Best Of Tucson®

Best Place To Spot A Golden Eagle

Pima Canyon

STAFF PICK: It's relatively easy to spot any number of raptors, from American kestrels to great horned owls, simply by spying the tops of telephone poles as you walk, run, bike or motor around the outskirts of Tucson. But if you are intent on checking the spectacularly stately golden eagle off of your life list, Pima Canyon is the place to go. Access to this isolated desert canyon gem is at the end of Magee Road and located near some of the most embattled real estate in the Tucson area. Though the housing developments are alarmingly encroaching on the mouth of the canyon, once you go about a half-mile up the trail until you cross Pima Creek, which runs in wetter seasons, you enter a pristine, high-desert canyon that could easily be taken for one hundreds of miles from any urban area. As hikers rest under large, shady cottonwoods less than two miles from the parking area, it's easy to see birds common to our Sonoran Desert area, such as verdins, cardinals, curve-billed thrashers and rock wrens. But the real treat is looking up to the cliff-tops a thousand feet above your head to glimpse the huge silhouette of a golden eagle as he soars on the updrafts. Those fortunate enough to be looking at the right time can view a little drama-in-the-skies: Cliff-nesting common ravens occasionally mob the golden eagles in the air whenever they encroach on the vicinity of the ravens' nests. For four or five miles of hiking the floor of Pima Canyon, you are surrounded by craggy bluffs and cliffs. Eventually, you must make a decision: Do I turn back now, or continue on to Mt. Kimball, one of the toughest climbs in the Catalinas? While the hikers and runners in Pima Canyon may occasionally be as scantily attired as they tend to be in Sabino Canyon, the true spectacle is up among the cliffs. Short of hiking more than a day into the Catalina backcountry, there is no better, and easier, place to catch sight of the majestic golden eagle in its natural habitat than the short hike into isolated Pima Canyon.

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