Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Prepared by Whitney James for Visit USA Parks
This story was created in partnership with Discover Bisbee.
View original article here.
Once one of the richest mineral sites in the world, today, Bisbee, Arizona is a haven for artists and outdoor enthusiasts. So go ahead—elevate your heart rate before indulging in Bisbee’s cuisine and countless shopping opportunities.
Bisbee, Arizona is one of the most unexpected places in the American West. Founded as a historic copper mining town, today it has a booming arts and culture district complete with delicious eateries and charismatic (if not sometimes haunted) lodging. Here are a few ways to pair your time in Bisbee with a healthy dose of the outdoors.
Climb the Famous Heritage Stairs
Set into the steep hillsides of the Mule Mountains in southern Arizona’s Cochise County, Bisbee is not for the faint of heart. In fact, taking a walk through town is a little bit like moving through a maze—one with a lot of elevation gain. Natural landscape aside, Bisbee owes its odd zoning to the lack of regulation during its founding. Way back in 1877, U.S. army scouts discovered the presence of lead, copper, and silver in the area. It wasn’t long before prospectors flocked to the area and set to work.
At first, the townspeople built wooden stairs and sometimes even ladders to connect the buildings throughout Bisbee; an improvement from the earthen trails that preceded them, which often became treacherous when wet. During the Great Depression, the stairs were further solidified in concrete. Now, they offer a wonderful way to see the ins and outs of Bisbee and get a real feel for its character—and views! At least 82 stairways can be found scattered throughout town. Take the afternoon to explore, and don’t miss the picturesque Broadway Stairs Gallery in Brewery Gulch. You might even opt to visit during the Bisbee 1000, an annual stair climb event that celebrates this quirky part of the town’s legacy.
Go on a Ghost or Mine Tour, or Both!
Bisbee is unconventional, and so are its outdoor activities. Embrace it by embarking on a guided ghost or mine tour! Even better, do them both over the course of your trip. Head down to the southeast corner of town for the Queen Mine Tour. There, they’ll outfit you in a hardhat, miner’s headlamp, and a yellow slicker; necessary equipment for exploring the mine. Afraid of the dark? Don’t worry, you’ll be in good hands. Each tour is guided by a retired miner; who else better to give you first-person stories of what it was really like to journey 1,500 feet into the earth each day for work?
The Old Bisbee Ghost Tour is a great way to get acquainted with some of Bisbee’s more mysterious characters. Perfect for first-timers and occult fans alike, this tour is equal parts spooky and historical. You’ll get a glimpse into some of the most legendary lodging in town while getting a good look at some of its hidden alleyways and haunts. Keep an eye out for Casper—it’s very common for visitors to experience paranormal activity while in Bisbee.
Explore Chiricahua National Monument
Located just under an hour and a half from Bisbee, Chiricahua National Monument is one of Arizona’s finest hidden gems. Known for its rock pinnacles formed by an ancient volcano, it’s truly unlike any other spot in the American West. Take the time to make a day trip out of it.
As you wind down the highway heading east, you’ll get a lesson in the interesting geography of southeastern Arizona. The Mule Mountains make up part of the Sky Island chain; intermittent and incredibly biodiverse mountains surrounded by the vast Sulphur Springs Valley below. Enjoy watching the scenery evolve. Monument plants with flowering stalks punctuate the horizon, giving way to cypress, sycamore, oaks, and juniper within the park itself. Once you arrive at Chiricahua National Monument, drive the eight-mile scenic road (watching out for turkeys and other wildlife along the way) or go hiking on one of the 17 miles of day-use trails. It’s worth packing a picnic lunch from Bisbee to really take the time to enjoy this unique destination!
Go Birding at Ramsey Canyon Preserve
Another great way to stretch your legs outside of Bisbee is to go birding at Ramsey Canyon Preserve. A short 40-minute drive to the west, Ramsey Canyon is located within the Huachuca Mountains—another member of the Sky Island chain. Translation? You can expect a huge array of biodiversity here, just like in Chiricahua National Monument. And while this entire portion of Arizona is renowned for birding, Ramsey Canyon is famous for it. Visit the Nature Conservancy’s preserve where hiking trails wind through thick forests to scenic lookouts. Or, travel to Ash Canyon Bird Sanctuary, where you can relax in the caretaker’s backyard with a thermos of coffee and let the birds come to you. Known for the rare hummingbirds and quail who frequent the backyard, this is an extra special way to experience a more laid back version of the outdoors outside of Bisbee.
Mountain Bike or Hike in the Huachucas
In case you didn’t see a ghost on your tour, those who seek a healthy dose of adrenaline may want to hit the trails at a faster pace. Also located in the Huachuca Mountains is a network of multi-use singletrack—perfect for exploring on two wheels. Pick up a bike from Sun & Spoke in downtown Sierra Vista before hitting the trails. Try the advanced 10-mile Cooper Loop, or keep things blue on the Brown Canyon Loop. Watch out for jumping cholla and all the other prickly, but beautiful, desert plants you might encounter! No matter which trail you select, you’ll have stunning views looking back towards the Mule Mountains in late afternoon light. When you return to Bisbee, wash down your efforts at Old Bisbee Brewing Company and grab a slice of pepperoni at Screaming Banshee.