Activities

Sierra Vista is nestled against the Huachuca Mountains, and is a hub for some of the best historic sites, wildlife viewing, and outdoor adventure in Arizona. With an average year-round temperature of 74 degrees, Sierra Vista is a delightful getaway from hot summers and icy winters.

Biking

Pedal the Paths! Ride the Roads! Challenge the Canyons!

Insiders have long recognized that some of the best road and mountain biking in Southern Arizona can be found in Sierra Vista. The City of Sierra Vista has been well known throughout the biking community as bicycle friendly. And with the creation of more than 20 miles of the proposed 80 miles of shared use paths throughout the City, exploring the outdoors by non-motorized means has dramatically increased in popularity.

Celebrating the construction of the shared use paths , avid Sierra Vista bicyclers organized the first annual Pedal the Paths event in 2009 to showcase the extensive path network. These bicycling enthusiasts hope that this event, and others, will impart the enjoyment and ease of riding on dedicated paths rather than trafficked streets.

Surrounding Sierra Vista are hundreds of miles of rural roads, perfect for the long distance cycler. Many national bicycle groups have discovered Sierra Vista and use it as the perfect home base from which to explore. Individuals and groups alike have found that the rural and outlying areas surrounding Sierra Vista are perfect for those 25- to 100-mile adventures. Beautiful Southern Arizona scenery coupled with terrain to match any bicycler's skill level makes Sierra Vista the perfect place for the cycling enthusiast.

Since Sierra Vista's climate is moderate -- nearly ideal, many people say -- bicyclists can choose any month, any season to visit and enjoy the mild weather. Of course, because even the most avid cycler can only pedal for so long, be sure to take advantage of downtime and check out the outstanding historic and natural attractions and treasures in and around Cochise County.

Mountain Biking in Southern Arizona

For those riders whose need for challenges and excitement motivates them into mountain biking, the Sierra Vista area is perfect. With trails high in the mountains, accomplished mountain bikers can test their skills against the steep and rocky terrain. There are many mountain biking trails in the Huachuca Mountains awaiting the novice or expert mountain bikers.

The Coronado National Forest offers miles of trails through the Huachuca Mountains. All National Forest trails, unless located in designated wilderness areas, are open to mountain bikes. Novice and experienced riders can easily find the perfect scenic route and difficulty factor.

The John Cooper & Perimeter Trail Tour is a premier outdoor and nature experience. Located on U.S. Forest Service land in the Huachuca Mountains, the trails are for everyone: Hikers, bicyclers and equestrians.

Sierra Vista's local mountain biking club, Dawn to Dust , is a great source of information on Southern Arizona's mountain biking trails and events. Dawn to Dust members are enthusiastic about sharing their love of mountain biking with everyone. Visiting cycling enthusiasts are not required to become a member of the club to join them on their scheduled and organized rides. Bicycle rentals are available and if needed, a club member will accompany to showcase some of the best trails in the southwest. Click here for local bicycle trails maps.

Hiking and Trails

One of the benefits of Sierra Vista's moderate climate is that hiking is an all-season activity.

There are trails available for every person's physical ability and motivation, from the level riverbank trails along the San Pedro River to the alpine trails in the Coronado National Forest.

The Friends of the San Pedro River (FSPR) have regularly scheduled hikes, walks and historic tours in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The FSPR website lists all hikes and activities.

For the challenges of the Coronado National Forest, the Forest Service website contains excellent information on their maintained trails. Click on the name of the trail, for example, Brown Canyon, and you'll find a description of the hike as well as a link to a pop-up map.

The Coronado National Memorial has trail infomation on their website, as well. Just south of the Memorial's Montezuma Pass (at nearly 6,600 feet) is the beginning of the 816-mile Arizona Trail, stretching to Utah's border.

If your preference is fitness walking, Sierra Vista currently has 20 miles of multi-use paths throughout the City. Click on this link for the most current map.

For a nominally priced hiking map of the Huachuca Mountains, visit the Sierra Vista Visitor Center at 3020 E. Tacoma Street. The Visitor Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Horsing Around

Experiencing the Old West on horseback can be one of life's greatest joys! If you're bringing your equine friends with you for some trail riding, or need to hook up with an outfit to provide you with guides and trail horses, you'll find the information right here at your fingertips.

Horse Trails Trail Riding in the San Pedro Riparian Area Horses are permitted in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation area, except in archeological and historic sites and on trails posted with restrictions. You'll find maps of the trails along the San Pedro helpful. Horses are also permitted on the trails of the Coronado National Forest , unless there are signs stating otherwise. And for a true horseback experience, consider taking your trusted four-legged equine along the Arizona Trail , which starts in the Huachuca Mountains near the Coronado National Memorial and goes all the way to Utah! Sonoita Creek State Park in Santa Cruz County has miles of trails for riding as well as room for trailer parking. Call 520-287-2791 for more information. Also in Santa Cruz County, Las Cienegas National Conservation Area was the site of many Old West movies. You'll be riding the same trails as such stars as John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, and Kirk Douglas. Horse rentals and guided trail rides Buffalo Corral , Fort Huachuca, horse rentals and guided rides Blue Sky Ranches , Pearce, guided trail rides in the Chiricahua Mountains, Fort Bowie, Tombstone, and Cochise Stronghold. Arizona Horseback Experience , Sonoita, wine tasting rides, overnight rides, and campouts.

Shatterhand Stables , Tombstone, located at Tombstone RV & Horse Park.

Triangle T Guest Ranch , Dragoon, guided trail rides in Texas Canyon Horse Boarding There are a number of facilities offering short-term horse boarding for visitors. Call ahead to find out about any requirements for medical history and to ensure availability. J-Six Equestrian Center , I-10 just west of Benson, 520-586-7751 Equi-Sands Training Center , Hereford, 520-366-0098 Lazy Dog Ranch , Sierra Vista, 520-458-5583 Tombstone Livery Stables , Tombstone, 520-457-3559 (located near horse-friendly trails) Tombstone RV & Horse Park , Tombstone, 520-457-3829 Veterinary Services Dusti Pruna, DVM, 520-678-5566 Lucinda Earven, DVM, 520-456-9145 Sonoita Veterinary Center, J. A. Phelps, DVM, 520-455-9202 All Creatures Veterinary Service, Nancy Leverenz, DVM, 520-586-3777.

Birding

SOUTHEASTERN ARIZONA BIRDERS GUIDE
"The Hummingbird Capital of the U.S."

Located at the center of one of the finest birding areas in the United States, Sierra Vista is often referred to as "The Hummingbird Capital of the U.S." The mild climate, proximity to Mexico and diverse habitats, including 9,000-foot mountains and the magnificent San Pedro River Valley, make southeastern Arizona a major hot spot for rare and unusual species of birds.

The best times to see tropical species such as hummingbirds, trogans, warblers and flycatchers is from mid-April through September. Spring Migration peaks between late April and early May, as tens of thousands of colorful songbirds make their way north. Late summer is also an excellent time to observe both resident and migrant birds. Spectacular thunderstorms in July and August bring cooler temperatures and create a "second Spring;" blooming wildflowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, while flocks of migrating birds feast on the bounty of seeds, fruits and insects.

Winter birding has its own special appeal. The Sierra Vista (Ramsey Canyon) Christmas Bird Count regularly has one of the highest inland species totals in the U.S., with over 150 species. Lowland sites such as the San Pedro River and Sulphur Springs Valley support the greatest variety of wintering birds. Within a two-hour drive of Sierra Vista's 1700 + hotels, motels, bed & breakfasts, and 85 + restaurants are habitats ranging from mesquite shrub land, desert grassland and lowland riparian (streamside), to high mountains with Douglas Fir and Quaking Aspen.

Specialty Birds of Southeastern Arizona

Hummingbirds
Broadbilled Hummingbird
White-eared Hummingbird
Berylline Hummingbird
Violet-crowned Hummingbird
Blue-throated Hummingbird
Magnificent Hummingbird
Plain-capped Hummingbird
Lucifer Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Costa's Hummingbird
Calliope Hummingbird
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird
Allen's Hummingbird

Raptors
White-tailed Kite
Harris's Hawk
Gray Hawk
Zone-tailed Hawk
Ferruginous Hawk
Swainson's Hawk

Quail
Montezuma Quail
Scaled Quail
Gambel's Quail

Shorebirds
Mountain Plover
Doves & Pigeons
White-winged Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground-Dove
Ruddy Ground-Dove

Cuckoos
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Greater Roadrunner

Owls and Nightjars
Flammulated Owl
Whiskered Screech Owl
Elf Owl
Spotted Owl
Lesser Nighthawk

Trogons, Kingfishers &
Woodpeckers
Elegant Trogon
Eared Trogon
Green Kingfisher
Gila Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Strickland's Woodpecker
Gilded Flicker

Jays & Ravens
Mexican Jay
Chihuahuan Raven
Titmice & Verdin
Mexican Chickadee
Bridled Titmouse
Verdin

Wrens & Gnatcatchers
Cactus Wren
Canyon Wren
Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Thrushes
Rufous-backed Robin
Aztec Thrush

Finches
Lesser Goldfinch
Lawrence's Goldfinch

Flycatchers
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Greater Pewee
Buff-Breasted Flycatcher
Vermilion Flycatcher
Dusky-capped Flycatcher
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Tropical Kingbird
Cassin's Kingbird
Tick-billed Kingbird
Rose-throated Becard

Silky Flycatchers
Phainopepla
Vireos
Bell's Vireo
Plumbeous Vireo
Hutton's Vireo

Warblers
Virginia's Warbler
Lucy's Warbler
Grace's Warbler
Red-faced Warbler
Painted Redstart
Olive Warbler

Tanagers, Buntings, Etc.
Hepatic Tanager
Flame-colored Tanager
Abert's Towhee
Botteri's Sparrow
Cassin's Sparrow
Baird's
Sparrow
Rufous-crowned
Sparrow
Black-chinned
Sparrow
Black-throated Sparrow
Yellow-eyed Junco

Blackbirds
Bronzed Cowbird
Hooded Oriole
Scott's Oriole

Recommended Birding Sites in Southeastern Arizona
* All within 2 hours of Sierra Vista!

Carr Canyon

(520) 378-0311: U.S. Forest Service - Carr Canyon
This is a great locality for Buff-breasted Flycatcher, Red-faced Warbler, Red Crossbill, Yellow-eyed Junco, Olive Warbler, Pygmy Nuthatch and Stellar's Jay. Renovation is underway at the Carr House site for a visitor center with exhibits, trails and native plantings for hummingbirds and butterflies. The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory conducts regular bird walks in spring and summer.
South Hwy. 92, 7 miles south of Fry Blvd., to Carr Canyon Rd., 8.5 miles to the campgrounds.

Chiricahua Mountains

(520) 824-3560 X 104: for general and camping information.
(520) 749-8700 in the Tucson area for information on the Chiricahua Mountains.
As you pass through rolling grasslands, punctuated by the cones of extinct volcanoes, watch for Burrowing Owls and Pronghorns along the highway. Near Portal and Cave Creek watch for Elegant Trogans where Arizona Sycamores grow close to the road. At the Southwestern Research Station , a research facility of the American Museum of Natural History, visitors can quietly observe the hummingbird feeders. At Rustler Park , Red-faced Warblers, Mexican Chickadees, Red Crossbills, and other high elevation species await birders. On the west side of the Chiracahua mountain range, is Chiricahua National Monument, also known as "The Wonderland of Rocks." Watch for Zone-tailed Hawks soaring high above the eerie spires of rhyolite, and Hepatic Tanagers in the lush forests of the canyon bottoms.
To Portal via Hwy. 80, North of Douglas or Chiricahua National Monument via Hwy. 181 East of Sunizona.

Coronado National Memorial

(520) 366-5515: National Park Service - Coronado National Memorial
The visitor center has a small museum with exhibits about the Coronado expedition. One viewing area overlooking a small pond has photos of birds and other wildlife native to the area many of which visit the pool to drink. All of the common oak woodland birds such as the Acorn Woodpecker, Mexican Jay, Bridled Titmouse and Montezuma Quail are found here along with Coues's White-tailed Deer, White-nosed Coati, and Javelina. The Scenic overlook at Montezuma Pass provides spectacular views of the San Pedro and San Rafael valleys as well as Mexico. There are daylight picnic areas, but no overnight facilities for camping.
Coronado Memorial Rd. off South Hwy. 92, 16 miles south of Sierra Vista, 21 miles west of Bisbee.

Las Cienegas National Conservation Area , formerly Empire-Cienega Ranch

(520) 258-7200: Bureau of Land Management - Tucson
Northwest of Sierra Vista, in the open grassland, is the Bureau of Land Management's Empire-Cienega Ranch. It gets its name from the cienegas, or marshes that attract riparian species such as Vermilion Flycatchers, as well as a variety of sparrow, including Cassin's and Botteri's in Summer, and Baird's and Sprague's Pipit in winter. Herds of Pronghorn can also be seen.
Entrances on Hwy. 82 East of Sonoita and Hwy. 83 North of Sonoita.

Garden Canyon

(520) 533-3000

This canyon on Fort Huachuca is arguably the most beautiful in the Huachuca Mountains. Birders should note that the canyons are closed occasionally for maneuvers. You may see White-tailed and Mule deer, Pronghorns or Javalinas. The upper picnic area offers Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Painted Red Start and Elegant Trogan. The Scheelite Canyon Trail offers Mexican Spotted Owls. The Sawmill Canyon Trail is a good area for Montezuma Quail, Buff-breasted Flycatcher, and Red-faced and Grace's Warblers. Butterfly enthusiasts will also be kept busy here.
Just west of Sierra Vista. Enter the Fort from Fry Blvd., then follow the signs for 2 miles.

NOTE: Ft. Huachuca is an active military installation and specific entrance requirements are enforced. U.S. citizens may access the post after providing photo ID for everyone over the age of 16 along with current vehicle registration and proof of vehicle insurance. Fort Huachuca is occasionally closed for maneuvers. International visitors are not permitted access, unless they are sponsored and escorted by authorized personnel.

NOTE: Personal use photography of wildlife and historic buildings is permitted. Commercial photography and videography is not permitted. Please direct questions concerning permissible photography to DPTMS Antiterrorism Office, 520-533-6995, or the Public Affairs Office, 520-533-1850. Please allow 10-14 days to obtain a permit.

Madera Canyon

Located in the Coronado National Forest on the north slope of the Santa Rita Mountains, this densely wooded canyon is one of the most famous birding localities in Arizona. Most of the southeastern Arizona "specialties," including Elegant Trogan, can be found here. the feeding station at Santa Rita Lodge offers an easy introduction to Broad-billed hummingbirds as well as 14 other species. On summer evenings, Elf Owls can be seen leaving nest cavities in utility poles on lodge grounds. Access to high-altitude species like Flammulated Owl is by trail from the upper picnic area. Florida Wash in the foothills is often good for lowland species like Buff-collared Nightjar.
Interstate 19 via Continental exit, or from Hwy 83 via Greaterville Road.

Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve

(520) 394-2400

This sanctuary, owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy, is one hour west of Sierra Vista. This lush riparian area has over 200 species of birds. Gray Hawks nest in large Cottonwoods, and Zone-tailed and Common Black Hawks can be seen along with Thick-billed Kingbird, Northern Beardless Tyrannulet and Violet-crowned Hummingbirds. The preserve is closed Monday and Tuesday. Visiting hours are 7:30 am to 3:30 pm Wednesday through Sunday. Fees apply.
On Pennsylvania Ave. off Hwy. 82 on the southwest side of Patagonia.

Ramsey Canyon Preserve

520) 378-2785: The Nature Conservancy

Famous among birders and other naturalists for over a century, this 300-acre property in the middle elevations of the canyon provides excellent birding opportunities from April through September. Hummingbirds (including Magnificent, Blue-throated and White-eared) abound. Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and Painted Redstart are common in Summer, while Arizona Woodpecker and Spotted Towhee are here year-round. Some Coues's White-tailed Deer, White-nosed Coati and the unique Ramsey Canyon Leopard Frog are common. Open Thursday-Monday (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. November-February, bookstore open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Hwy 92, 7 miles south of Fry Blvd. to Ramsey Canyon Preserve. Fee: to access trails.

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

(520) 439-6400: Bureau of Land Management - Sierra Vista

This 56,000-acre preserve along the upper San Pedro River is home to over 100 species of reeding birds and provides invaluable habitat for over 250 migrant and wintering birds. A narrow ribbon of Fremont Cottonwoods, some over 100-years-old, support 40% of the nesting Gray Hawks in the U.S. as well as Bell's Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Vermilion Flycatchers are hard to miss in spring and summer, while resident Kingfishers are always elusive. Abert's Towhees, Gambel's Quail and Crissal Thrashers are joined by large flocks of sparrows in winter.
San Pedro House Visitor Center on Hwy. 90, 7 miles east of Sierra Vista.

Sierra Vista Wastewater Wetlands

(520) 458-5775 or (800) 288-3861
Water is precious in the desert, and wildlife is drawn to it regardless of its source. Three ponds, part of a pilot project to test natural treatment of secondary sewer effluent, were hand-planted in 1992 and now support lush aquatic vegetation that attracts thousands of birds like waterfowl, shorebirds, rails, raptors and songbirds. From Fall through Spring Yellow-headed Blackbirds roost among the cattails. Northern Shoveler, Cinnamon Teal and Ruddy Ducks cruise open water under the watchful eyes of hungry Northern Harrier or Peregrine Falcon. Hwy 90, 3.1 miles east of Fry Blvd./Hwy 92 intersection.

Sulphur Springs Valley

(520) 258-7200: Bureau of Land Management - Tucson

This area is for birders on the move. The valley's highways and back roads offer access to a variety of habitats including grassland, desert, scrub, playa lakes and farm fields. The Sandhill Cranes, Brewer's Sparrows winter here, joining the Greater Roadrunner, Scaled Quail, Crissal Thrasher and Pyrrhuloxia. Wintering raptors are the claim to fame here for birders far and wide. It's possible to see over 100 birds of prey of up to 12 species in a day's drive. Ferruginous Hawks, now rarer than Bald Eagles, are common around colonies of Botta's Gophers. Other commonly seen raptors include the Great Horned Owl, Harris's Hawk, Bald and Golden Eagles and a variety of Red-tailed Hawks. The Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, managed by Arizona Game and Fish Department, is located on Coffman Road southwest of the town of Elfrida. This area features a seasonal wetland that attracts up to 6,000 Sandhill Cranes each winter.
East of Sierra Vista between Willcox to the north and Bisbee and Douglas to the south.

 

 


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