Tucked within the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona lies Sabino Canyon, one of Tucson’s most popular parks for exploring the spectacular desert landscape and wildlife of Southern Arizona. Ever since my parents moved to Tucson in the mid-90s, it has been like a second home to me and Sabino Canyon has been my playground. Less than a five minute drive from my parents’ home, Sabino Canyon affords an endless supply of hikes and walks within some of Arizona’s finest scenery.
Over the past twenty years, I have done almost every hike within the canyon countless times with my favorite being the hike to Seven Falls and the Phone Line Trail. This time, I wanted to try something new. My dad remembered that there was a special hike beyond Sabino Canyon into the pristine nature leading out of the park. It is known as the hike to Hutch’s Pools.
There are two ways to get to the trailhead. You can either walk the 3.8 miles one way on the paved road into the canyon or you can take the Sabino Canyon shuttle bus. The hike to Hutch’s Pools is an additional 4 miles behind the end of Sabino Canyon thus 8 miles round trip. Therefore, unless you want a 16 mile, eight hour hike, it is best to purchase a roundtrip ticket on the shuttle and ride it to the start of the trailhead and back to the entrance at the end. (Note: As of June 2018, the tram service has been suspended until the Park Service selects a new shuttle service provider).
We took the shuttle to the end and got off at stop nine where we started our hike. It was a beautiful day as common in Arizona (it is sunny on average 300 days a year), and we had a picnic lunch packed and plenty of water for our hike.
It was the perfect day for hiking to Hutch’s Pools as the temperatures were in the low 70s. If it was any hotter, this would not be a good hike since there is very little shade (unlike the Phone Line Trail). A nice gentle spring breeze kissed our skin and cooled us down. Spring flowers were bringing color into the desert landscape and yellow-brown high desert plains. It was serenely beautiful.
We were on a three-generational hike: My father, my eleven-year-old son Max and me. I had grown up hiking with my dad and am blessed to be passing my love of hiking on to my children. Even a broken arm didn’t stop Max from hiking every day while we were in Arizona.
As we hiked behind Sabino Canyon, our trail meandered around two additional canyons until we arrived at a large open high plains desert. The grass was yellow and there were all kinds of different cactus. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen in the desert.
There were also many desert flowers in blooms.
As we neared the creek that would end at Hutch’s Pools, a verdant oasis of green pierced my eyes. It was unbelievable!
By this point, my son was too tired and hungry to keep going. We stopped for lunch beside the creek and I continued on to Hutch’s Pools. Unfortunately I was daydreaming and missed the trail markers that lead down to the pools. I looked down and realized my mistake but it was too late. I had to get back to ensure my son could make it to the bottom of the trail before the last shuttle service.
Here is the one photo from high above looking down at the pools. it wasn’t my best shot but at least I got one.
I ate my sandwich and we headed back. For some reason, the hike back always seems to be faster than the high there. In the distance, we saw the paved road to our shuttle stop. If we hurried we would catch the next shuttle out.
Tired and thirsty, we missed the shuttle and walked to stop 8 that has ice cold water. There we waited for the shuttle that would take our tired legs the 3.8 miles back to the parking lot. It was a beautiful hike and I can hardly wait to take my husband there next time we are in Tucson. This time, however, I’ll remember to turn off the trail and visit the pools.
If you go:
The shuttle service runs every 30 minutes. Be sure to purchase a roundtrip ticket so you can take the shuttle to the start of the trailhead and back to the park entrance. Otherwise plan on adding an additional 8 miles to your hike! Bring lots of water as there is no water beyond tram stop 8. Also be sure to wear lots of sunscreen because there is little shelter from the hot Arizona sun. The hike is 8 miles and takes about 4 hours depending on speed.
Important update: As of June 2018, the shuttle service has been suspended until a new service provider is selected. Therefore, the only option is to do the full 15.9 mile hike. It is recommended to hike along the paved road to the end of the canyon, do the Hutch’s Pool loop and follow the Phoneline Trail Back for a different perspective.