Southern Arizona Road Trip Highlights Desert Landscape
Day 2: Tombstone and Bisbee (124 miles)
Start on a ‘sky island’ – one of the region’s isolated peaks that rise above the daytime heat, nighttime chill and generally harsh, dry desert conditions. Fifty-five of these peaks form the Madrean Archipelago, stretching from Mexico to the southwest and featuring one of the richest biodiversities on the planet.
Driving uphill can mimic a trip north to the Canadian border, as you pass through dry scrub, grasslands, and oak and pine forests while ascending where alpine species thrive. These ecosystems provide refuge for humans and animals – and some offer world-class birding, like Madera Canyon, 32 miles northwest of historic Valle Verde Ranch, mostly on I-19 and South Madera Canyon Road. This valley perched on the northwest face of the Santa Rita Mountains attracts 15 species of hummingbirds, including the rare Calliope, North America’s smallest feathered friend.
For a good walk, try the Proctor Loop: a paved, accessible three-quarters of a mile route that starts at the first Madera Canyon Recreation Area parking lot. You can see deer and songbirds along the trail and look out for Whipple Observatory that shines west on Mount Hopkins.
Amp things up in Tombstone, 65 miles to the east, mostly via State Roads 83 and 82. This town leans on its Western heritage, especially the 30-second shootout at the OK Corral, which pitted lawmen against corrupt and power-hungry cowboys who worked in the moonlight. thieves and murderers. Actors recreate the shootout three times a day (at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.), and many locals and visitors wear period clothing throughout the compact historic center, where stagecoaches are still kicking up dust.
Discover a different slice of Golden Age history at Bisbee, 23 miles southeast on SR 80. Mining began here in 1887, thanks to one of the world’s largest mineral deposits. rich in the world. The “Queen of Copper Camps” became the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco for a time. It faltered when the mine closed in 1975, though it soon found new life as a haven for artists, bohemians and retirees. Check out its one-of-a-kind galleries and shops, such as downtown’s Óptimo Custom Hatworks, which sells stylish mattress toppers made from toquilla straw and beaver and rabbit fur felt.
Wandering the steep streets can be one hell of a workout. Refuel at Table on Main Street with drunken mushrooms, sautéed in a garlic cream sauce made with European-style pilsner from the Old Bisbee Brewery.
Where to stay: In Bisbee, reserve one of 12 vintage trailers – or even a 1947 Chris-Craft yacht! – at Shady Dell, 4 miles southwest of town, mostly accessible via SR 80. This retro haven opens its restaurant Friday through Sunday, 10am-3pm. Don’t miss the signature burger, made with Angus chuck and served on a bun.