Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

#4 in Best Things To Do in Tucson
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area picture1 of 3
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area2 of 3
Cay-Uwe/Getty Images

Key Info

5700 North Sabino Canyon Rd.

Details

Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
4.4scorecard
  • 4.5Value
  • 4.0Facilities
  • 4.5Atmosphere

Located along the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains on Tucson's northeast edge, Sabino Canyon's numerous hiking trails and swimming spots make this recreation area popular with locals and tourists alike. Visitors can picnic among the saguaro cacti and cool down in Sabino Creek. And if you're looking to get a feel for the area without breaking too much of a sweat, take a ride on the Sabino Canyon Tram. The 45-minute ride is a nearly 4-mile narrated tour into the mountain foothills. Trams make nine stops, allowing travelers to hop on and off if they'd like to tackle any of the hiking trails in the canyon.

Recent visitors said a stop here is a must if you want to take in some beautiful desert scenery while in Tucson (and not just from the seat of your car). Reviewers recommended taking the tram to the top and getting off to hike back down to the visitor center. Travelers also suggested planning your visit for the spring (when the canyon's flowers are in full bloom) or during monsoon season (mid-June to the end of September), when waterfalls form in certain areas of the canyon (especially around Hutch's Pools).

Sabino Canyon, which is located about 14 miles northeast of downtown Tucson, is open all day, every day, though the visitor center is only open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The tram runs every day with hours varying by season. General admission to the park is $5 per vehicle while tram rides cost $10 for adults and $5 for children between the ages of 3 and 12. In addition to restrooms, you'll also find water fountains, educational exhibits, maps and handouts at the visitor center. For more information, visit the Sabino Canyon website and the tram tours' website.

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Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum1 of 13
Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway2 of 13
Type
Time to Spend
#1 Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Although it's called a museum, this facility – about 15 miles west of downtown Tucson – is more of a zoo. In fact, 85 percent of what you'll experience is outdoors (so dress accordingly). The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's 98 acres host 230 animal species  including prairie dogs, coyotes and a mountain lion  and 1,200 local plant species (totaling 56,000 individual plants). Walking through the museum's trails, visitors get acquainted with desert life. And if you feel hungry after your leisurely hike, you can enjoy a meal at one of the museum's four eateries, all of which have great views of the surrounding desert.

Recent visitors enjoyed their time at the museum and highly recommended future travelers set aside a few hours to explore the attraction's grounds and educational exhibits. Just make sure you come prepared: wear appropriate walking shoes, sun protection and sunscreen (though, if you forget your sunscreen, there are dispensers in the on-site bathrooms). Reviewers also advised stopping by in the morning or near closing as that's when the animals are most active. Aside from the flora and fauna, visitors also praised the knowledgeable docents.

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Jerry Rosen/Courtesy Visit Tucson
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