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.
- Distance: 1 mile out and back
- Hike Time: 30 minutes
- Elevation Gain/Loss: 91 feet
- Fee: Free
- Dogs: Yes
- Difficulty: Easy
Hiking to Upper Tanque Verde Falls
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.
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.
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.
Gear to Bring
This may be a short hike, but don’t show up underprepared. People frequently have to get rescued from this canyon. The route is rugged and the rocks are slippery. Bring hiking shoes or sandals that provide good traction and trekking poles to help with stability.