Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Tips for Birding

On the northeastern corner of Tucson in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains is Sabino Canyon, a magnificent and extremely popular corner of the Coronado National Forest. Giant Saguaro cacti punctuate the rugged canyon slopes, overlooking a narrow ribbon of Fremont Cottonwoods and Arizona Sycamores along Sabino Creek. Permanent residents such as Gambel’s Quail, Cactus Wren, Phainopepla, and Black-throated Sparrow are joined in spring and summer by Broad-billed Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Bell’s Vireo, and Scott’s Oriole. Due to high levels of visitation (over 1 million visitors each year), the canyon has visitor access more typical of a national park, including a visitor center and trams. Picnicking is permitted, but camping and private motor vehicles are prohibited (even bicycles are restricted). Foot traffic is allowed during daylight hours, and an early-morning walk is a great way to beat the crowds and see this beautiful desert canyon and its birdlife. Parking at the visitor center now requires a permit, fees from which will support the maintenance and development of visitor amenities in the local national forest district. 

About Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

See all hotspots at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is located on the northeast corner of Sunrise Boulevard and Sabino Canyon Road. Soaring mountains, deep canyons, and the unique plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert found here draw over a million visitors a year to the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. The wonders of the desert foothills and rocky gorges of the Santa Catalina Mountains are marvelous and accessible.

Tram routes provide access to Sabino and Bear Canyons. Along the Sabino, route riders can get off at one of the nine shuttle stops, do a little birding, have a picnic, or spend time along one of the many pools and cascades that grace Sabino Creek. For those who just want a refresher course on its wonders, the nature trail at the visitor center offers plenty of wildlife and trailside interpretive information.

If riding the tram does not stir your sense of adventure, miles of hiking trails wander throughout the area and lead deeper into the Santa Catalina backcountry.

Content from Sabino Canyon Recreation Area Official Website and Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory website