Arizona, United States

Activities to Do

Visitors come primarily to hike, camp, and enjoy scenic drives through the Coronado National Forest. While you can do these things in any of the eight wilderness districts, Sabino Canyon, Mt. Lemmon, and Madera Canyon are the most popular destinations.

Coronado National Forest is also known for its fishing. Either from the shore or small boats on the forest's manufactured lakes, anglers cast their rods for rainbow trout, largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill. Wildlife lovers also gravitate to the lakes where more than 400 species of birds, some found only in the Coronado National Forest, can be spotted. 

Seasonal activities also attract visitors. Off-highway vehicles (OHVs) can explore the 25-mile Red Spring Trail designed primarily for single-track motorbikes when the track isn't too muddy. During the winter, skiers make their way to Ski Valley on Mt. Lemmon.

Take the Tram

Narrated tram tours on paved roads are a popular option that make the canyon’s splendor accessible to all visitors. The Sabino Canyon Crawler winds nearly 4 miles into the canyon, crosses nine stone bridges over Sabino Creek and takes one hour to complete the round trip. A second tram goes just 2 miles round trip and drops hikers off at the Bear Canyon and Seven Falls trailheads. Stops are located within short walking distance to the water and picnic areas, inviting visitors to hop off the tram and make a day of it.

Get Off the Pavement

Hikers who prefer a challenge get off the main roads and trek through rugged terrain. Some 30 miles of trails invite hikers to explore the canyon’s riparian corridors flanked by towering rock faces. The Bear Canyon Trail leads to Seven Falls, one of the most trafficked hikes in the canyon. Blackett’s Ridge is a shorter option with steep switchbacks and an elevation gain of 1,600 feet. Along the trails, hikers admire saguaros surrounded by dense desert vegetation and spot hawks and other desert critters that call the canyon home. Getting off the paved trail increases opportunities to spot roadrunners, coyotes, jackrabbits and javelinas.

Dip in the Pools

Water in the desert is always a welcome sight, especially when summer temperatures heat up. Sabino Canyon has year-round water sources that swell during the rainy seasons and again with winter snow runoff from Mount Lemmon. Many hikes lead to swimming holes in the canyon. Sabino Dam is a popular swimming area for families and many visitors take the tram to the last stop then take a short hike to popular swimming holes Hutch’s Pool and The Crack.

Places to Visit

Chiricahua Mountains

The Chiricahua Mountains and other associated ranges, along with Sulphur Springs Valley on the west and the San Simon Valley on the east, form the eastern half of Cochise County in southeast Arizona. The Pedregosa Mountains are found at the southern end of the Chiricahua Mountains, while the Swisshelm Mountains are located to the southwest. The northwest end of the Chiricahua mountains continue as the Dos Cabezas Mountains beyond Apache Pass and the Fort Bowie National Historic Site. Access to the Chiricahua Mountains and Coronado National Forest is through Willcox from the north, Douglas from the south, and Rodeo from the east.

Sabino Canyon

When locals look at the majestic Santa Catalinas from the valley floor, they often dream about hiking and biking in Sabino Canyon. This is where many locals go for their morning walks, jogs or trail runs. The paved paths that weave throughout Sabino Canyon make it easy to access one of the prettiest places in Southern Arizona. Roads are open to cyclists before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. (no bikes are allowed on Wednesdays and Saturdays and E-bikes are not allowed). On easy walks, tram rides or quad-busting hikes, the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert and its lush plants and varied wildlife are on full display.

Catalina Scenic Highway

Also known as “Mt Lemmon Highway”, this is the only paved road that leads to the upper reaches of the Santa Catalina Range is one of the most scenic highways in the southwest. It provides access to a fascinating land of breathtaking vistas, outlandish rockscapes, cool mountain forests and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts. Because the road starts in the Lower Sonoran vegetative life zone and climbs to the high forests of the Canadian zone, it offers the biological equivalent of driving from the deserts of Mexico to the forests of Canada in a short stretch of 27 miles.

Pinery Canyon Road

This drive offers access to the forested floor of Pinery Canyon and the high slopes of the Chiricahuas. It provides magnificent views to the west of the basin-and-range region of southeastern Arizona. The sky islands of the Dos Cabezas, Swisshelms and Dragoons form a rugged horizon, hemming in the seas of grass of the Sulphur Springs Valley. The rocky ridgeline of fabled Cochise Stronghold bisects the Dragoons and stands out as one of the view’s most prominent features. If you come from the west, chances are you will have visited the Chiricahua National Monument on your way. When you arrive in Pinery Canyon, you’ll find the grasslands and forests more subtle, but with a beauty just as deserving of note.