Recreation

Recreation activities on the Coronado National Forest are nearly as diverse as the people who come to visit. The most popular ones are hiking, camping, birding, horseback riding, picnicking, sightseeing, and visiting historic areas.

Fishing and boating are available but limited in this arid land, while opportunities for the fast-growing sport of mountain biking are growing. Winter sports are possible in the higher elevations; Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley in the Santa Catalina Mountains is the most southern ski area in the United States.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

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Recreation Conditions Report

 Area Name Status Area Conditions
Carr Canyon Road #368 Scenic Drive Open to Visitor

Spotlights

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Road View

Located on the northeast corner of Sunrise Blvd and Sabino Canyon Road at Sabino Canyon Recreation Area. With 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.

Sabino Canyon tram routes provide access to Sabino and Bear Canyons. Along both routes riders are free to get off at one of the several 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, there are miles of hiking trails that wander throughout the area and lead deeper into the Santa Catalina backcountry.

Sabino Canyon Sustainable Recreation Concept Plan

In April 2014, a group of Forest Service resource specialists began the process of updating the 1993 Sabino Canyon Recreation Concept Plan. The Core Team, consisting of specialists in interpretive services, environmental education, and recreation planning and management, developed recommendations to guide the management of Sabino Canyon toward a desirable future. In the summer of 2014, the Forest Service invited members of the public to review and comment on the projects proposed in the Concept Plan. Public participants provided invaluable input throughout this process, in the form of survey responses, original comments and new ideas for a sustainable Sabino Canyon. The public shared over 700 individual comments on the draft Concept Plan, helping to shape the new and improved 2015 Sabino Canyon Sustainable Recreation Concept Plan. Thank you to all who participated in this process!

Rose Canyon Campground

Campsites are spacious, spread out among stands of big ponderosa pine and clumps of Gambel oak in a cool forest setting. During rainy seasons, Rose Creek meanders through the area to Rose Canyon Lake at the lower end of the campground.

This six-acre lake is sheltered by trees, and offers a pleasant setting for a woodland walk, a lakeside time-out, or an afternoon of fishing for stocked trout.

A one-mile trail leading around the lake provides access for anglers and walkers. This trail is handicapped-accessible from a lower parking area to a floating dock near the dam.

The area also provides access for woodland walks, wildlife watching, and fishing when the campground itself is closed for the season. Please remember, however, that in the off-season the gates will be closed and locked, so no garbage service is provided and no water is available. If you visit then, you’ll want to be sure to pack out everything you pack in.

For more information regarding Rose Canyon Lake go to Facebook and search Rose Canyon Lake (or use this link) https://www.facebook.com/RoseCanyonLake.

Cypress Park Campground

Campsites here are spread among a stand of exceptionally large Arizona cypress trees. These old water loving conifers lend a unique character to this mountain camp nestled along the banks of Rucker Creek.

Since campsites are arranged among the trees, trailer size is limited to sixteen feet. Some sites are quite spacious with ample room to pitch a big tent.

Cypress Park Campground is on the Rucker Canyon spur of the Rucker/Tex Canyon scenic drive, so it's a good place to spend the night if you’re taking your time touring the mountains. A short distance up the road beyond the campground, you will find the old Rucker Lake bed and numerous hiking trail heads.

Note: Black bears in area.

Madera Canyon Picnic Area

Madera Canyon makes a large dent in the northwest face of the Santa Rita Mountains. Its higher elevation grants relief to desert dwellers during the hot months and allows access to snow during the winter. A world-renowned location for bird watching, Madera Canyon is a major resting place for migrating species, while the extensive trail system of the Santa Rita Mountains is easily accessed from the Canyon's campground and picnic areas. Madera Canyon has a long and colorful history. The Friends of Madera Canyon, a cooperating volunteer group, has developed a small booklet that can be requested at the gatehouse. If you are interested in joining the group, please write: Friends of Madera Canyon, PO Box 1203, Green Valley, AZ 85622. This area is accessible to persons with disabilities.

Heliograph Trail #328A

Heliograph Trail #328A

Heliograph Trail

In 1886, one of the most innovative approached General Nelson Miles enacted in the final campaign against the small band of Apaches led by Geronimo was a system of heliographs.  Atop mountain peaks throughout southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, signal officers and soldiers manned stations using mirrors, or heliographs, to flash coded messages to military camps beyond the reach of telegraphs. However, contrary to a number of published accounts, Heliograph Peak was not part of the 1886 Geromino campaign heliograph network.  A few years after the Geronimo campaign, the US Army undertook testing of a much larger heliograph network, to evaluate the effectiveness of a heliograph communications system.  In December of 1889, a party lead by Lt. Eggleston of the 10th Cavalry visited the prominent mountaintop that later became known as Heliograph Peak and found that was a good point to connect nearby Fort Grant, located 6 miles to the west and more than 5000 feet lower in elevation, with a heliograph station near Fort Bowie, more than 40 miles to the southeast.  Within a few years the Army decided heliography was not going to be an effective means of communication and developed other methods.  In the 1910s, the Forest Service explored the use of heliographs to communicate between different locations in the Pinaleno and Galiuro Mountains.  In 1933, a 100-foot fire lookout tower was erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is still used by Forest Service personnel during peak fire season in early summer.  Heliograph Trail branches off the Arcadia Trail #328 about a mile from Shannon Campground and leads to the top of this historic peak. If you would rather not return by that same route, you can put together a loop by following the Arcadia and Heliograph trails to the summit then returning by way of the Heliograph Road, which is closed to public motor vehicles. A short trip along the Swift Trail (AZ 366) back to Shannon Campground completes this four-mile loop.

Rose Canyon Lake

The lake offers recreational fishing.  This 7 acre lake is tucked away in a picturesque stand of mature ponderosa pines high on the slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

A paved road through Rose Canyon Campground leads to a small parking area, a short walk from the water. Rainbow trout large enough to catch and take home generally are released in the lake about once a month from early April through the end of August, when water temperatures become a little too warm for these cold water fish.  All stocking and fishing regulations for Rose Canyon lake, as well as all the other lakes within the Coronado, are managed by Arizona Game and Fish, which publishes the current stocking schedule.

This is a beautiful place, and many people come here to enjoy the other features that it offers in addition to fishing. Tall trees and rocky slopes line the shore and are reflected in the lake’s sheltered waters. Rose Canyon Lake Trail #37 leads around the water’s edge and provides good opportunities for photography, bird watching, and just plain strolling. A few downed logs close to the water provide good places to sit and enjoy a snack or a bit of quiet meditation.