There are a handful of famous outdoor meccas around the United States. And don’t get us wrong; we love these places! But the drawback to these cities is that, well, everybody already knows about them. That’s why we’re here to share the secret of Sierra Vista, Arizona––a small town you’ve probably never heard of that’s the best spot in the West for year-round outdoor recreation. We put together the ultimate three-day itinerary below so that you can enjoy the highlights of Sierra Vista like a local and see what it’s all about.
This story was created in partnership with Visit Sierra Vista.
Friday: Hike Ramsey Canyon Preserve and Experience Sierra Vista’s Fine Dining
Just over an hour south of Tucson, Sierra Vista is surrounded by the beautiful Huachuca and Chiricahua mountain ranges. It’s no surprise, then, that the city’s name translates to Mountain View in Spanish. These are the very mountains you’ll explore during your outdoor weekend in Sierra Vista. As soon as you arrive on Friday afternoon, head to Ramsey Canyon Preserve. This lush area is teeming with sycamores, maples, and even fir trees; all of which provide a perfect refuge for a plethora of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for hummingbirds! Sierra Vista is the Official Hummingbird Capital of the United States and Ramsey Canyon is a great place to spot them.
Flora and fauna aside, you’re here to hike. Pick up a trail map at the Visitor’s Center (this park is protected and managed by the Nature Conservancy) and select from a number of great options. Meander past historic buildings nearer the parking lot, or climb to the lookout on the Hamburg Trail, a 1.4-mile, one-way, very steep route. No matter how far you go, you’re bound to enjoy the company of dragonflies, mischievous squirrels, and flowering agave.
That evening, sample some of Sierra Vista’s excellent dining. Pizzeria Mimosa serves up wholesome Italian fare, while Tandem Upscale Dining & Lounge offers a more elevated experience closer to town. You really can’t go wrong no matter where you decide to eat!
Saturday: Mountain Bike Sierra Vista’s Five-Star Trails, Then Go Wine Tasting
The next day, explore the trails in a whole new way. (But first, pick up a pastry at Bobke’s German Deli, if you happen to be visiting on a weekday.) Then, swing by Sun & Spokes to rent a mountain bike and pedal the 10-mile Cooper Loop just on the edge of town. The singletrack climbs 1,500 feet through the Huachucas for a tour of Sierra Vista’s extensive wilderness areas. The Garden Canyon/Brown Canyon Loop is another favorite. These are trails that put Sierra Vista on the map for outdoor activity—and compete with the Bends and Bozemans of the world. Looking for a more beginner-friendly route? There are plenty of trails with less vertical around. Just ask the friendly folks at the bike shop for a recommendation.
Then on Saturday afternoon, trade your wheels for wine glasses. Sierra Vista is home to nearly a dozen family-owned vineyards in the nearby community of Elgin. This is the perfect way to experience a socially-distanced wine tasting without sacrificing quality. There are simply way fewer travelers here than you would find in other popular vineyard destinations around the country!
Sunday: Hike Coronado National Memorial and Tour Kartchner Caverns State Park
Photo by Coronado National Memorial park volunteer Ron Stewart
On your last morning in Sierra Vista, embark on a hike in Coronado National Memorial This park shares a border with Mexico and offers eight miles of hiking trails with tremendous views. Whether your main interest is birding, searching for wildflowers, or getting your steps in, you’ll have a beautiful morning in this remote corner of Arizona. Swing by local-loved Indochine for lunch, where award-winning Vietnamese curry is served hot. Then, it’s time to depart back towards Tucson. But your day isn’t over yet! You have one more stop; this time, it’s below ground.
While technically on the outskirts of Sierra Vista, the jaw-dropping Kartchner Caverns State Park is only 30 minutes away. Arguably the most well-protected limestone cave in America, you cannot visit this region without taking a tour. The Rotunda-Throne Room is sure to give you goosebumps and will be a terrific grand finale to your time in Sierra Vista!