Tweet LOCATION: Southern Arizona Sabino Canyon is an amazing park, and it’s one of the reasons I started Accessing Arizona. It is a rather unknown yet remarkably beautiful desert canyon featuring a rare little creek running through it. The main walking trail is actually a paved road that meanders through shady trees, water pools, rock […]" />

An eMagazine about wheelchair-accessible events, sports & locations in Arizona

Sabino Canyon

Sabino Canyon State Park offers great wheelchair access.

Sabino Canyon Park offers great wheelchair access.

LOCATION: Southern Arizona

Sabino Canyon is an amazing park, and it’s one of the reasons I started Accessing Arizona. It is a rather unknown yet remarkably beautiful desert canyon featuring a rare little creek running through it. The main walking trail is actually a paved road that meanders through shady trees, water pools, rock outcroppings and desert canyons. The combination makes for a mighty tranquil trail. The desert mountain scenery is spectacular, but the courteous service the Park’s people provide and the well-planned accessibility make Sabino Canyon a very worth wild place to visit.

The parking lot is at the bottom of the canyon. You have two choices at this point. You can walk or push your way to the top which is a 3-mile trek, or you can jump on their accessible tram for about $6. The route has 8 stops before you reach the top. Your ticket allows you to get on and off as you please.

We took the tram to the 4th stop. Currently you can not ride it higher due to a flood last year. One of their trams has a slick hydraulic lift that loads you comfortable into the back. You have to sit by yourself in the back, but it’s easy to chat with friends in the bench seat ahead of you. Even if all you do is ride up to the top and come back, it’s worth the price.

We unloaded and then casually strolled (and rolled) back to Stop 1. It is a little steep in places and my gloves were smoking from braking, but it is not a constant slope and the path is basically a 2-lane road, so it is easy to execute a controlled descent.

Our walk was about 1 ½ miles. We went across some really fun forges. A forge allows the water to run over the road, so I was crossing a creek for the first time in quite a while. My legged compadres were walking though the pools and climbing on the boulders each time we crisscrosssed the creek. There is a few inclines that I had some assistance pushing up so I would not suggest coming alone unless you’re an in-shape para.

There is plenty to photograph. The plant life and rock clusters are all along the canyon walls which allow chair users to get a unique perspective. We reloaded the tram at Stop 1 and headed back to the main station. Because the upper canyon is closed, the tram detoured and took us on the 2-mile tour of Bear Canyon Trail. This route is equally beautiful.

Sabino Canyon is unique. I’m yet to find an accessible trail in the desert that offers this much. If the weather is nice, plan on spending a half day here.

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7 Responses »

  1. Taking a cross country trip in Sept. with our daughter who uses a power chair and looking for all the accessible travel info we can find. I came across your acticles and have added your points of interest to our ititerary. We are going from CT to CA and back in 30 days. Southern route west and route 70 back east. Thanks for some interesting trip sugestions. Anne

  2. Anne, Sounds like a fun trip. I hope you’ll take some photos and contribute your comments for your travels in Arizona,

  3. I enjoy your website as it has provided me and my family different areas to explore when we visit from Chicago. My son Jeff, is in a wheel chair and it is good to find accessible places to enjoy the great outdoors. We try to get down to the Phoenix area to visit family members and taking day trips with our son is always a highlight. Based upon your information on Sabino Canyon we made a trip down from Phoenix. Since it was right before Christmas, we called to make sure the park was open. After listening to a recored message, we found that it would be open. Unfortunately we did not douple check to see if the wheel chair tram was availalble. To our disappointment when we got to the park we found it was “in the shop”. Message is to make sure you confirm the wheel chair tram is running.

    Good news is that about a little over an hour cross town you recommended the Sonoran Desert Museum. Great paths to walk around, otters, snakes, birds including “THE” Arizona Cardinal and great views. Stopping at some of the look out areas on the way also provided some breath taking views.

    We stayed at the Arizona Inn in Tucson. The grounds there not only stunning but very accessible. The history and accomodations of the Inn are hard to beat. Great place to unwind.

    Thanks for the website and we look forward for updates to check out on our return visits.

    Don McNair – Deerfield Il

  4. Don,
    Too bad about the tram. Did you set out on foot? I’ve ‘walked’ the lower section and really enjoy the creeks and forges. As for the Desert Museum, it’s definately a rare and unique trip. Sadly Arizona is scheduled to close a number of smaller state parks for budget reasons, so calling ahead becomes even more essential. I have a few more places in the southern area I need to write about. It’s our sports season and can seem to get them all out.

  5. Everything you say about our wonderful Sabino Canyon is true except it is not a state park. Sabino Canyon, also know as the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, is part of the Santa Catalina Ranger District of the Coronado National Forest which is under the United States Forest Service and Department of Agriculture. The visitor center and tram have published hours of operation, but the canyon itself with its paved roads and trails, is open 24/7 365 days a year. Phil Bentley, volunteer naturalist, Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists (SCVN).

  6. Thanks for the proper details, Phil.

  7. My husband, who is disabled, (has a hard time walking because he shattered both heels in a fall years ago), and uses a lightweight seated scooter designed specifically for him, was refused entrance to anywhere in Sabino Canyon on Saturday 12/11/10. We were told by Skip, a rude security guard/volunteer in the parking lot, that anything with wheels was not allowed in Sabino Canyon, including wheelchairs. He also kept insisting that my husband’s scooter was a bicycle. It has no pedals and is smaller and lighter than a traditional wheelchair. It also makes my husband feel less “disabled.” We explained my husband’s situation to Skip and to the Visitor Center staff, but they insisted we leave. We bought a year’s pass last month, and there is nothing in the fine print about wheelchairs or manual mobility devices not being allowed anywhere in Sabino Canyon. We have read up on our rights through the ADA, and will be pursuing this issue through the Justice Department and legal system, because this type of mindless discrimination seems extremely unfair. The trail we wanted to use is relatively easy and flat. We have used that trail with no problem. My husband has a slow pace, and we were passed by runners and other hikers on the day we were there. We have navigated/locomoted all through New Mexico state monuments and the Albuquerque foothills trails with no problem.

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Accessing Arizona is primarily designed for people who are looking for wheelchair accessible events, locations and activities. If you have paralysis (paraplegic or quadriplegic), Muscular Dystrophy, Spinal Bifida, or if you are an amputee, Accessing Arizona has information about an active lifestyle.
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