ArizonaHiking GuidesTucson

Upper Tanque Verde Falls Hiking Guide

Upper Tanque Verde Falls

This article is part of a two part hiking guide on Upper and Lower Tanque Verde Falls.

Overview

While not as tall as the lower falls, Upper Tanque Verde Falls are easier to get to and still beautiful. The upper falls plunge over a 25-foot drop below a gravelly-sand beach that’s perfect for swimming and clothing optional. Both falls are located in Tanque Verde Canyon.

It’s been said that this is the most dangerous hike in Southern Arizona. At least 30 people have died here in the last 50 years. Be cautious and know the forecast before you go! Flash floods can occur at short or a moment’s notice, especially during the monsoon season (June – September).

The Sonoran Desert routinely goes through long stretches without precipitation and during these periods, the falls dry up. Your best bet for seeing the falls run is soon after rain events or during Rincon Mountain snowmelt.

Get the Forecast

Upper Tanque Verde Falls is a scenic waterfall near Tucson with a clothing optional beach
Upper Tanque Verde Falls is a scenic waterfall near Tucson with a clothing optional beach

Quick Facts

  • Distance: 1 mile out and back
  • Hike Time: 30 minutes
  • Elevation Gain/Loss: 91 feet
  • Fee: Free
  • Dogs: Yes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Description

There are two approaches to Upper Tanque Verde Falls and they both start from Redington Road.

If you’re driving from Tucson, the first and westernmost trailhead is the more challenging option. It’s only 0.6 miles, but once the trail enters the canyon, you have to wade and scramble over boulders to reach the base of the falls.

When Upper Tanque Verde Falls are raging, take extra precautions to not get swept away
When the falls are raging, take extra precautions to not get swept away

To the right, there are footholds and a rope to aid if you want to climb above the falls and enjoy the beach. Be forewarned – the rope does not appear to be properly anchored. Use it at your own risk!

The less demanding route is to start from Redington Road at the second trailhead, which is a few hundred feet northeast of the first starting point.

Follow the narrow, well-trodden path downhill for 0.4 miles to reach the beach above the falls.

Note: 0.1 miles above the falls, there is a junction with another trail confusingly marked “upper”. This takes you over a ridgeline and down to more water features.

Golden sunset colors and reflections in Tanque Verde Canyon
Golden sunset colors and reflections in Tanque Verde Canyon

Location

To get to Upper Tanque Verde Falls Trailhead from Tucson, drive east on Tanque Verde Road until it turns into a dirt road called Redington Road.

Drive on the dirt road for 0.9 miles until you reach a parking area to the right. Park here to hike the more difficult route to the base of the falls.

Continue a few hundred feet and park to the left across from the other trailhead to hike the easier route.

Get Directions

Map

Photos

Sunset from a waterlogged Tanque Verde Canyon
Sunset from a waterlogged Tanque Verde Canyon. January 2019
Desert reflections above Upper Tanque Verde Falls
Desert reflections above Upper Tanque Verde Falls. September 2019
Sunset from Tanque Verde Canyon
Sunset from Tanque Verde Canyon. September 2019
There is a clothing-optional beach above Upper Tanque Verde Falls
There is a clothing optional beach above the falls. September 2019
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