Tanque Verde Falls in Tucson, Arizona

Tanque Verde Falls


Mileage: 2.0
Elevation gain: 651 feet
Time to complete: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Stars: ★★★★½
Difficulty: 3/5 (Ratings explained)
Obstacles, including boulders, water, and cactus

If you catch it at the right time, Tanque Verde Falls becomes a monster waterfall, complete with overspray and powerful, churning water rushing down into the canyon below. It’s quite the sight to behold, but you’ll be earning that view with a scramble up the canyon that has plenty of obstacles. Be prepared for giant boulders, water crossings with potential current, and steep cliffsides. Upper Tanque Verde Falls Trail provides an alternative approach.

Trail Description

There are two ways to get to Tanque Verde Falls: upper and lower.

The upper falls hike approaches from the top and takes only about 15-20 minutes to reach the top of the falls, or so we’ve heard.

For the lower falls hike, you’ll descend half a mile into the canyon and then make your way up the canyon along the left side of the watercourse. When the water is high, there are a lot of obstacles, including large boulders, water hazards, steep cliffsides, and the most evil cholla cactuses I’ve ever met. We thought it was worth it to get up close and feel the power of the waterfall, but we’re also a tiny bit crazy. Not suitable for children, dogs, or anyone with limited physical abilities.

Important note The GPX track provided is more of a general guide, not an exact route. Basically, you’ll stay to the left the whole time, finding a route that works for you. It’s possible that in low flow times, it may be easier to go directly up the watercourse much of the way.

Lower Tanque Verde Falls Trail

From the parking area, cross the street to start on the trail, which is marked with a large metal sign. A little farther down are more signs warning of the hazards of the canyon. Take note.

This first part of the trail is well-groomed and easy to follow. Its nicely manicured steps and gentle grade with switchbacks are just a huge fake out. Don’t get too confident and comfortable because things are about to get real.

At the bottom of the canyon, you’ll get your first close up view of the water, and this will help you judge just how hard the falls will be flowing today. If there is gushing water with bubbles building up in the corners, and crossing it looks a bit precarious, buckle up. The journey will be a bit wild, but you’re in for a treat because those falls are going to be spectacular.

The trail to Tanque Verde Falls

We found it was possible to get all the way to the falls without crossing the creek by staying on the left side. At times, there is a faint path to follow, but other times you’re on your own. Whenever a boulder looks impossible to go around without taking a swim, look up to the left side for a bypass route, but don’t expect to get there with completely dry shoes.

Tanque Verde Falls

It’s really not that far of a hike, but it does take a while due to the difficulty of the route. After a few turns of the canyon, you’ll get your first glimpse of the upper and lower falls in the distance. Pretty sure you’ll be saying I was right about it being worth it at that point.

Upper and lower Tanque Verde Falls
Upper and lower Tanque Verde Falls

At this point, you’ll realize that the only way to get close to the falls is to go high on the cliff and make your way across. This part is the sketchiest of the whole hike, so if you are pretty much tapped out at this point, maybe you’ll want to be like Heather and enjoy the falls from a distance.

But if you’re a Stacey or a Hillary, then you’ll find your way along the steep, loose cliff, through the ocotillo and evil chollas, to get up close and personal with the falls. Somewhere along the way, there’s a chance you’ll be saying we are completely insane and asking yourself why you even read our blog.

Upper Tanque Verde Falls

Hopefully when you see the falls, all will be forgiven. It’s awesome! You might be wishing you brought a rain jacket because when those falls are roaring, everywhere around them is the splash zone!

Oh yeah, you do have to go back through all that to get back. Sorry ’bout that.

Map & Directions

Location Tucson, Arizona

Tanque Verde Falls Lower Trailhead

Tanque Verde Falls Upper Trailhead

The road to the trailhead is dirt, but it’s generally passable by a passenger car.

Fees/Passes none

Trailhead Facilities none

Download KML or GPX

Preview this Hike

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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!

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