Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is an excellent hiking destination for families with kids.
The canyon, and neighboring Bear Canyon, provides plenty of fun, easy, and accessible trails for kids of all ages, from infants to teens. It also provides access to the many adult-oriented hiking trails in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area, which includes Mt. Lemmon. It is the perfect destination for hikers and backpackers of all skills and abilities.
Keep in mind the park offers a ton of hiking options. We know how overwhelming it can be to take young kids to a new park and select an activity. Hopefully this curated list of our absolute favorites will make that process less overwhelming!
What is Sabino Canyon and Where is it Located?
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is one of the premier natural areas in Southern Arizona It is located at the base of the Catalina Mountains just to the east of downtown Tucson. The canyon is a part of the Mount Lemmon watershed, so water (rivers, streams, pools, etc.) can be found on almost all hikes. The address is 5700 N Sabino Canyon Rd, Tucson, AZ 85750.
What Amenities does Sabino Canyon Offer?
Sabina Canyon offers a full range of amenities that are provided by the Forest Service. The park charges an $8 day fee which can be purchased at parking stations in the canyon parking lot. Credit cards are accepted.
The park has a large visitor center with bookstore, clean bathrooms, vending machines, and access to drinking water.
Additionally, the park offers a shuttle service for both Sabino Canyon and neighboring Bear Canyon. Both operate on a strict schedule and it is recommended that you purchase tickets in advance from Sabino Canyon Crawler. A information guide can be found here.
The Sabino Canyon rout is 7.4 miles (approx. 1 hour) round trip. The ride is narrated via headphones and costs $15 for adults, $8 for kids 3-12 yrs old and is free for infants under 3. The Bear Canyon tram ride is 2 miles long and goes from the visitor center to the Seven Falls trailhead. The cost is $8 for adults, $5 for kids 3-12 years old, and is free for infants under 3.
Kid-Friendly Sabino Canyon Hiking Options
SabinoCanyon is home number of great hikes for kids of all ages, even if they need a stroller. We have broken them down by age to help you pick out the best for your family. This handy guide provides a full map of all hiking options and is available at the visitor center. The visitor center also hosts a Junior Ranger program!
Hiking in Sabino Canyon with Babies & Toddler – Stroller/Wheelchair Accessible
Sabino Canyon Tram Road
This is the road that the Sabino Canyon Crawler takes up to the top of the canyon. Besides the trams, which operate once per hour, the only other traffic you will encounter are bicyclists. When our kids were younger we would take the tram to a stop, walk around for a bit, pick up the tram again, and continue our journey. Using this strategy you can keep the hiking simple and still visit some fun sites like Anderson Dam or the many picnic benches along the way!
Bear Canyon Tram Road
Like the road above, this is reserved for the Bear Canyon tram. It is much shorter and with far less elevation that the Sabino Canyon Road. There are foot trails that parallel the paved road which are great if you have a kid in a stroller and one that needs some adventure! If you can, hike from stop number 2 to Sabino Dam and let the kids go for a quick swim!
The Sabino Walkway is an easy hike that parallels the Sabino shuttle road. It is a about 0.5 miles each way. We would have one parent push the younger kid in the stroller up the road and the other parent and toddler could hike on the unpaved path. The hike takes you to the Cactus Picnic Area which has picnic tables, a shelter, bathrooms, and drinking water. It is perfect for a hike with a picnic with amazing views!
Hiking in Sabino Canyon with Little/Medium-sized Kiddos
Whether your kid falls into this category or not is all dependent on your family’s hiking style. Our kids lived in baby carriers until about four years old. We were used to the weight and they were used to sitting and looking around. If you fall into this category, some of the advanced trails in the next section could be options. If your kids are new to hiking or just aren’t ready a long or steep trek, then these Sabino Canyon trails will be perfect.
This 0.5 mile out and back lollipop loop takes almost no time at all. It starts at the visitor center where you hop on the Bear Canyon Trail for 0.1 miles before turning left onto the Bajada Loop. This is a fun hike that takes you through a traditional Sonoran landscape full of cactus, including a rare crested saguaro. In the spring you will find a ton of flowers in bloom.
Sabino Dam Trail
This is another great kid-friendly hike that starts at the Visitor Center. Like with The Bajada Loop, you will take the Bear Canyon Trail for about 0.3 miles. The trail will cross the Bear Canyon Tram road, after which just stay on the road, veering left at the fork. When you get to the roundabout where the tram turns around, cross the bridge over the river and continue up the Sabino Dam Trail for about 0.2 miles. It sounds more confusing than it is. There is ample signage to steer you in the right direction.
The best part of this hike is that the kids can get their feet (or whole bodies) wet at Sabino Dam. There is a lot to explore and it is quite safe as long as you aren’t there after a large monsoon or other high-water event.
If you liked the Sabino Dam trail but wanted a little more adventure, you can continue past the dam on Creek Trail. This easy trail follows the creek for 0.5 miles before coming to the junction with the Phoneline Link trail. You can either hike back to where you came from OR take a left on the Phoneline Link trail which will bring you to the road and the Sabino Canyon Crawler (just make sure you have tickets!). This is a great option for kids that are ready for more but not quite ready for the big hikes below.
Sabino Creek Trail
This trail is short at 0.2 miles but does require that you take the shuttle up to stop #9. Once off the tram you take the trail to the left (west), which will zig zag down the canyon before it comes to the Sabino Creek. If your kids are like ours, they love water. We try to plan each of our hikes to river, lake, or stream to make sure they have a fun goal to focus on.
Hiking in Sabino Canyon with Older Kids and Adults
There are a ton of other hiking trails in Sabino Canyon that are good for older kids and adults. Many of these trails connect up with the greater Mount Lemmon/Pusch Ridge Wilderness area hikes. Given the overwhelming number of options, we’ll focus our attention here on the most accessible and rewarding day hikes starting in Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. All of the hikes we list can be found on the brochure here.
Phoneline Trail is a classic Sabino Canyon hike that follows the canyon on the east side. This trail leads from the Visitor Center to the last stop on the tram. Our preferred options is to take the tram to stop #9 and then to hike back down to the visitor center. The hike is 4 miles each way, hence our preference to hitch a ride for half. The trail can be rock and steep at times, but is perfectly doable for kids 10 and up, or even younger if they are experience hikers. We would even take our 6 year old on this hike!
If you are looking for a longer hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, Phoneline Trail connects to Sabino Canyon Trail which takes deep into the wilderness (see Hutchs Pool below)
This hike takes you into Bear Canyon which parallels Sabino Canyon but to the east. The hike is 4.3 miles one way and begins at the Visitor Center. Navigation is easy. Just follow the Bear Canyon Trail from the Visitor Center until you get to the falls! Seven falls is a beautiful set of small waterfalls that empty in to a large pool. Don’t forget your swimsuit for this hike!
This is a fantastic hike that takes you up to a natural pool far from the Cisitors Center. It is about 13 miles round trip (assuming you take the crawler/tram). At the last stop on the bus you start your hike on the Sabino Canyon Trail. Stay left when you get to the intersection with Phoneline Trail. After about 2.5 miles you will come to the intersection with with the West and East Fork Trails. These trails take you out of Sabino Canyon and into the greater wilderness!
Take a left on the West Fork trail and continue for 4.1 miles until you fine a cairn (stacked rocks) marking a spur trail right to Hutch’s Pool. It is easy to find and has a nice sandy beach. We went for a swim in the icy waters before heading down but did not have our kids on this one. While they are great hikers but I think I’d wait another year or two (they’d be 10 and 8).
Why do we love Hiking in Sabino Canyon Hiking with Kids?
Sabino Canyon is all about location. It is so close to Tucson that your family does not have to plan as much. Just hope in the car, drive the 20 minutes or so to the canyon, and have fun. Another benefit is that many of the hikes we’ve listed involve water. And kids love water. Having a stream to play in or a pool to jump in is the most powerful motivator that we’ve found with our little ones!
While there aren’t dedicated paved trails like other areas in Tucson, the two tram roads make this park very accessible for strollers and people in wheelchairs.
And again, there are A TON of hikes in Sabino Canyon. We know how overwhelming it can be to visit a park with young kids and wanted to provide you with a curated list of our favorites! We hope you enjoy!
Let us know if the comments if you took any of these hikes and what you thought of them!
Other Hiking Options in Tucson
Looking for other options for hiking with kids in Tucson? Here are some of our favorites!
- Best Hiking in Madera Canyon with Kids
- Best Hiking in Catalina State Park with Kids
- Best Hiking in Saguaro National Park (West) with Kids
- The Ultimate Guide to Canoa Hills Trails Park with Kids
- Ultimate Guide to Canoa Ranch Conservation Park with Kids
- Ultimate Guide to Desert Meadows Park with Kids
- Ultimate Guide to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum with Kids