For me, the most interesting backroads are those that traverse scenic countryside, of course. But more so, I look for many points of interest, usually historic sites, along the way. I hate long, monotonous drives. I appreciate local, esoteric histories.
This means that I tend to meander, stop and chat with the natives, take photos, buy the occasional souvenir or piece of art, and rest overnight at a B&B before wondering toward home.
Taking the backroads from Tucson to Bisbee to Dragoon is an overnighter – maybe two, or more.
Where you overnight is up to you. There are so many excellent options. Here are my suggestions.
1. Tucson (A) to
Sonoita & Elgin (B) . I-10 to exit 281. South on Hwy 83 to Sonoita. This is Wine Country. Stop at a few wineries, do a little wine tasting, buy a couple of bottles for later.
2. From Sonoita, head east on Hwy 82 to Hwy 90. South on Hwy 90 to Sierra Vista (C). What’s so interesting about Sierra Vista? Fort Hauchucua – home of the U.S. Army’s Intelligence Operations AND one fine military history museum, including the illustrated story of the Buffalo Soldiers and the Apache Wars.
3. Not far south from Sierra Vista is the magnificent Ramsey Canyon Preserve (D). You are out of the Sonoran Desert and into an very different ecosystem. Hiking, birdwatching, bear-chasing wilderness preserved by the Nature Conservancy. Grab your camera. Hike up the canyon. Be thankful for what’s left of wilderness.
Please leave them a generous donation. Say “Hi” to our friend, Liz Sockness, at the book store. See the slideshow provided courtesy of Liz Sockness.
4. I don’t know of a great place to stay near Sierra Vista. But I do know a great place to over-night in Bisbee (E): Calumet & Arizona Guest House about 2 miles south of Old Bisbee. See our video. Make a reservation well in advance. If Joy doesn’t have a room for you, try the School House Inn in Old Town.
5. After a fine breakfast at the B&B, take your time exploring Bisbee. Do go to the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. Here is the best place to understand Bisbee’s historical importance. Say “Hi” to our friend, Carrie. She’s the museum director. You can also see her in one of our Bisbee videos here. You can easily spend more than a day in this historic town and not see everything. Check out our Bisbee dining recommendations here.
6. From Bisbee, you can head north on Hwy 80 to Tombstone (F). You will find several Tombstone videos on our site. If you decide to stay overnight here, I recommend the Tombstone Bordello B&B where your innkeeper will be Ms. Lynda (a transplanted Brit and local rancher). Take Dr. Jay’s fascinating Walking Tour. Tombstone is not known for fine dining. Good luck. Best bet: Ms. Lynda’s Bed & Breakfast for breakfast and Crystal Palace Saloon on Allen Street for lunch or dinner. Do not miss: the museum at the Courthouse (say “Hi” to Hollis); Big Nose Kate’s Saloon (just for fun); the Tombstone Epitaph newspaper office (get the news flash from late 1881), and the Bird Cage Theater (say “Hi” to Billy). As of this writing, do miss: the re-enactment of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
This is a tourist town. That said, you will find surprising bargains in some of the shops on Allen Street, all of which are closed by 6PM. The saloons on Friday and Saturday nights are THE places for Western dance music. Seriously raucous good times!
7. From Tombstone, head north on Hwy 80. If you have time, take the short side trip to the ghost town of Fairbank (G). Then continue north to St. David (H) where you will find Holy Trinity Monastery on your left. Stop at the book store, talk with a Benedictine monk, walk the grounds, say a prayer in the chapel. With reservations, you can stay over night – including RV hookups. Nothing fancy, just good old-fashioned Benedictine hospitality.
8. From St. David, continue north on Hwy 80 to I-10 East. Continue east on the freeway to exit 318 and head south a couple of miles. You will see a sign for the Amerind Foundation Museum (I) – A MUST SEE! Among the best private collections of Native American artifacts. A stunning art gallery. And one of the best picnic areas.
Just south is Dragoon. Do stop at the Lozen Gallery just the other side of the railroad tracks. Say “Hi” to Nochito, a serious artist and a fountain of knowledge about the Chiricahua Apaches. You are now in Texas Canyon in the Little Dragoon Mountains, not far from Chiricahau National Monument and Cochise Stronghold to the east. If you have the time, go. Beautiful country.
9. Back north to I-10 and the hour or so drive back to Tucson. Over several decades, we have enjoyed many of our nation’s best backroads, including those from historic Virginia to Gettysburg, to New York and the Hudson Valley. In its own right, this tour from Tucson to Bisbee to Dragoon is just as good. Take your time. Enjoy!