Sabino Canyon visitors are routed into available parking spaces while a portion of the lot is being repaved. 

Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

Visitors to Sabino Canyon are encountering a problem when they arrive at the scenic site northeast of Tucson: a shortage of parking spaces in the official canyon lot.

Some have responded by parking along Sabino Canyon Road in areas clearly marked with “no parking” signs or in other unauthorized areas — and they’ve been hit with whopping $110 parking tickets from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

The cause of the problem: A repaving project in the canyon parking lot has reduced available parking to about 180 spaces — half the usual number — while the project is underway, said Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. The agency manages the canyon recreation area.

“Limited parking is resulting in congestion and delays in finding parking spaces — especially from early morning to midday,” Schewel said. “A lot of folks go to the canyon — for exercise routines, hiking and other activities — so the parking spaces fill up fast.”

She said the available spaces are often taken by 8 a.m. on weekdays.

One option for visitors to consider: “Usually parking spots are more available in the afternoon than in the morning,” Schewel said.

She said it’s anticipated that the repaving work will take three to four weeks to finish — with parking limited to only 180 spaces during that period.

Lots of visitors have parked in unauthorized areas along Sabino Canyon Road outside the canyon parking lot, but the Sheriff’s Department, citing computer problems Friday, wasn’t able to specify the number of tickets issued there.

Sabino Canyon’s parking lot is in a residential area across from two schools, and vehicles illegally parked on the shoulder of the road could affect visibility if children or adults have to walk between cars, said Deputy Courtney Rodriguez, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Department.

“It poses a traffic hazard,” Rodriguez said.

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at or at 573-4192. On Twitter: @DouglasKreutz