Yet another trip up Bear Canyon, but this one from its mouth to headwaters

9:12 p.m. on November 3, 2014 (EST)
238 reviewer rep
5,434 forum posts

Thursday afternoon I am heading back to Bear Canyon. This time on a 5 day/4 night backpacking trip from its mouth on the Sonoran Desert to its headwaters some 20 miles upstream.

The lower portion is the most visited from its trailhead to 7 Falls within its first 3 miles. But after 7 Falls the canyon gets much less visitation. The trail follows just above the creek and then a couple miles above & Falls it leaves the canyon and climbs up to what I call Thimble Saddle and then drops over into Sycamore Basin.

But I plan not to follow the trail once it leaves the canyon the saddle. Instead I am going to stay in the creek bed and follow it upstream another 15 miles to a place between Green Mountains and Bear Saddle where according to the map the creek gets its start.

I followed the creek once before in the late 1980s during some of my first winters in Tucson. But I didn't go far above the place the trail leaves the canyon. But from above I have marveled at its upper portions as I looked down from the trail as it ascends to Thimble Saddle and from a few places along the trail to Sycamore Basin.

This link shows the entire canyon running diagonally across the topo map from lower left to upper right:,-110.739943&z=13&t=t4 You can zoom in with the scale on the upper left. And can change to other views under the upper right area where it now says, t4 Topo High.

The creek this time of year runs very well so water will not be a problem. There will be many pools of water tucked into the Granite and Quartz rock along the way. I will have a water filter to get clean water along the way as needed.

I am going light with a tarp as a ground sheet,my tents poles and rainfly for cover (should I need it), my 45 degree sleeping bag, two water bottles w/water filter, my DSLR, stove/fuel and cook pot and of course food. Pasta dinners,oatmeal or dry cereal breakfasts and cheese and crackers for lunches with drink mixes, and some other things like hard candies to suck on during the days. 

There is various wildlife in the Santa Catalina Mountains ranging from Rattle snakes,ringtailed cats,Javelina, mountain lions,quail, road runners,Big Horn desert sheep, etc.  At the trailhead at 2800 feet is the desert of Saguaro,prickly pear,cholla,barrel and ocotillo cacti, as I ascend to the headwaters at 7100 feet there will be sycamores,cottonwoods, different pines and perhaps aspens at the highest area's, I am not sure as I have not been on Mt Lemmon in 25 years.

I will be returning back down Bear Canyon to Sycamore Basin then going NW into Sabino Basin and coming out Sabino Creek canyon back to the pavement and bicycle.

Temps down here in the desert are in the 70s days 40 nights but it supposed to be in the mid 80s by the weekend with lows in the 50s.  Mt Lemmon (9150') weather calls for low 70s days to mid 40s nights and I will be on the southeast side 2000 ' below the summit. Nights maybe a bit cooler with water present.

5:17 p.m. on November 13, 2014 (EST)
Traildog #2
9 reviewer rep
15 forum posts

Hi Gary,

Sounds like a good trip. I have never backpacked in the Tucson area. We BP mostly the Superstitions, Mazatzals by Payson, Highline by Pine and the Gila by Silver City and Glenwood NM. Enjoy the SW very much. Being based in MN the desert SW is a nice change. Tucson for the winter is a good idea, we received 4" of snow Monday and will be in the teens tonight. Winter is beginning early. Enjoy your trip.

Happy trails,


9:28 a.m. on November 14, 2014 (EST)
238 reviewer rep
5,434 forum posts

See my post for this hike in Trip Reports.

July 16, 2020
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