Hiking Sabino Canyon: How long is the trail?


Sabino Canyon has some of the most popular hiking trails in all of Arizona, and it’s easy to see why. Whether you want to explore the hikes along the mountain tops or the trails closer to the canyon floor, Sabino Canyon State Park offers something for every kind of hiker — and with several different hike options, hikers who come back again and again can take on new trails each time they visit. If you’re planning your first trip to Sabino Canyon State Park, here’s everything you need to know about Sabino Canyon trails.

Why Sabino Canyon

Hiking Sabino Canyon has a well-deserved reputation as one of Tucson’s most enjoyable and interesting outings. Located off Tanque Verde Road near Oracle, Arizona, these Sabino Canyon trails are perfect for a day trip or an afternoon hike with friends. Most people only see signs for either Kinney or Starr Pass along Tanque Verde Road; however, there are other canyon trails to explore when hiking in Sabino. With endless natural beauty and seasonal color throughout parts of every season (thanks to desert flowers), any hike through these canyons is guaranteed to be spectacularly beautiful year round.

What you need to know before going

There are a few things to know before hiking Sabino Canyon. For one, it’s important to get an early start. The canyon sits in Tucson, Arizona, where summer temperatures can top 100 degrees Fahrenheit. What’s more, you want to try and avoid hiking during peak hours as traffic on The Loop can be a nightmare. It’s best to hike in morning or late afternoon when there are fewer visitors in the park.

The Trailhead

The park has two main parking areas, with a lot just off Sabino Canyon Road and another along FR 406. The first major landmark is Saguaro Lake Loop; that’s 1.6 miles (2.5 km) from Sabino Canyon Road and 3.2 miles (5 km) from FR 406. You can hike around Saguaro Lake for views of Tucson or keep hiking toward other landmarks like Smith Rock or Lookout Mountain; those are 2.4 miles (3.9 km) from Sabino Canyon Road and 5 miles (8 km) from FR 406, respectively. The shortest hiking distance you can do in one day will be about five to six miles (8 to 10km), but there are plenty of opportunities for longer hikes as well.

The Hike

One of my favorite hikes in Tucson is to Sabino Canyon. There are a few ways to hike there, but most take you to its mouth. The shortest way into Sabino Canyon is by driving through Kinney Road, but it’s also closed after a certain hour (depending on day and year). The longer route takes you on a scenic drive down Gates Pass where you can explore hundreds of well-marked trails. There are over 100 miles of trails just at Gates Pass if that gives you an idea of how much ground there actually is. I prefer starting from Parking Lot E2 and then hiking Trail #99 up to the mouth of Sabino Canyon since it’s shorter than parking at its mouth and hiking in.

Shady spots along the way

The first leg of your hike will take you to Lower Wildcat Point, a perfect spot for some people-watching and picturesque views. Many choose to stop here and head back—unless you are a hardcore hiker, three miles might be enough. But if you’re up for more, continue onto Upper Wildcat Point at 5.5 miles. The last leg of your journey ends at seven miles into Bear Canyon trailhead and a parking lot at 10.3 miles, where there’s no shade so keep that in mind while hiking Sabino Canyon during summer months.

Posted on: June 17, 2022

By Daniel Johnson