In the cooler months, Hutch’s Pool makes a great backpacking destination in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness of the Santa Catalina Mountains near Tucson. Dig your toes into the soft sand and relax to the soothing sound of the waterfall filling the pool and the creek trickling out of it. If it’s fall, you’ll also enjoy rustling leaves and warm hues of rust and gold throughout the canyon. Combine this with a visit to Seven Falls for a spectacular journey to remember.
Sabino Creek and Bear Creek can dry up in drought conditions, so be sure to check the latest conditions if you have any doubts.
There are several ways to get to Hutch’s Pool, but the most popular is to come up Sabino Canyon. There is a tram available that can take you up the first several miles of the canyon, or you can hike high above the canyon on the Phoneline Trail like we did.
Tram If you do take the tram, you will have to buy a round trip ticket to start at the visitor center, though you can buy a one way ticket if you only want a ride back. You won’t need it, though, because hopefully you’re planning to make the loop to Bear Canyon to visit Seven Falls on the return trip. Get tickets and information at Sabino Canyon Crawler.
From the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area parking lot, you’ll want to find the start of the Bear Canyon Trail, which parallels the tram road for a while and then crosses over it before connecting with the Phoneline Trail.
The Phoneline Trail snakes high along the side of the canyon, giving you commanding views of the tree-filled creek below and panoramic vistas of the mountains ahead.
(Wait, did I say snakes? Sorry about that, we actually didn’t see any at all this trip.)
Being high up, you won’t be able to access Sabino Creek from the Phoneline Trail without taking a detour on Sabino Historic Trail or Sabino Canyon Trail. More than likely, you’ll just want to continue on for a couple more miles to where the trail naturally meets the creek. If you’re craving more of the creek, you can always walk the tram road instead of Phoneline Trail, but why? You’ll be there soon enough.
Sabino Canyon Trail
At the end of the Phoneline Trail, you’ll intersect with Sabino Canyon Trail. Going left takes you down to the last tram stop, but you’ll take a right to continue toward Hutch’s Pool.
As the tram road fades into the distance behind you, the crowds thin out considerably. Ahhh… wilderness.
Another two miles along Sabino Canyon Trail brings you to the creek, where you’ll get your first chance to spread out in the copious shade, watch and listen as the water spills over the rocks, dip your feet in, and look up at the leaves swaying in the breeze.
West Fork Trail
On the other side of the creek is the intersection with West Fork Trail. Don’t be sad to have to press on. You’ll continue to enjoy the sights and sounds as you follow West Fork Trail alongside Sabino Creek.
Eventually, you’ll find yourself crossing the creek again. As the ranger warned us before we started, you’re not quite there yet, but you’re close! I know, I know, you’re going to explore a moment anyway. I don’t blame you.
Continue along the trail until you find a sad-looking cairn and fork right toward the creek again. Follow the trail up the left bank for a short distance until Hutch’s Pool opens into view. You’ll know it when you see it.
Take those shoes off! This is like primo waterfront property in Arizona.
This sand, though. It’s soft by day and glitters like starlight under your headlamp at night due to the small chips of mica in it. Pure magic.
Campsites I marked three campsites I noticed on the map below, but there may be others.
Take the time the next morning to enjoy the trees and their reflections in the soft early light.
From here, you can return the way you came, or you can make it a loop by taking East Fork Trail over to Bear Canyon.
East Fork Trail
Return down West Fork Trail to the intersection with Sabino Canyon Trail, and this time take the East Fork Trail. If you’ve been watching the elevation profile of this hike, you may find yourself dreading “the climb.” Not to worry, there are plenty of switchbacks to keep it moderate, and you’re most likely doing it in the morning when it’s cooler. Plus, there’s some shade along the way.
Bear Canyon Trail
Take the trail fork to Bear Canyon Trail, and before long, you’ll be gazing into Bear Canyon from above.
You’re probably missing the creek by now, but rest assured all the switchbacks you’re going down are for a good purpose. Goodbye Sabino Creek, hello Bear Creek!
A note about water You probably found the water at Hutch’s Pool to be incredibly delicious, and perhaps by now your water bottle is running low and you’re looking forward to another refill. Well, I’m here to dash your hopes. The water in Bear Creek tasted much more like minerals, so I mourned for a moment and then gave in and added flavoring.
After crossing Bear Creek, you’ll continue down the canyon and enjoy pretty views of the creek to your right. Keep an eye out for Seven Falls, an obvious series of waterfalls down a smooth and steep drainage. Take a right at the next fork to get to them.
Undoubtedly, you’ll be sharing this beautiful place with some others.
If you’re the adventurous type, climb up on the left side to visit the upper falls.
To get back to the visitor center, all you do is follow the Bear Canyon Trail the rest of the way. You can take the tram road once you reach it if you’d rather, but I hope you wouldn’t rather.
Keep your paths wild.
Map & Directions
From the I-10 in Tucson, head east on Orange Grove Road. Turn right onto Skyline Drive, which soon turns into Sunrise Drive. Turn left onto Sabino Canyon road and then right into the recreation area parking lot.
Fees/Passes You can buy a daily or weekly pass when you arrive or use your America the Beautiful pass.
Trailhead Facilities Flushing toilets, water, visitor center, and “refreshments” available
Preview this Hike
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