Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls

by Jonathan Tuesday, January 3rd 2012

Sabino Canyon is a spectacularly beautiful place to hike. Halfway up the side of the canyon, the Phone Line trail contours along length, offering great vistas. Other trails include Blacket’s Ridge. A paved road runs along the bottom, along which runs a tram.

Bear Canyon, the next canyon over from Sabino Canyon, while not as spectacular, has its own treats for the avid hiker. With the exception of the trail, the canyon is undeveloped. Like Sabino, water flows year-round. Many hikers enjoy rock hopping back and forth across the stream as they follow the trail. Many find the bear Canyon trail a more natural riparian experience compared to the paved road in Sabino.

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Sycamore trees, boulders, and water in Bear Canyon

The boulders, sycamore trees, and water make bear Canyon worth the trip. The coolest feature, however, is Seven Falls. About two and one half miles in from the mouth of the canyon (four miles from the parking lot), there is a fork in the trail. The fork that goes down to the left, will take you to an area of slickrock with waterfalls both above and below. While none of these seven waterfalls are particularly tall (the largest not more than about 20 feet), but they are all pleasing to the eye and ear. The water flows across the slick rock forming a number of small pools. The place is ideal for sunbathing, sitting quietly and listening to the mantra of the water, or if you are so inclined, climbing up the rock cliffs to the next fall. A note to parents: kids love this place, and opportunities to slide or fall off cliffs abound.

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Falls, pools, and slickrock at Seven Falls

The other fork in the trail, the one to the right, will take you further up the canyon eventually joining the trail that runs from the Prison Camp area to Upper Sabino and Hutch’s Pool. The upper part of the trail provides access to Thimble Peak, the distinctive and aptly named high point on the ridge that separates Sabino and Bear Canyons. Ambitious hikers and trail runners make a loop combining the trails of the two canyons.

To get to Bear Canyon, park at the Sabino Canyon recreation area parking lot (permit or fee required). Take the dirt path from the parking lot to the road, then the road to the bridge over Sabino Creek - the crossing of which will put you face-to-face with the trailhead for both the Phone Line and bear Canyon Trails. Soon after stepping on the trail, there will be a sign pointing to the left for the Phoneline Trail, and right for the Bear Canyon Trail. It will be about another mile to the actual mouth of Bear Canyon.

There is, for those who prefer, a road that parallels the trail for that one mile segment. I generally prefer taking the trail, having already done some pavement walking from the parking lot. In fact, on our last hike there I saw three white tailed deer foraging not far from the trail.

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White Tail deer foraging near Bear Canyon Trail

The relatively low elevation makes Bear Canyon a good choice for winter hiking. Remember, however, that canyons such as Bear Canyon often active as drains for cold air in the higher elevations, making the bottom of the canyon somewhat cooler than the surrounding area. Summertime can be enjoyable to, as long as the water is flowing and peak high temperatures are avoided.

The traffic in both Bear and Sabino Canyons is substantial - they are just north of town. However, Bear Canyon is still an excellent choice for those who like to hike along a stream, and experience waterfalls, while avoiding long drives.

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The mouth of Bear Canyon

Trails

Snowshoe Shenanigans

by Tyler Clark Wednesday, December 21st 2011

After getting a taste of winter about a month ago, I’ve been eagerly anticipating more snowfall on Mt. Lemmon. Unfortunately, the weather through the rest of November was fairly warm and no snow fell up on the mountain. All that changed in the second week of December when a storm system rolled in and dumped a ton of snow.

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On the following Wednesday, clear skies returned. The very next day my girlfriend and I rented some snowshoes from the Summit Hut and headed up to enjoy some fresh powder. Through the store’s rental program, local customers can check out tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, climbing shoes, and snowshoes to outfit their adventures. Considering how infrequently we get snow down here in Tucson, I was quite glad to be able to check out two pairs of snowshoes and test them before making a purchase.

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As we drove up Catalina Highway, snow started to appear even at the low elevations of 4,500 feet. By the time we reached Windy Point Vista, which is roughly halfway up the mountain, there was enough snow lying around for a few people to have snowball fights.

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After parking at a trailhead near Summerhaven, we strapped on our snowshoes and headed up the trail into the fresh powder and 35 degree weather. Noticing that some cross country skiers had already paved the way before us, we decided to follow in their tracks. The snow was very deep, between 3-4 feet, and had a very fine powder consistency that weighed down the trees and made them look beautiful and crystalline.

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After two miles of fighting our way uphill in multiple feet of powder, we reached a high point looking south over Tucson. The view was majestic. As we took a quick break on a nearby log, the warmth of the afternoon melted the snow and ice seated on the trees, causing it to rain down over us. The crackling of the snow and ice falling to the ground almost sounded like rain.

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Heading down following our own track proved almost as difficult as creating that track in the first place. The snow had a frustrating tendency to slide under our feet, making the descent a little tricky. When we finally arrived back at the car, we eagerly jumped into the warm and cozy Subaru to enjoy the scenic ride back down Mt. Lemmon.

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Activities | Trips

Section 17 Saguaro Census

by frank Monday, December 19th 2011

On December 8th, a group of four Summit Hut volunteers joined two community volunteers and two Park Services employees on a Saguaro Census. We met at the Saguaro East visitors center and made our way to the Mica View Picnic Area. Our fearless leader, Irene, gave a brief overview of the history of Saguaros in the park, and of Section 17, a section within the park that was first inventoried back in 1941. Just after the establishment of Saguaro National Monument, there was a tremendous decline in Saguaro population that could not be explained. There were many theories and attempted remedies but none proved successful. Because Section 17 was well established and has been counted previously, it makes for a great study in the current population and how it compared to that of 1941. To learn more about the plot’s history check out Irene’s webpage.

After the history lesson, we made our way to the plot we would be measuring, Plot D5. We were given a quick clinometer lesson and paired up with a Saguaro measuring veteran.

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Summit Hut Assistant Manager, Meaghan, setting up the clinometer.

We split into two groups that would work along the plot side by side. Once we reached the end of the plot, we swapped sides and double checked the other group's inventory to ensure no Saguaro went unmeasured. We then swept back a third time retrieving the flags marking which saguaros had been measured.

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The largest saguaro our team measured.

We worked for about four hours and measured a total of 139 saguaros ranging in size from .4 meters up to 9.4 meters! The largest saguaro we measured also had 24 arms!

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Summit Hut Merchandiser, Carolyn, measuring a saguaro.

The next day, a group of 8th graders from Paulo Freire Freedom School completed the second half of plot D5. The results of our inventory can be seen here.

The general trend is the number of tall saguaros has diminished tremendously but there are far more small saguaros than there were during the 1941 census. Irene explained that much of this is due to the fact that there are far more trees in the park than there were in 1941 which provide shelter and protection to the young saguaros.

This census is an ongoing project and just about anyone can volunteer simply by emailing Irene. We had a great time and truly felt that we were participating in historic research. Who knows, maybe 70 years from now a group of volunteers will be counting the same plot and comparing their results to ours!

Events

Arc'Teryx Atom LT Jacket Review

by Emily Wednesday, December 14th 2011

At 1:30 in the morning in early October I woke up to nearly freezing temperatures in the back of my car parked at Castro Park, in Douglas Arizona. I crawled out of my sleeping bag, desperately pulled on thicker socks and shoes, and stumbled out under the street light to meet a tiny crowd of cyclists getting ready for the longest event of the Cochise Classic, a 234-mile ride down the highways circling Bisbee, skirting along the Santa Ritas, up through the Dragoons, the Dos Cabezas, the Chiricahuas, and back to Bisbee. It's a gorgeous and classic southern Arizona tour. This little group of fifteen brave started from Castro Park and would take 11 hours or many more to ride the double-century route; it would take me roughly 4 hours just to drive the whole thing. So they were starting early, and we were freezing our butts off waiting for the national anthem at two in the morning. Or rather, the cyclists in their spandex were freezing their butts off.

I was cozy in my Arcteryx Atom Light jacket. The coldest you can be is just standing around outside, and I was pleasantly surprised to be pretty toasty at 30 degrees. Being October, the day of course warmed up to balmy tank-top weather, but after we placed our hands over our hearts for the anthem, and watched the fifteen riders pedal away down the street onto the black pre-dawn highways, I went back to my car and slept in my jacket until the start of the next event, after which I stripped it off and drove around the route to take photos of the cyclists for Tail Winds magazine.

Arc'teryx Atom LT Jacket

I pulled the jacket out again to watch the dawn start of the 108-mile El Tour de Tucson ride. With hundreds of riders, the El Tour start is not nearly as intimate as our little crew huddling in the middle of the night in Castro Park, but nonetheless, it's amazing to be in the energy of hundreds of people about to pedal to every corner of our city. Loudspeakers blared music down the neighborhood to rouse the riders awake, and people stamped their feet in the first cold Tucson morning.

El Tour always seems to be accompanied by the first signs of fall, and now into December I'll find myself wearing the Atom Light every day. It's a perfect jacket for the transition of seasons, light enough and packable enough that it's not oppressive and can go everywhere--like in a tiny summit pack for cold belays out in Cochise Stronghold. I've always been afraid to bring my down jacket up on a climb, for fear of snagging the fabric on a rock and vomiting feathers everywhere. As sad as I would be to get a hole in my pretty lavender Atom Light, the synthetic fill will stay together until I can patch it back up. And the fabric itself is somehow nearly as light as the ultrasil shell on my down jacket, but much tougher and more abrasion resistant, so I'm less likely to tear it up in the first place. Stretch fleece panels on the sides give it a slimmer, cozy, and more breathable fit. Now that it's Cochise season, I can't wait to find some chilly rock ledge to hang out on.

Gear

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!

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