Three Days between December 21 - 31, 2019

This Sabino Loop Backpack takes us only a few miles from Tucson, but everything seems a world away once you're up there. Please join me for this tough little two-night backpack to a spectacular mountain region in Tucson's backyard.

The Plan

We'll head up Esperero Canyon mid-morning of whatever day we start. There will be plenty of time to get to camp, so we needn't rush. Waiting for us near the little campsite is lovely Bridal Veil Falls, which will likely be flowing. Or not. We'll try to find out before we go. ( 6.2 mi / +2,999' / -425' )

Bridal Veil Falls / Downstream from Hutch's Pool The next day we'll have breakfast and break camp, then head up the mountain. We will turn right onto the Cathedral Rock Trail about a mile above the falls, hike past Cathedral Peak, and continue down to the West Fork Sabino Trail as we head for our second night on the trail at lovely Hutch's Pool. ( 7.0 mi / +1,701' / -3,225' )

After spending one more night in camp, we'll have a leisurely breakfast then pack up and head back to Tucson. We'll have three or four miles of hiking before we begin running into people. We'll take a break at Lunch Rock, where there are great views up and down the canyon. ( 8.4 mi / +800' / -1,850' )

The Prep

No permits are needed for this trip, so there are no charges or fees to pay. You will have to have a permit to park at Sabino Canyon, however.

You'll need food for two breakfasts, three lunches, and two dinners.

The Elements      Spot Forecasts: Bridal Veil Falls / Hutch's Pool

There will likely be plenty of water at Bridal Veil Falls. If the Falls aren't flowing, there will be water in the small pools above the falls. We'll check what we can before we go, of course. There's always plenty of water at Hutch's Pool. No worries on that point.

The weather in the Catalinas in late December can be very nice. Daytime highs will most likely be in the 50s with lows in the 30s. One thing about our two campsites is that they get very little sun at this time of year. Perhaps as little as an hour of direct sunlight at Bridal Veil Falls, and maybe double that at Hutch's Pools. That can make things feel colder. Just so you know.

Our first campground at Bridal Veil Falls is at about 5,500 feet, while Hutch's Pool is lower at about 3,900 feet. It'll definitely be a bit cooler up there than it is in Tucson. Perhaps by as much as 10 degrees or more. You may be able to use a lightweight, cool weather sleeping bag, but will more likely need a colder weather sleeping bag. Click the Spot Forecast links above to see what we're likely to have to deal with. Keep in mind, too, that the temperatures at Bridal Veil Falls will be cooler than at Hutch's Pool. Layers are called for.

The Hike

Mentally adjust the days to fit the actual days we'll be on the trail.

day miles elev gain destination
Thursday 0.0 / 0.0 0 ft / 0 ft Sabino Canyon Visitor Center
Thursday 0.7 / 0.8 50 ft / 100 ft Jct with Esperero Canyon Trail
Thursday 2.9 / 3.7 1750 ft / 1850 ft Cardiac Gap
Thursday 2.6 / 6.2 1149 ft / 2999 ft Bridal Veil Falls; Campsite
Friday 0.8 / 7.0 851 ft / 3850 ft Cathedral Trail Jct
Friday 1.1 / 8.1 850 ft / 4700 ft Cathedral Peak Route Jct
Friday 1.8 / 9.9 -1650 ft / 4700 ft West Fork Sabino Trail Jct
Friday 3.3 / 13.2 -1575 ft / 4700 ft Hutch's Pool; Campsite
Saturday 1.4 / 14.6 150 ft / 4850 ft East Fork/West Fork Jct
Saturday 2.6 / 17.2 450 ft / 5300 ft Lunch Rock
Saturday 3.0 / 20.2 150 ft / 5450 ft Blackett's Ridge Trail Jct
Saturday 1.4 / 21.6 50 ft / 5500 ft Sabino Canyon Visitor Center

The End

After flying down the West Fork, Sabino Canyon, and Phoneline trails from Hutch's Pool, we'll certainly be tired. Go home.