Last summer I helped a local group of dads plan a trip to Sabino Canyon here in Tucson. The first goal was to have dads spend more time with their kids without relying on mom; and then to share with them I enjoy so much, the outdoors. We had someone in the community from the Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists step up and help put it all together for us. Kenne set us up with a great tour and fun activities for the kids, hopefully it inspired them to come out more and spend time with their dads in the great outdoors.
So here is my menial attempt to give you some insight on which hikes I believe are the top five for families here in Tucson. The criteria for stacking some amazing trails against each other is far from anything scientific but rather just some reasonable sound judgment (I think) from a Dad. First and foremost is safety; In Tucson that can be huge concern, variable temperatures from 115 in the summer to below freezing in the winter. I generally try to hike up high up the mountains in the summer and down low in the winter to avoid any sever temperature changes. Then there is that fact that something in the desert is always plotting to poke you, maybe a cactus, or shrub, or the rare snake bike. Next would be the ability to vary the distance of the hike, if one of the kids is attempting to re-enact the exorcist we need to have a quick….ish out. Last thing, the views, it’s got to be worth something, not only we big people, but I want my children to see why I love the outdoors so much. So lets get to it!
This is one of the most fascinating places on Mount Lemmon and has tons of historical sites. Convenient enough it is just past mile marker sever on Catalina Highway so it doesn’t take that long to get up there. The camping area is pretty big so you can have a larger gathering there and people can go on short hikes down three trails that join up there. Soldiers Trail is pretty tough but the trail to Molino Basin is better for the kiddos. Best of all, if the kids have tons of energy you can go up the Sycamore Trail to the saddle on the old jeep road. If they are up to something a bit longer (about 4 miles out and back) you can go all the way to the dam, its worth it.
The entire park is a fun area that has a nice 8 mile paved loop with plenty of stops to get out and do short little hike in the desert landscape, jump back into the air-conditioned car and head to the next spot. One downside is the spiderweb of trails to the north of the loop, if your not careful it can be a kind of maze. At the south-east end of the loop there is a nice little picnic area with some big rocks for thuds to climb on. This park also hosts a bunch of different events like the junior ranger program, more information can be found at their website.
This is one of the first trail my wife took me on when I first got to Tucson. Mostly we just scrambled up the little canyon on the north side of the road. There is a little cascade and plenty of trees for the kids to climb on, just be sure to watch for snakes.
These trails can either be a nice out and back or a longer loop depending on what you and the family want to do. There is a small creek going up Marshall Gulch and beautiful young aspen trees coming back down the Aspen trail. This trail is great for spring, summer and fall but unless you want to snowshoe this isn’t the trail for winter time.
This is by far one of the best outdoor ‘centers’ I’ve ever been to. The visitors center is amazing and the park is well maintained. It can get a bit crowded but there is plenty of space for all of the visitors. If you want to ride the tram up Sabino Canyon Road you can do that and hike around in some or you can head up Bear Canyon and check out Seven Falls. The entire park is well labeled and even stroller friendly in some areas.
One of the fun places to explore!
Honorable mentions; General Hitchock and Box Spring while these trails are great they just didn’t stack up to the others in my opinion. Check out the poll below and share what you think is the top family trail in Tucson!