Update: On 12/15/2017 I climbed Thimble Peak via Seven Falls. I discovered that the final rock wall on the south summit now has a metal chainlink ladder which makes is possible to gain the summit without being a good rock climber. I’m leaving the original description below just in case the ladder is removed.
I’m also providing information about getting to Thimble Peak from Seven Falls.
Thimble Peak is the dramatic thimble-like rocky summit that lies on the ridge between Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon. You can get to it via either of these canyons, but the easiest way is to drive up the Catalina Highway for about 11 miles and park at the Gordon Hirabayashi trailhead. Turn left off the Catalina Highway at about mile marker 7.3 and drive to the parking circle.
This page describes hiking to and climbing Thimble Peak from the Gordon Hirabayashi trailhead. You can click on the map the get a larger image which you can print to help navigate. The round-trip hike is about 10.5 miles.
From the trailhead, follow the big trail west towards Sycamore Reservoir. This is also part of the Arizona Trail. In about 0.8 miles you reach a saddle with lots of big signs. Continue down the hill for 1 mile to Sycamore Reservoir. At this point the trail splits. (The left branch goes a few hundred feet to the reservoir dam and a concrete pad. From here you can descend a few exposed concrete steps to look down over the dam wall with water flowing over it.)
At the trail split, go right and follow the trail for about 0.6 miles to cairns that mark the trail leading left up to Bear Canyon. If you miss the cairns (as I did), in another 0.5 miles there is a sign and obvious trail leading back leftwards to Bear Canyon (going this way adds 0.4 miles to your hike). After climbing up to where these two trail join, keep heading south on the Bear Canyon trail for about a mile, to a large meadow. This is where the Bear Canyon trail heads left and downwards in to the canyon.
Instead, turn right and follow a faint trail across the meadow, down and around a steep canyon, then up to the base of Thimble Peak.
Thimble Peak has two summits – the lower, easier North summit, and the higher, more difficult South summit. To climb the North summit, hike up to the north end of the peak and do some 3rd class scrambling up the obvious, easy-angled crack/chimney in the north side.
To climb the more difficult South summit, do some 3rd or 4th class scrambling up the steep gully on the west side of the peak between the north and south summits. On the south side of the notch you will see a steep 10 foot wall with a bolt in the middle. I climbed up this wall on good holds, although the blocks you pull on to exit don’t seem the most secure. Some people traverse out to the right and climb a crack around the corner but this is very exposed.
There are slings above the short wall so you can rappel down instead of down climbing. A 40 foot rope should be adequate.
Thimble Peak via Seven Falls
From the Sabino Canyon trailhead, follow the Bear Canyon trail to Seven Falls. Climb up past all the falls (I climbed on the left side), then wander and scramble up the slabs, rocks and vegetation. You are aiming for the saddle shown in the photograph on the left.
Once you reach the saddle, you are now on the right-hand side of Thimble Peak. Contour around the peak until you reach the good path leading up to the gully between the north and south summits. Climb the gully with 3rd or 4th class climbing to a good ledge then climb the final wall to the south summit, either by rock climbing or by climbing the ladder if it is in place.
I didn’t want to descend the same way, so I descended the trail to the north until it joined the Bear Canyon trail. Turn right and descend Bear Canyon. It took me about 1h 45m to reach Seven Falls again from the base of Thimble Peak.
Links and other clicks
Gordon Hirabayashi was a conscientious objector who protested the racial discrimination against Japanese Americans. He was sentenced to serve time in what is now known as the Prison Camp in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Here’s the Forest Service description and here’s the long Wikipedia entry about him.
Sirena Dufault has a long article with lots of pictures about hiking up Seven Falls to Thimble Peak, then descending down into Sabino Canyonn