Arivaca is a small village about 60 miles south of Tucson. From I-19 at Amado, this is a pleasant country drive 25 miles to Arivaca.
Here are our recommendations for things to do in Arivaca, as well as nearby attractions. Included are our dining and lodging suggestions.
Hiking, Bird Watching, Wildlife Observing
Arivaca is a great place for hiking, bird watching, & observing wildlife at the Arivaca Cienega and Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (BANWR). Here are some photos courtesy of Mary Scott, a local resident.
Two trails meander through rare Arizona riparian areas. Due to human activity over the past 140 years, our state has lost over 90% of its rivers, streams, and adjacent habitat.
Arivaca Cienega Trail is a 1-1/4 mile loop over a boardwalk and path, with opportunities to see abundant bird life in a rare desert wetland. Trailhead is ¼ mile east of Arivaca where there are picnic tables and rest rooms.
Arivaca Creek Trail winds one mile along the seasonal stream beneath mature cottonwoods. The trailhead is 2 miles west of Arivaca.
Along these trails live many rare birds and endangered species, as well as native plants and wildlife, such as deer, bobcat, javalina, and coatimundi. More than 300 bird species have been reported in the BANWR and along Arivaca Creek, including the northern beardless tyrannulet, green kingfisher, and tropical and thick-billed kingbirds. Do take your camera and binoculars.
Interpretive signs are located on a large kiosk in the parking lot, with 2 or 3 additional interpretive signs along the trail. The trailhead has one picnic table, and one bench is located along the trail.
First Saturday (October – May)
In the cooler months, Arivaca is likely to have a street fair on the first Saturday of the month. The shops, such as the Artists’ Coop, are open, as is the historic La Gitana Cantina. There’s a farmers’ market, arts & crafts booths, and lots of fun things for the kids to do.
Sweet Peas Cafe’ for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Owned & operated by Ms. Jenni Kelly Stern (aka Olive Oil), her cafe’ is just a little east of town. Look for the sign on the main road. Excellent quiche, sandwiches, burgers, salads; plus pasta and seafood dishes. Not fancy, but worth the drive from Nogales, or even Tucson.
LodgingWe’ve heard that the Community Center now has some sparse accommodations, but have not check them out. We do recommend the Amado Territorial Inn back on I-19.
Things To Do Near Arivaca: A Lake & A Ghost Town
Arivaca Lake is a 90 acre reservoir just off the Ruby Road south of Arivaca. It’s primitive with only a toilet and one single lane boat ramp. But it’s also tranquil. And the fishing is good. You can fish from shore or a small boat (limit 10 hp). The lake is stocked with channel catfish, bluegill and largemouth bass. A valid Arizona fishing license is required. Kayaking and canoeing are good here and so is rock climbing. Lots of wildlife.
Directions. Turn south out of Arivaca onto Forest Road 216 and continue for about 1 mile. Then head east on Forest Road 39 about 5 miles and take a road that turns left (east) and follow that to the lake. No Fee.
Camping. There’s a toilet here but not much else. Not picnic table, water or garbage pickup. Pack it in, pack it out.
Ruby is one of the best preserved of all the Arizona ghost towns. It’s so worthwhile that we made two short videos of Ruby. To view them, click HERE.
Ruby is privately owned and there is a modest fee to go in and look around. You can picnic and camp down by the lake. And fish. Camping is a bit extra.
Directions. Take Ruby Road south out of Arivaca for about 12 miles. The first 6 are paved, the rest are passable with a standard sedan. Just look for the Ruby sign on the right. After you’ve taken the self-guided tour, your can continue south on Ruby Road. It’s a lovely scenic drive through Sycamore Canyon. Eventually it comes out on I-19 at Rio Rico. A fun day trip.