Visit Destinations

Your national forests and grasslands are 193 million acres of vast, scenic beauty waiting for you to discover. Visitors who choose to recreate on these public lands find more than 150,000 miles of trails, 10,000 developed recreation sites, 57,000 miles of streams, 122 alpine ski areas, 338,000 heritage sites, and specially designated sites that include 9,100 miles of byways, 22 recreation areas, 11 scenic areas, 439 wilderness areas, 122 wild and scenic rivers, nine monuments, and one preserve. And remember, “It’s All Yours.”

Rec Area Description Status
Round the Mountain Campground

Located in an oak woodland at an elevation of 5,200 feet, Round-the-Mountain campground is pleasant year-round.  This campground includes 3 campsites, a restroom, horse corrals, and a trailhead.

Upper Arcadia Group Site

When early settlers ventured up Mount Graham, the Arcadia area was usually as far as they got on the first day. A little later in the history of the Pinaleños, Arcadia was the site of one of several Civilian Conservation Corps camps established in the 1930s to provide jobs for workers idled by the Great Depression. Today, Arcadia Campground is the first campground visitors encounter on their way up Mount Graham by way of the Swift Trail (AZ 366), which was built by those Depression-era workers. Arcadia Campground is shaded by stands of tall ponderosa pine interspersed with Gambel oaks and Arizona walnuts. Such a diverse habitat makes this an excellent area for bird watching. Watch for poison ivy.



Note: Black bear area.

Upper Hospital Flat Group Use Area

Upper Hospital Flat is a great place for groups to escape the summer heat of surrounding deserts and retreat to a scenic meadow in the Pinaleno Mountains of southeastern Arizona. The area is known for camping, scenic driving, picnicking, birding, wildlife viewing, hiking, mountain biking and history.

Hospital Flat is so named because in the 1880’s it served as a site for a field hospital for ailing soldiers from Fort Grant. That frontier outpost is located along Grant Creek on the south slope of the Pinaleños. The restorative powers of this cool mountain meadow, carpeted with wildflowers and traversed by a small creek, were sufficiently notable that it also became a summer retreat for officers and their families trying to escape the heat of their desert outpost. Fort Grant was closed in 1905 and now serves as an Arizona State Prison Facility. Hospital Flat still serves as a popular refuge for forest recreationists who come to its pleasant surroundings for much the same reason as did those soldiers.

Rec area marker Arizona Highway #83 Scenic Drive

The drive from Sonoita to Montezuma Pass passes through an area of rolling hills and shallow canyons where distant mountain ranges mark the horizons. About midway through the drive, Parker Canyon Lake makes a good place to stop to walk and relax near the lake’s blue waters. If you’re not in a hurry, you might want to take time out to do a little birdwatching, too. A trail that follows the shoreline provides good opportunities to see a variety of waterfowl that are usually present on the lake and occasionally a bald eagle or osprey soaring over it. Most of the countryside you’ll pass through on this drive is ranching country. The extensive grasslands that cover this area have been used for grazing livestock since Spanish missionaries first brought cattle into the area in the late 17th and early 18th century. As you wind in and out of the shallow canyons that cut this 5,000 foot high plateau, you’ll see a number of ranch houses just off the roadside or tucked away among the trees. After leaving the lake, the drive angles steadily toward the Huachuca Mountains, and the higher peaks of that range come into view. Miller, Carr and Granite peaks are just a few you may be able to identify. The route winds to the top of Montezuma Pass, where you’ll be a lot closer to those mountaintops and be able to enjoy panoramic views that stretch well into Mexico. If you have any film left you can use it up here before you continue into Sierra Vista.

Rec area marker Border Road #61 Scenic Drive

This drive starts and finishes with some great long-distance views. In between, it features a drive along an international border through a sea of grass so huge they filmed portions of the movie “Oklahoma” here. Heading south out of Sierra Vista, the Huachuca Mountains and their dramatic, exposed “Reef” tower above you to the west. You’ll cross that mountain range at the top of Montezuma Pass, in the Coronado National Memorial, where you’ll have a huge expanse of Mexico and Southern Arizona at your feet. From the pass, the drive drops into the immense grassland of the San Rafael Valley. Much of this grassland was part of an old Spanish land grant. A number of large and small ranches, both Mexican and American, still provide the main economic activity here. The sleepy little settlement of Lochiel, with its border crossing that has been closed since 1986, will scarcely notice your passage, even if you stop at the monument to Fray Marcos de Niza. That guide for the Spanish explorer Coronado is believed to have been the first European (in 1539) to set foot in what has since become Arizona. After that it’s on to the Patagonia Mountains and the gold mining boomtown-turned-ghost town of Washington Camp. At an unnamed pass just before you drop into Nogales and the end of the drive, there are more good views of the Atascosa, Baboquivari and Pajarito mountain ranges to the west .

Rec area marker Box Canyon Road #62 Scenic Drive

Here’s an excellent little drive that will add another perspective to your appreciation of the Santa Rita Mountains. Most people who come to this popular mountain range hustle right to Madera Canyon and spend their entire visit under the sycamore trees scanning the treetops for birds and the meadows for deer. Box Canyon Road takes you into an area of the mountain range where open grasslands predominate and where broad views stretch across the immense basins and isolated mountain ranges that make up the Coronado National Forest. This all-weather gravel road heads east off the route to Madera Canyon at a point where the pavement branches south toward that well-known recreation site. The road continues wandering across the grassy, mesquite-dotted flats of the Santa Rita Experimental Range to the Forest boundary where it crosses little Box Canyon Creek and begins climbing the northern shoulder of the Santa Ritas. The mountains here are lower than those that form the core of the mountain range and are covered with waving expanses of grass rather than stately forests. Off to the left of what has become a narrow, winding mountain road, Box Canyon is visible as a deep gorge highlighted with bright green cottonwoods and silver barked sycamores. At one point along the road, a rocky seep covers a sheer cliff with algae and colorful wildflowers. The road reaches the top of its climb in an area of broad pastures and wood corrals where excellent views stretch to the east of seas of grass surrounding sky island mountain ranges such as the Mustangs, the Whetstones and the Huachucas. From this point, the road meanders down to its junction with State Highway 83 a few miles north of the ranching community of Sonoita. If you’ve got some time and energy left, you might want to turn south here and visit the ruins of the historic mining outpost of Kentucky Camp with its picturesque adobe houses and scenic setting.

Rec area marker Canelo Hills Loops #799/58/49 Scenic Drive

Historic ranching and mining country with broad grasslands and distant buttes provides the setting for this medium length loop drive. The route starts out in the little ranching community of Sonoita and winds south through a series of grassy, oak-dotted canyons along Arizona Route 83 to the intersection with Forest Road 799. This junction actually marks the beginning of this scenic drive. At this point, the drive turns west and begins climbing into the Canelo Hills. Canelo means cinnamon-colored in Spanish, so we’re fairly sure that name refers to the color of these rolling hills when seen from a distance. After topping Canelo Pass, as quickly as you got into the hills, you’re out of them, and the scenery changes dramatically. The road turns, the trees open up, and an extensive rolling grassland stretches to the south into Mexico and well to the north, toward the Santa Rita Mountains and the Santa Catalinas near Tucson. In the distance, landmarks such as Indian Head Butte and Saddle Mountain slide in front of one another as you move across the vast grassy plateau. Enjoy these views while you can because totally without warning the road drops into a series of oak-filled canyons cut into these southern Arizona slopes. Suddenly the views can be measured in hundreds of feet instead of scores of miles. The route then continues its way through these canyons toward the old mining settlements along Harshaw Creek and drive’s end in the picturesque mining, ranching, and tourist town of Patagonia.

Rec area marker Carr Canyon Road #368 Scenic Drive

If you look up at the Huachuca Mountains from the town of Sierra Vista, a band of sheer cliffs bends and curves across the face of the mountain range. The relatively flat area above is called the Carr Reef. In this case, however, the word “reef” doesn’t refer to coral and oceans. It harks back to an earlier time when it also meant a thick layer of exposed rock. While you’re looking at the Reef, you may also notice a tree-covered break in that impressive barrier, just south of a deep canyon. Look even closer and you should see a barely visible set of switchbacks climbing that slope. That is the Carr Canyon Road, the only road into the upper reaches of the Huachuca Range. This narrow, winding road was built at the turn of the century to open up the Carr Reef to gold and silver mining. It was reconstructed in the late 1930's by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The mines have come and gone, but the road persists with little change. The people who travel it, however, have changed considerably. Where hardy prospectors once searched for their pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, outdoor recreationists and history buffs now travel the Carr Canyon Road to enjoy splendid scenery and seek the flavor of the past. For them, the Carr Canyon Road provides the reward of extraordinary views of Sierra Vista, the San Pedro Valley, and a number of surrounding mountain ranges as it winds its way up the mountain. Since the road is so narrow, we recommend for safety that you use one of the pullouts along the road if you want to stop and enjoy the view. A forest recreation area stands in an area once occupied by the mining outpost of Reef. Here, you’ll find the Reef Townsite Loop Trail and two scenic forest campgrounds. From the Reef, the Carr Peak Trail #107 and Comfort Springs Trail #109 connect to an extensive network of trails that lead throughout the Huachuca Range.

Rec area marker Catalina Highway Scenic Drive

The only paved road that leads to the upper reaches of Mt. Lemmon and the Santa Catalina Range is one of the most scenic highways in the southwest. It provides access to a fascinating land of breathtaking vistas, outlandish rockscapes, cool mountain forests and deep canyons spilling out onto broad deserts. Because the road starts in the Lower Sonoran vegetative life zone and climbs to the high forests of the Canadian zone, it offers the biological equivalent of driving from the deserts of Mexico to the forests of Canada in a short stretch of 27 miles. Here, you’ll find plants and animals and geology that exhibit some of the most wide-ranging natural diversity to be found in any area of comparable size in the continental U. S. As you drive up the mountain, every turn seems to reveal something new. In some places that may be a community of trees, shrubs, and wildflowers different from the one just around the previous curve. In others, it may be a new gallery of natural rock sculptures even more impossibly perched than the last, or a broader panorama that stretches in an entirely different direction than the one that caused you to stop and snap a photo just a few moments before. For your convenience, there are turnouts at scenic overlooks and several campgrounds and picnic areas. Dozens of hiking trails offer access to the mountain’s backcountry canyons and ridges. Though virtually everyone calls this road the Catalina Highway, it is officially designated the General Hitchcock Highway in honor of Postmaster General Frank Harris Hitchcock. He, perhaps more than anyone else, was responsible for bringing together all the elements necessary to construct this popular access route into the Santa Catalina Mountains. Work was begun on the road in 1933 and completed 17 years later in 1950. Much of the labor was supplied by workers from a federal prison camp located for that purpose at the base of the mountain.

Rec area marker Cave Creek Road #42/42B Scenic Drive

In Cave Creek you’ll find spectacular scenery, world class birdwatching, a riparian area teeming with unique wildlife, and a number of Forest recreation amenities to help you enjoy all those natural wonders. On this drive, you’ll get a good picture of what’s in store for you even before you enter the Forest. The soaring cliffs of Cave Creek Canyon, pocked with caves and punctuated with pinnacles, come into view well before you arrive. A short distance inside the Forest boundary, there is a Visitor Information Center (open May-August, Fri, Sat & Sun.) to provide you with valuable information, including books, pamphlets, and maps to help you more fully enjoy all that this very special area has to offer. Most who come here do at least a little birdwatching. This is one of the best places in the southwest to see the elegant trogon. Among the two hundred plus species that have been sighted here, there are many notable ones, such as the rose-breasted becard, olive warbler, red-faced warbler, magnificent hummingbird and blue-throated hummingbird. There are several Forest campgrounds in Cave Creek Canyon, as well as a number of trails that lead deeper into all that wonderful scenery. And if you’re not interested in doing a long hike, there is a short one to a scenic vista between Stewart Campground and South Fork Road. After leaving Cave Creek Canyon, the drive turns northwest through the old mining town of Paradise before heading southwest back to Portal. Much of this section of the drive leads through an open area of high desert providing good views of Silver Peak and Portal Peaks and another perspective on the colorful cliffs of Cave Creek Canyon.