2015 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2015 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL15 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLEThiking archive
Scenic Drives Archive Photo
The Santa Catalina Mountains provide a majestic backdrop for a group of stately saguaros towering above the wash in Honey Bee Canyon.

© Randy Prentice

>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.

Additional Reading expand
Arizona Hiking Guide Book

Our newest book, Arizona Highways Hiking Guide, is now available and features 52 of Arizona's best day hikes for winter, spring, summer and fall.

To order, call 800-543-5432
or visit our online store.

Honey Bee Canyon
Birds, bees and spectacular views of the Santa Catalinas are among the highlights of this urban hike near Tucson.

By Matthew Marine

SCREECH. The haunting sound, like steam escaping from a pipe, echoed off the pewter-colored canyon walls. I'm no expert on birdcalls, but I could have sworn it was the call of a great horned owl. I looked toward the sound, but the early morning sun created dark shadows in the rocks and I couldn't see the source.


This time, the bird's call came from behind me. Either there were two owls, or the narrow canyon was playing acoustic tricks on me. Ten minutes went by, but the crafty owl had gone silent. I put my camera away.

I'd started out on the Honey Bee Trail hoping to capture the nighttime predator — digitally, with 6 million pixels — but he'd beaten me again. Always one to root for the underdog, I silently congratulated the elusive owl.

My easy 3-mile round-trip hike from the town of Oro Valley's Honey Bee Canyon Park began with a gradual descent into the shallow Honey Bee Canyon, thick with creosote, mesquite and paloverde trees. From there, the trail veers left, passing the park's immaculate picnic tables, grills and restrooms, then heads off toward the second ramada.

Bright emerald-hued hummingbirds accompanied me along the short walk to the sandy wash. The sight of a 15-foot dam, from where I'd heard the owl's call, took me by surprise, because parts of the 5-mile-long arroyo appear dry at times. The dam was built by early ranchers to help support cattle grazing along the riparian area that wends southward from the Tortolita Mountains.

Giving up on the owl or owls, I climbed through the dam's diminutive doorway — a portal into a different realm — to find the previously flat wash had transformed into a narrow canyon. I imagined a summer monsoon sending torrents of water into the canyon and looked up at the deep blue sky to assure myself that rain clouds weren't threatening a downpour. My apprehension faded after a few hundred feet when the wash opened up again, allowing a spectacular view of the rugged Santa Catalina Mountains to the east.

Unwilling to go home completely empty handed, I snapped a few shots of a majestic saguaro guarding the canyon's entrance. I retraced my steps through the dam, but instead of using the trail, I walked along the wash, inadvertently carrying with me several of the largest devil's claw seedpods I'd ever seen.

The wash winds northward, passing under Honey Bee Canyon bridge and beneath brown hills dotted with tall saguaros — their arms gesturing a friendly greeting to all who pass. Three-quarters of a mile from the bridge, I stepped over the toppled remains of another dam and came to a large bronze-colored boulder covered with faded petroglyphs.

I sat on a natural stone bench to study the primitive symbols, the work of villagers who occupied the area for eight centuries beginning in a.d. 450. The rock evoked a spiritual feeling in me as I envisioned ancient Hohokam artists carving their unique perspectives into its hard surface.

Intrepid hikers often continue up the wash past a third dam, but I decided to retrace my steps to the parking area. The sight of others strolling by, combined with the occasional glimpse of the new homes lining the wash, reminded me that this is a popular urban hike and an important riparian habitat — one that could become compromised if not treated with respect.

When I got back to my car, I took a moment to reflect. Although I didn't see an owl on this trip, I realized that the exceptional desert beauty of Honey Bee Canyon is reason enough to keep me going back.

Trail Guideclick to expand

Map of Area

ength: 2 to 3 miles round-trip.
Elevation Gain: Less than 100 feet.
Difficulty: Easy.
Payoff: Wildlife sightings, views, desert scenery.
Location: Oro Valley, 15 miles north of downtown Tucson.
Getting There: From Tucson, drive north on Oracle Road about 7 miles north of Ina Road. Turn left onto Rancho Vistoso Boulevard; drive 3 miles to park.
Additional Information: Oro Valley Parks & Recreation Department, 520-229-5050. 
Leave No Trace Ethics:
  • Plan ahead and be prepared.
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  • Dispose of waste properly and pack out your trash.
  • Leave what you find.
  • Respect wildlife and minimize impact.
  • Be considerate of others.
  • >> Back to Hiking Archive

    Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

    Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

    Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]


    Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

    Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

    Best of AZ50 of our favorite things around the state, including photography, nature, dining, adventure, lodging... [more]

    site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

    Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

    © Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.