At the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains on the northeastern edge of the city, Sabino Canyon is a fabulous place to commune with the desert for a morning or an afternoon. This desert oasis has impressive scenery, hiking trails, and a stream; you can splash in the canyon’s waterfalls and swim in natural pools (water conditions permitting), but it is just as enjoyable simply to gaze at the beauty of crystal-clear water flowing through a rocky canyon guarded by saguaro cacti. There are numerous picnic tables in the canyon, and many miles of hiking trails wind their way into the mountains, making it one of the best places in the city for a day hike. A narrated tram shuttles visitors up and down the lower canyon throughout the day, and between April and November (but not July or August), there are moonlight tram rides three times a month (usually the nights before the full moon). The Bear Canyon tram is used by hikers heading up the 2.5-mile trail to the picturesque Seven Falls, a favorite destination within this recreation area.

Another good way to experience the park is by bicycling up the paved road during the limited hours when bikes are allowed: Sunday through Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday before 9am and after 5pm. This is a strenuous uphill ride for most of the way, but the scenery is beautiful.