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Tucson's Majestic Canyons

The steep, dramatic canyons of the Santa Catalina Mountains command affection, awe, and even fear. Viewed from a distance, they lend modeling to the mountains, giving them an ever- changing aspect in the desert sun.  To the family basking in the warmth alongside the tree- lined creek in Sabino Canyon, the atmosphere is friendly and quiet. To the hiker clinging to a trail along a canyon wall, a feeling of awe can be on the borderline with fear, imposed by the cliffs looming above and the void below.

They canyons highlighted were selected to cover a variety of canyon experiences and photographic opportunities.  This coverage only scratches the surface of what is available in Southern Arizona. I urge you to seek out alternatives.  For example, Sabino Canyon is known by every Tucsonan but few have ever heard of, much less visited, Breakfast Canyon just to the west. True, it doesn?t have the big creek, but it does have seasonal water and its own unique beauty. Most importantly, it is uncrowded, in sharp contrast to Sabino on most days.

The canyons listed in this section are all big ones in the Santa Catalina Mountains.  There are plenty more of every size and character in the Rincon, Santa Rita, Tucson and Tortolita mountains. The Summit Hut, 5045 E. Speedway, is a good place to research their excellent collection of guides and maps to these areas. The employees are knowledgeable and will take time to help with your questions. Plus, they have the best collection of outdoor gear in town.

Busy or not, Sabino Canyon must head the list of any canyon experience in the Tucson area. It has dramatic cliffs, huge green trees, a cool creek and a road with tram right up the middle. Hiking the road is also nice; you can enjoy the sights and sounds of early morning or late evening without having to watch your footing every second. You will especially like it if you treat yourself to moonlight walk up the canyon. Also, it?s a non-threatening place to take anyone who otherwise might be nervous about treading a rocky desert trail.

Sabino Canyon does offer more natural ways to explore it. I'd urge anyone to try the Phone Line Trail, which contours along the east side of the canyon. After a moderate uphill hike the trail levels out and allows wonderful views of the canyon and a more intimate experience with the flora and fauna of the desert.

Pima Canyon is more open than Sabino and seems more livable. Shady groves of huge old cottonwood trees along the creek make good rest spots.

The wonderful sculpted granite pools of Romero Canyon in Catalina State Park draw many regular visitors. It is a pleasant hike to the pools, but not as easy as getting around in Sabino Canyon.


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