day trips

Day Trips

Here are four incredible day trips to make a day of exploration even better!

From Canyons to Coronado

(Total time: 8 hours)

Start your day heading south on Highway 92; make a right turn at Ramsey Canyon Road and follow it to The Nature Conservancy’s Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Explore this spring-fed canyon in Sierra Vista’s Sky Islands or take a two-hour guided tour (leave from the Ramsey Canyon Visitor Center at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, March through November). This high creates a cool environment, attracting a striking diversity of plant and animal life.

Head back down to Highway 92 and make a right turn to continue south on 92, then turn right onto South Coronado Memorial Road to reach Coronado National Memorial.

As you gain elevation, you’ll enjoy endless views across the San Pedro and San Rafael valleys, and even the grass plains of Sonora, Mexico. If you’re a hiker, many trails wind through the Coronado National Memorial, so bring your boots.

Check out the visitor center, then drive to the Coronado Cave trailhead for a three-quarter mile hike to Coronado Cave. Legend has it that Apache leader and shaman Geronimo used the cave as a hideout in the late 1800s. Shimmy into the cave with a flashlight to enjoy the cool air and walk in the footsteps of history.

After your cave hike, drive up to Montezuma Pass (elevation: 6,575 feet). The road is steep and unpaved, but suitable for passenger cars.

Birds, Wildlife & Ghost Towns

(Total time: 8 hours)

See an abundance of birds, wildlife and riparian plants, and learn about desert ecosystems during a bird-watching tour at the City’s Environmental Operations Park (EOP) or along the San Pedro River.

Head to the EOP via Highway 90 East, then turn left onto North Kino Road. Plan your trip for Sunday (arrive by 7:00 a.m. April through September, or by 8:00 a.m. October through March) and join a free guided tour offered by the Friends of the San Pedro. If your schedule doesn’t allow, you can enjoy the views on your own.

After the EOP viewing, return to Highway 90 East and turn right (south). Drive toward the San Pedro River, which marks the landscape with a long swath of cottonwood trees. Turn right just before crossing the bridge to reach the San Pedro House. Birding tours are available on the fourth Saturday of each month (7:00 a.m. April through September, and at 8:00 a.m. October through March). Like the EOP, you can view on your own, and the San Pedro Riparian area offers some amazing walks and viewing areas.

Next, see where Old West mining left its mark on the banks of the San Pedro at one of the area’s most famous ghost towns, Millville a former stamp mill town. Reach the Millville walking trail area via Highway 90 West by turning right onto Highway 90, then right (east) onto Charleston Road to reach the parking area.

Enjoy a short and easy hike to this former boom town. A short side tour of the Petroglyph Discovery Trail gets you face-to-face with 600-year-old rock art stories.

You won’t want to miss Fairbank, one of the best-preserved ghost towns in Arizona, with more than a half-dozen remaining structures. Get there via Highway 90 North; turn right onto Highway 82, then left at the signed parking area. Be sure to take the short, easy walk to the Fairbank cemetery and pay a visit to an authentic Old West burial site.

Arizona Wine Country and an Afternoon at the Lake

(Total time: 6 hours)

Enjoy a leisurely breakfast in Sierra Vista, then pack a cooler for a late lunch at Parker Canyon Lake. Be sure to pick up a bottle of wine along the way to enjoy as the Arizona sunsets over the Huachucas.

Head toward Sonoita via Highway 90 to Highway 82, then turn left. Enjoy the mountain pass views as you approach Upper Elgin Road. Make a stop at Rune Wines (Thursday, Noon-4:00 p.m. and Friday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., (520) 338-8823) just 1.1 miles past the Upper Elgin Road intersection. Sample the reds and whites from one of the region’s newest wineries.

Go back (east) to Upper Elgin Road, turn right (south), and head toward the small village of Elgin. Continue south on Elgin Canelo Road to reach Sonoita Vineyards (daily except holidays, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., 520-455-5893), the oldest commercial vineyard in Arizona. Sample their award-winning wines, or plan your trip to coincide with one the vineyard’s events like the spring Blessing of the Vineyards or HarvestFest, with barefoot grape-stomping and horse-drawn vineyard tours. Continue south on Elgin Canelo Road to the Highway 83 junction, turn right (west, 2.2 miles) to reach Lightning Ridge Cellars (Friday – Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., (520) 455-5383. Here you can sample classic Italian varietals grown in Arizona’s clay soils under warm summer sun. Allow 3 hours.

Parker Canyon LakeFrom Lightning Ridge, head back the way you came and continue south on Highway 83 to reach Parker Canyon Lake, nestled in the Canelo Hills east of the Huachuca Mountains. This 21-mile drive will take you from wine country’s rolling hills to the hardy western foothills of the sky islands. Surrounded by mature trees and bathed in Arizona’s sunshine, 125-acre Parker Canyon Lake offers picnicking, hiking, boating, and even fishing for anglers. Boat rentals and snacks are available at the marina. Allow 3 hours or more.

Click here to find more wineries in the Elgin/Sonoita American Viticultural Area (AVA), as well as in the Willcox AVA.

Explore Historic Fort Huachuca

(Total time: 5 hours)

Explore the Fort’s history at two museums — the Fort Huachuca Museum and the Military Intelligence and Soldier Heritage Learning Center — and see how the Fort’s mission evolved from the territorial battles of the 1800s to the World War II battles in the Pacific Theater, and the role it plays in today’s national security. You’ll also find exhibits commemorating the role of Buffalo Soldiers in American history.

Surveillance and espionage gadgets — from the Revolutionary War to today’s declassified tools — are part of the Military Intelligence exhibit. Ask for directions at Van Deman Gate, or follow the signs.

At Buffalo Solder Plaza, see a larger-than-life statue commemorating this important regiment, then follow the loop around to Brown Parade Field and the historic district on your way to the Old Post Cemetery, where Indian scouts rest alongside commanders. Follow the signs.

For outstanding views, head up to the Reservoir Hill Observation Point, where the U.S. Army Signal Corps sent heliograph messages to other stations in the early 20th Century. Follow the signs from the Cemetery.

Extend your visit with a round of golf at the par 72, 18-hole championship caliber Mountain View Golf Course. Access the course via Buffalo Soldier Drive at Wilcox Drive. Allow 4 additional hours.

Fort Huachuca is an active military installation. U.S. Citizens must complete an application to access the Fort, which includes a background check, at the Van Deman Gate. Allow 30 minutes for processing. International visitors must contact the City of Sierra Vista Public Affairs Office at (520) 439-2167 at least three weeks prior to their visit to arrange for an approved escort. International visitors must also complete an application at the Van Deman Gate.