Trail's world away from desert heat

Cool, forested Upper Sabino Canyon a contrast to popular low-down spot
2011-09-15T00:00:00Z Trail's world away from desert heatDoug Kreutz Dkreutz@azstarnet.com Arizona Daily Star
September 15, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Think of it as Summer Sabino.

Upper Sabino Canyon, high in the Catalina Mountains, is a cool, forested, wildflowered world away from the popular desert reaches of the canyon northeast of Tucson.

Go to Upper Sabino now, in the days of late summer or early fall, to savor brilliant blooms, verdant woodlands and a trickling stream while the low-down Sabino bakes in the September sun.

INTO THE WOODS

Upper Sabino Canyon cuts a sylvan swath at an elevation of about 8,000 feet northwest of the mountain village of Summerhaven.

It's a place of gigantic Douglas fir trees, groves of maples and dense clumps of bracken ferns.

Late summer finds the green glades dressed out in bright splashes of botanical color.

Wild berries, enormous mushrooms and wildflowers shout out in hues of red, yellow, gold, copper and shades of blue.

BOOTS ON THE GROUND

Actually, you could forgo the boots and get by with a reasonably supportive pair of sneakers for the mile or so of hiking up and down the canyon.

The terrain is mostly gentle, with a gradual increase in elevation as the canyon extends uphill to the base of Mount Lemmon Ski Valley.

Many walkers and mountain bikers follow an old roadbed that's closed to private vehicles. Along the road, you'll pass some large tanks used to store water collected from springs in the canyon.

Another option is to leave the road midway up the canyon and follow a trail - roughly paralleling the road - that winds past golden columbine flowers.

Watch for wildlife along the way - birds, squirrels, deer and maybe even a bear on a slope above the canyon.

For an extended hike, pick up the signed Aspen Draw Trail near the upper end of the canyon.

GET TO THE CANYON

Take Tanque Verde Road to the Catalina Highway and follow the highway past Milepost 24. The U.S. Forest Service charges a $5-per-vehicle fee on the road.

To start at the lower end of the canyon, drive into Summerhaven and turn right on Turkey Run Road. The turnoff is near the Mount Lemmon Community Center. Follow the road until you reach a closed gate. Park there and walk up the road into the canyon.

To begin at the upper end, take the turnoff for Mount Lemmon Ski Valley instead of driving into Summerhaven. Park in the Ski Valley lot, walk about 20 yards down the south side of the road from the lot and watch for a trail leading downhill. Follow it for 0.2 of a mile down the side of the hill and across a small watercourse to the canyon.

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