Trekking the Wild West Side of Tucson: Seven Falls Trail

William Wong

One Saturday Morning…

The sun is barely peeking over the crest of the valley and a cool but calming breeze travels down your spine. As we get closer to the falls, the rushing water, splashing against the rocks, gets ever so louder. Freshwater begins to smother the air, and the beauty of the falls’ majestic appearance leaves us in awe. It towers above us, like a set of stairs; multi-leveled ponds, connected and feeding downwards with a series of seven falls.

We have always loved to hike, experiences like these are what fuel our desires and interests to do so. We were in awe, as we had never thought Tucson, Arizona could house such a majestic work of nature. It was a lengthy 8-mile hike, however, we would both say that it was extremely worthwhile. The peak of the hike would have to be arriving at the falls, seeing a multitude of people taking pictures, or just casually sleeping in a chair. It showed us how popular this place is, and how much people enjoy it.

A Windy Canyon

Bear Canyon encapsulates the seven falls hike, it is a long valley on the eastern portion of Mount Lemmon. From a distance, before entering, the valley seems small, however, once we pass the first stream crossing, it begins to draw on us. The rock formations tower around us, and the different levels of sedimentary in the rock make them an amazing spectacle to see. Each stream crossing pops out on us, a lengthy opening with a wide but shallow stream, we don’t see much of where the stream is coming from, so each crossing is a mystery.

We feel what draws us the most, every time we look back from a stream crossing, we can see from the elevation of what we have just hiked. A lengthy stream below us, and the mystery of the stream in front of us, draw us. Each stream crossing comforts us with a refreshing scent of flowing water, and the soothing sound of rushing water. Erosion from the stream cuts through the rocks, forming what looks like a canyon.

The canyon was a comfortable 72 degrees, with windchill dropping it to around 64 degrees. The sun’s placement was crucial during this hike, during the early morning the valley was encapsulated in shade and gloom. The sun gradually started to peak, and on our route back, the different levels of lighting made it a whole new experience. The shade that once covered the canyon lifted, the greenery around us brightened, and all sorts of colors appeared before us.

Stream Crossing Galore

We feel that crossing each stream promotes the overall anticipation of the falls. After seeing the first signs of water, we were extremely happy, as that had to mean there was water flowing. The feeling of crossing each stream, the gentle sound and smell of water gradually make its way down the stream. As we got closer to the falls, the water became more relevant, we started to observe the stream get wider. The ever-growing flows of clashing water built on us, making the falls an even grander experience.

The trail elevates itself above the stream, only declining when moving to the opposite side of the valley and crossing the stream. There are points where the trail seems to lead you to a different world. It twists and turns, pathing itself through vegetation that is dense and towers above us, almost making it seem we are in a jungle. It winds through a forest of various different types of cacti, really emphasizing the western desert flora, and at a point, we cross through an area that seems like a small prairie, grass that sits waist height, and we can physically see the patches of grass that have had animals lay on them.

There’s Not Just One Trail!

The path that leads to the trailhead is one of two, it starts as an open dirt trail, where you can clearly see how popular Sabino Canyon is. It is a straight path, dipping at points, lined with boulders and a variety of cacti, trees, and plants. It is dark out, but the dirt path didn’t seem dull at all, the greenery beside us emphasized this in dark colors. The path gradually rises and dips, we don’t seem to notice at first until we look back. The path connected to a road, the sun being barely in the sky, and the light seemed to flutter on the dark black asphalt.

The road twists and turns for a bit, and we walk for a bit, casually talking about our hiking experiences until we meet at a bridge. A stream flows under it to a pond on the other side, there are many different people here, a couple, a family with kids, and a park ranger. Some are sitting on the benches or taking pictures, we don’t stop here, but keep walking as our destination waits for us. The road turns a corner and intersects with bathrooms and a dirt road, the dirt road which leads to the trailhead. We stop here for the last time to go to the restroom and have a quick break before we hit the trailhead.

Finally, Some Visitor Amenities

Sabino Canyon’s visitor center lies at the start of all this, it is encompassed by a ton of information and a gift center. Poster boards that hold different things, like the level of fire danger, any dangerous animal sightings, and maps of the area. We encountered a park ranger here, who happily pointed us in the right direction and made sure we were prepared. We overlooked the map for the trail, taking pictures of it. As well as taking pictures of emergency hotlines, and the scenery.


William Wong is a first-year architecture student from Hawaii. He is passionate about architecture and loves to hike.

JJ Brown, a local Tucsonan, is a first-year student, a part of ROTC, and majoring in Computer Science.