paved road.  It is a few degrees cooler than in the city, as the main road ascends from from 2,800 feet to 3,300 feet and crisscrosses Sabino Creek. Fremont Cottonwoods and Arizona Sycamores provide great shade along the roadway but it gets very hot in the sunny sections, even in May, on the black-topped road.

The highlights of our hike were the White Tail Deer we saw just yards away from us on the dirt trail, and the Cooper's Hawk sitting on her nest high in a Cottonwood tree at about mile 2 right next to the paved road.  The Cardinals were fun to watch and must be used to people, as they boldly hopped around on the picnic tables and in low branches right over our heads!  Other birds the area is known for include Gambel's Quail, Cactus Wren, Phainopepla, Black-throated Sparrow. In spring and summer you may also see or hear Broad-billed Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Bell's Vireo and Scott's Oriole.

Access: This is a Fee Area. A pass can be purchased at the Entrance Station. Day Pass $5, Week Pass $10, Annual Pass $20.  Barrier-free accessible sites are available at Cactus picnic area and Bear Canyon overlook.  Toilet with barrier-free access is located at the Sabino Canyon Visitor Center.

Male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
This Fall, try seeing Sabino Canyon from a different perspective – at night! It’s a special time when animals emerge from daytime siestas to prowl around the cool desert floor and the moon gently illuminates the silhouettes of stately Saguaro cacti. Sabino Canyon Tours offers Moonlight Rides three nights per month.  September 8th, 9th, and 10th at 8:00 PM, October 8th, 9th, and 10th at 7:30 PM and November 6th, 7th, and 8th at 7:00 PM. Must make your reservations ahead of time, call (520) 749-2327.

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