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Overview

Natural beauty and Wild West history make Southeastern Arizona fun to explore. Isolated mountains called "sky islands" rise over desert grasslands, attracting a wide variety of birds and wildlife to the forested summits and luxuriant canyons. Spanish colonists tried to tame this rugged land, but in the end lost out to unyielding Apache; you can seek out ruins of Spanish missions and forts. Many place names recall the great Apache Chief Cochise, never defeated in battle, who made his home here. The Amerind Foundation Museum, north of Cochise Stronghold, is a treasure trove of Indian exhibits. Americans also had trouble with the Apache: ...

Natural beauty and Wild West history make Southeastern Arizona fun to explore. Isolated mountains called "sky islands" rise over desert grasslands, attracting a wide variety of birds and wildlife to the forested summits and luxuriant canyons. Spanish colonists tried to tame this rugged land, but in the end lost out to unyielding Apache; you can seek out ruins of Spanish missions and forts. Many place names recall the great Apache Chief Cochise, never defeated in battle, who made his home here. The Amerind Foundation Museum, north of Cochise Stronghold, is a treasure trove of Indian exhibits. Americans also had trouble with the Apache: People warned prospector Ed Schieffelin that he would only find his tombstone here; instead he struck it rich with silver and called his claim Tombstone — the namesake of one of the West's most notorious towns.

Nearby Bisbee boomed with copper riches and today holds handsome late 19th- and early 20th-century architecture. Other towns have faded to ghosts, which you might discover on the back roads. Chiricahua National Monument protects fantastically eroded spires carved by nature out of volcanic rock. A look at a map will reveal many loop possibilities in the region; Tucson makes a good starting point for your explorations.

Bill Weir
About the Expert

Bill Weir is the author of Moon Handbooks on Arizona, Utah and the Grand Canyon.

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Facts at a Glance

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Spring and autumn; summer and winter are usually good, too.