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The Road to Arivaca Cienega

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.
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Hiking Arivaca

Broad-billed Hummingbird Nest at Cienega. Photo by Mary Scott.

Broad-billed Hummingbird Nest at Cienega. Photo by Mary Scott.

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 Cienega Deer
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.

Arivaca Tie Dye Booth. Lots of fun for the kids.

Arivaca Tie Dye Booth. Lots of fun for the kids.

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.
The Gadsden Coffee Company serves Breakfast and lunch and great coffee. On the main road.


Amado Territory Inn

Amado Territory Inn

The Community Center now has 2 furnished suites for accommodations, with access to a full kitchen. We have not checked them out.
See for more information on where to stay in Arivaca. 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.

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The Girls by an Old West Saloon in Arivaca

The Girls

These white cows are affectionately known as “The Girls” in Arivaca, Arizona. Headed down the main street they appear to be headed for La Gitana Cantina, bragged on as being the oldest continually run saloon in the state, circa 1880. This scene is typical of the view you may see … Continue reading

Get your Southern Arizona Audubon Fields Trips here!

As every birder probably knows local Audubon Society pages are a great resource and reference for Birding and ecology. Check out the following page for Birding Trips. Audubon Field Trips Other events and Educational courses sponsored by Audubon can be found here. Audubon Events … Continue reading

Ruby Arizona: Our Best Ghost Town

Ruby Interviewing Howard

Ruby Arizona is about 12 miles from Arivaca. About half way there, the road goes from pavement to dirt. But it’s well-maintained and a standard sedan can easily travel on it (unless of course the area gets a hard rain). Again, do not rely on your GPS. ******************** Ruby was a mining […]

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The Village of Arivaca, The Ghost Town Of Ruby, & Sweet Peas Cafe’!

Arivaca Lakeshore

The road from Amado to Arivaca winds through rolling, mesquite-covered hills. It’s obviously very popular with cyclists, motor and otherwise.
Just before we arrived in town, we came to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge where, by appointment, we met and interviewed Richard Conway, a local geologist and Mary Scott, a seasoned birdwatcher and wildlife photographer.

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Amado Territory Inn – Near Tubac


The Amado Territory Inn once had a very good restaurant although I see that their website now indicates dining room SNACKS, whatever that is. However, we have also walked their pleasant grounds, and wandered into their artist studios. I had a brief conversation with the new owner, Wayne, and seen … Continue reading