North America > United States of America > Southwest (United States of America) > Arizona > South Central Arizona
- 1 Casa Grande
- 2 Coolidge
- 3 Eloy
- 4 Green Valley
- 5 Nogales
- 6 Oracle
- 7 Patagonia
- 8 Picacho
- 9 Sonoita
- 10 Tubac
- 11 Tucson
- 1 Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
- 2 Picacho Peak State Park
- 3 Saguaro National Park
- 4 Santa Catalina Mountains
English is the primary language although Spanish is widely understood and spoken, with many residents being bilingual.
I-10 connects Tucson with Phoenix and New Mexico, while I-19 connects Tucson with Nogales in the south. Smaller highways AZ 83 and AZ 82 provide access from further east along I-10 and from southeast Arizona, respectively.
As there is no public transportation, a car is essential. A four-wheel drive is recommended if you want to get off the beaten track.
- 1 Empire Ranch, Hwy 83 (south of I-10, turn east between mileposts 39 and 40), ☏ . Dawn to dusk. A beautifully-situated historic ranch from the 1860s. The adobe ranch house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the property is now managed as part of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. The area offers good opportunities for a range of outdoor activities, including birding, hiking, and horseback riding. Free.
- 2 Kentucky Camp, Santa Rita Mountains (east of Hwy 83, south of I-10), ☏ . A ghost town and former mining camp which is maintained by the Coronado National Forest. A few buildings have been restored, and for a unique experience visitors can rent one of the buildings for an overnight stay (see listing below).
- 3 Ruby ghost town (12 miles from Arivaca; part of the road is unpaved but in good condition), ☏ . Th-Su dawn to dusk. One of the best preserved ghost towns in Arizona, with ongoing conservation efforts. The site is entirely on private land with a resident caretaker. Pima Community College also occasionally offers tours. $12 (adults).
- 4 Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory, 670 Mt Hopkins Rd, Amado (one hour due south of Tucson off I-19), ☏ . M-F 8:30AM-4:30PM. Call ahead for tour information.
- 5 Kitt Peak National Observatory, Tohono O'Odham Reservation (90 minutes SW of Tucson), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 9AM-3:45PM daily. A "don't miss" for the astronomy buff, there are several astronomical telescopes plus a large solar telescope. Several guided tours are available, as well as a nightly observation program (reservations required). $9.75 for all three tours (adults).
- Ray Mine. One of the world's largest copper deposits.
- Vineyards. Various, some by appt. The art of wine-making was introduced in the region by the Spanish, and Sonoita makes a good base to explore local vineyards.
- Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. This 1,200-mile trail follows the route of the Spanish exploratory voyage in 1774, beginning in Nogales on the Arizona-Mexico border, heading north through Santa Cruz county to Tucson and then Phoenix, and then west to California. The entire route can be followed by car, and some segments can also be completed on foot. AnzaHistoricTrail.org is helpful for detailed route planning.
Festivals and events
- 1 Labor Day Rodeo, 3142 Hwy 83, Sonoita (Sonoita Fairgrounds), ☏ . Junior rodeo begins at noon, main performance at 2PM. A three-day traditional rodeo, held annually in September. $15 (adults), $5 (children 6-12), free (children under 6).
- Annual Sonoita Horse Races, 3142 Hwy 83, Sonoita (Sonoita Fairgrounds), ☏ . Held in May: gate admission at 10AM, races begin at 1PM). A weekend of live races with Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses, with betting and food. Sa $20 (adults), Su $15 (adults); free (children under 13).
Parks and outdoor activities
- 2 Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Arivaca Road, Highway 286, Arivaca, ☏ , fax: , ✉ Bonnie_Swarbrick@fws.gov. 7:30AM-4:30PM (Visitor Center). Managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, this was established in 1986 for the reintroduction of masked bobwhite quail and pronghorn antelope. A number of other mammals and avian species are well-established here, making this an excellent place for watching birds and wildlife. Guided tours are offered by the Friends of Buenos Aires NWR (☏ , email@example.com). Free.
- Santa Rita Mountains (western access: turn east off of I-19; eastern access: turn west off of Hwy 82 or Hwy 83), ☏ . This mountain range offers great opportunities for hiking, camping, mountain biking, and horse riding. The area is managed by the Coronado National Forest; maps and trail information can be obtained from the Nogales Ranger District office. Free.
- 4 Baboquivari Peak Wilderness, ✉ TFOWEB_AZ@blm.gov. This remote wilderness area is located on the eastern side of the Baboquivari Mountain Range 50 mi (80 km) southwest of Tucson, and is administered by the Bureau of Land Management. It is notable for the spectacular Baboquivari Peak which is sacred to the Tohono O’odham people, and is clearly visible from nearby Kitt Peak National Observatory (see listing above). The area offers good opportunities for hiking and photography. The peak can be scaled but requires technical climbing ability; a good trail description can be found here. There is an alternate western climbing route, although to use it prior permission must be obtained from the Tohono O'odham Nation.
- 5 Ironwood Forest National Monument (I-10, Exit 236 near Marana). Established as a National Monument in 2000, the monument is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for multiple uses, including ranching and recreational use. It is noted for significant concentrations of Ironwood trees, and for over 200 pre-Columbian archeological sites. Popular activities include hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, birdwatching, and looking at the many archeological remains. There are no developed facilities, but primitive camping is possible provided campsites are at least 200 ft away from water sources and campers use biodegradable soap. Free.
- Horseback riding. There are a number of guest ranches in the Sonoita and Patagonia area which offer guided horseback riding excursions, with or without accommodation.
- 8 Agua Linda Farm, 2643 E Frontage Rd, Amado (off of I-19), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A privately owned farm/ranch which opens to the public for seasonal events, including the Easter Egg Hunt, Garlic and Onion Festival, and the Fall Festival. $5-$8.
Eating options listed below are outside of major population centers. For locations with more urban settings, see town and city listings above.
- 1 The Preserve Restaurant and Bar, 66567 E Catalina Hills Drive, Tucson (Saddlebrooke Blvd and left at Catalina Hills Road (directions not on all gps units)), ☏ . W-Su 11AM-8PM. Restaurant with bar in the foothills of Catalina Mountains. Outdoor seating available. Call to see if Reservations may be needed. Local and Travelers favorite for spectacular mountain views. WiFi available moderate.
- 2 The Cadillac Grill, 47621 E Ballesta Rd Tucson (along highway 79 between Oracle Junction and Florence, AZ), ☏ . Th F 4-8PM, Sa Su noon-8PM. Bar and restaurant on Hwy, very very casual, can hold a crowd.Can be a bit slow, if busy. Known for its inexpensive steaks and burgers. inexpensive.
- 1 Gadsden Coffee Company, 16850 W Arivaca Rd, Arivaca, ☏ . A local hangout, also has sandwiches and pastries. Wifi available.
Accommodation options listed below are outside of major population centers. For locations with more urban amenities, see town and city listings above.
- 1 Amado Territory Inn, 3001 E Frontage Rd, Amado, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Nine rooms, some with private patios and balconies. No smoking, pets accepted (with restrictions), wi-fi. Evening wine and cheese tasting and breakfast included. Birders are welcome to visit the property without spending the night.
- 2 Chuparosa Inn Bed & Breakfast, 1300 S Madera Canyon Rd, Madera Canyon, ☏ . Check-in: 3-6PM, check-out: 11AM. Ideal for birdwatchers. $150-200/night.
- 3 Kent Springs Cabin, S Madera Canyon Rd, ☏ , toll-free: . A 6-room cabin restored by the National Forest Service and available to rent on a nightly basis. The fully-furnished and equipped cabin is located in juniper and oak woodland by a creek, and can accommodate up to 8 people. Reservations can be made online, or by calling the number above. $150/night.
- 4 Kentucky Camp, Santa Rita Mountains (east of Hwy 83, south of I-10), toll-free: . Cabins are furnished, but guests must bring their own sleeping bags and pillows. For site description see listing above. $75/night.
- 5 Madera Kubo B&B, 1259 S Madera Canyon Rd, Madera, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11PM. Another good spot for birdwatchers. $95-110/night.
- 6 Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, 1 La Osa Ranch Rd, Sasabe, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. A historic guest ranch on the Mexican border which offers guided horseback riding excursions, hikes, mountain biking, and plentiful bird watching opportunities. $249-400/night, full room and board.
- 7 Santa Rita Lodge, 1218 S Madera Canyon Rd, Madera, ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. This 80-yr-old lodge has fully equipped cabins and casitas. Small dogs accepted ($25); no smoking in cabins. There is a small gift shop onsite. $110-165/night.
- 8 Bog Springs Campground, ☏ . This site is managed by the Coronado National Forest, and is in Madera Canyon (listed above). No RV hookups, maximum vehicle length 22 feet, toilets and drinking water available. $10/night.
- 9 Kentucky Camp Dispersed Camping Area, Santa Rita Mountains (east of Hwy 83, south of I-10), ☏ . Dispersed camping is permitted, no drinking water onsite. Free.
- 10 White Rock Campground (off of Ruby Rd and I-19), ☏ . Located a short distance from Peña Blanca Lake, this popular campground is managed by the Coronado National Forest. RVs 22' and less, no hookups. No water, vault toilets. $10/vehicle.
As elsewhere in the region, precautions should be taken to guard against heatstroke and dehydration which can come about very rapidly – always take more water than you think you will need. Heat exhaustion can occur very quickly, with symptoms including dizziness, rapid breathing, heavy sweating, and muscle spasms.
The most commonly encountered wildlife is rattlesnakes, which are active from spring through fall, and tend to hide in brush or in crevices during the heat of the day. The best way to avoid bites is to never place your hands or feet where you haven't looked first. Wear boots or sturdy shoes for outdoor activity. If you are bitten, seek medical attention immediately.
Also commonly encountered are javelinas (peccaries), pig-like mammals which travel in herds. While they generally avoid people, they are very near-sighted and protective of their young, and will attack if they feel at all threatened. Make as much noise as possible so that they are not surprised and panic.
Black bears are found in a few mountain ranges, notably in the Santa Rita Mountains and in the Baboquivari range. When camping, secure your food away from your campsite; when hiking, make plenty of noise.
Drug and human trafficking
By 2013, south central Arizona had become a corridor for drug trafficking, particularly in remote areas away from population centers. Hiking and camping in certain areas near the border may be inadvisable; inquire locally as to current conditions, or contact the nearest Border Patrol office (☏ ) for guidelines.
The Border Patrol maintains several checkpoints monitoring all north-bound traffic: the 5 Interstate 19 checkpoint north of Tubac, the 6 Arivaca Road checkpoint west of Amado, the 7 Highway 86 checkpoint, and the more mobile 8 Highway 83 checkpoint north of Sonoita. Occasionally there is a 9 Highway 82 mobile checkpoint when the Highway 83 checkpoint is not operating. Drivers passing through should lower their windows; agents may ask limited questions regarding residency or immigration status of any driver or passenger, although frequently they will simply wave cars through. You do have the right to refuse to answer such questions, but this could result in detention while your immigration status is verified.