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2016-03-20 Sabino Basin / Hutch's Pool Backpacking

posted Mar 20, 2016, 4:31 PM by James Cramton   [ updated Apr 6, 2017, 10:21 AM by Scott Forgues ]

Gnat Bluff Camp after a light sunset shower

A group of 11 backpackers--7 scouts and 4 adults--spent 48 hours of their fall break backpacking from Sabino Canyon to Sabino Basin and Hutch's Pool.  This introductory backpacking trip was a great opportunity for young scouts to get used to the gear and techniques and the fun to be had backpacking on a low key, short backpacking trip. The trip saw a range of weather, from 98 degree heat on the half mile of switchbacks at the top of the Sabino Canyon tram road, to chilly mornings and light rain.  But all told, it was a good first backpacking trip for the group of mostly new scouts, in our back yard wilderness. On the trip, we worked on fundamental scouting skills:


  • Preparing for Leave No Trace wilderness travel
  • Packing and traveling with all your gear in a backpack
  • Planning and preparing lightweight and nutritious foods on a backpacking stove
  • Navigating with and without a map and compass
  • Enjoying and observing nature, and having fun along the way
On switchbacks above the top of the tram road

On switchbacks above the top of the Sabino Canyon Tram Road., the group quickly went through our 4 liters of reserve water keeping the symptoms of heat exhaustion in check.
Troop 141 hiking above the top of the tram road

Troop 141 hiking the Sabino Canyon Trail; once over the switchbacks, the route was manageable.
The rugged terrain East of the pass from Sabino Canyon offers a remarkable contrast to our familiar views in Sabino Canyon

The rugged terrain East of the pass from Sabino Canyon offers a remarkable contrast to our familiar views in Sabino Canyon.


We saw abundant wildlife in our travels, including  a rattlesnake, a black necked garter snake, scorpions, praying mantis, a newly emerged butterfly, beautiful orb weaver spiders, a tarantula, numerous birds, and this spectacular centipede!

After 2 hours of hiking 2.5 miles, we reached our destination: Sabino Basin

After 2 hours of hiking 2.5 miles, we reached our destination: Sabino Basin, at the confluence of the East and West forks of Sabino Creek. We saw nobody else on the trail all day Wednesday. And this wilderness starts right across the street from some of the scouts' school.
who wants ice cream?

What better dessert on the first night in the wilderness than 3 pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream? A pleasant surprise complements of toting some extra weight in dry ice. Unless you plan to carry it next time, don't get used to this treatment!
Gnat Bluff camp

"Gnat Bluff Camp" in Sabino Basin after the first night--beautifully clear skies and low wind made for good sleeping! This camp is at the top of the bluff  Northeast of the 3 way trail junction between the East Fork and West Fork trails and the Sabino Canyon Trail. There is a well developed fire pit and fairly comfortable and flat ground for our group of 12.  
Water Break in Sabino Basin

A beautiful creek full of comfortable boulders runs through Sabino Basin just 2 minutes from camp; it was a great place to sit and filter drinking water.
Grinding Stone

Along the way on our day hike to Hutch's Pool are some pre-Columbian grinding stones.
Hutch's Pool

Ultimately, the swimming at our day hike destination--Hutch's Pool--was too cold for much time in the water, but several scouts and leaders braved the waters briefly.
Orb weaver spider in its web in Sabino Basin

Hidden throughout the route were hidden gems of nature just waiting to be discovered.