Ruby Road #289/39 Scenic Drive

Good views of rolling hills and towering buttes, a desert oasis inhabited by rare plants and birds, an old ghost town and two picturesque lakes provide ample reason to spend a day along this border country drive. Ruby Road got its name from a once thriving mining camp located a short distance south of the road on the edge of the Pajarito Mountains. Ruby, the ghost town, reputedly was named after a pioneer resident who lived in the town when it opened its first U. S. Post Office. What’s left of that old mining camp is now private property, so you’ll have to be satisfied with a look as you drive by, but if old mining ghosts inspire your interest there are plenty of them along this road. The country which Ruby Road passes through is covered with grassy savannas and dotted with various species of oak, while an occasional clump of desert spoon, yucca or prickly pear cactus add to the high desert ambience. One of the first points of interest along this drive is Peña Blanca Lake. Here, you’ll find excellent birdwatching in season and good fishing year-round. The Atascosa Trail makes another interesting stop, where a short hike can take you to dramatic overlooks of mountains and canyons. One more notable stop is Sycamore Canyon, where there is a Civil War-era ranch site, a streamside trail and excellent birdwatching. Back on the road, the drive continues through this area of shallow canyons and rugged bluffs past abandoned mines and working cattle ranches to Arivaca Lake. At that remote fishing and birding spot, you have the choice of returning the way you came or continuing on to the town of Arivaca and a paved route back to Interstate 19.

At a Glance

Closest Towns: Northwest of Nogales, AZ, in the Pajarito and Atascosa Mountains.
Operated By: Nogales Ranger District
Information Center: Nogales Ranger District   520-281-2296

General Information

Directions: Leave Interstate 19 approximately 8 miles north of Nogales, at the Ruby interchange (AZ 289). Drive west to Peña Blanca Lake where the route number changes to Forest Road 39. Continue on FR 39, taking a side trip to Arivaca Lake if you choose, then turn north on FR 216 which leads into the town of Arivaca. From Arivaca, follow Arivaca Road back to Interstate 19.


Scenic Driving

Roadside lakes. Historic mining/ranching district. Wildlife watching. Rocky buttes, grassy foothills. Trails. Road Conditions: Ruby Road is paved for its first 9 miles to Peña Blanca Lake. From that point it is a graded dirt road suitable for passenger vehicles for the next 25 miles to the town of Arivaca. Slow speeds are recommended on this winding foothills road. Also, take note that unpaved portions of the Ruby Road may be slippery and rutted when wet. Mileage/Driving Time: 55 miles; 2-3 hours driving time.

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
55 miles