postheadericon Riding SoAZ Part XII (82, 90, 92, Hike!)

The SV, Tombstone, Bisbee Triangle

In this episode, I will talk about three separate routes which traverse a portion of the southeastern area of southern Arizona. In order, they are: the remainder of Route 82, from Sonoita to Tombstone, Route 90, which runs from I-10 through Sierra Vista, then east to Route 80, (We’ll cover 80 the next segment.) and Route 92, which runs from Sierra Vista to Bisbee. Since both Tombstone and Bisbee are on Route 80, I will defer specific discussion of them until the Route 80 segment. Okay? Okay.

Route 82

Unless you count Nogales (population 21,000) as a city or “largish” town, Route 80 does not go through a single town of any significant size. It is a perfect rural route with little traffic, beautiful scenery, small towns and yet the road quality is in remarkably good shape.

On the outskirts of Sonoita looking east.

East of Sonoita, the scenery changes from the foothills of the Santa Rita and Canelo Mountains, to grassy, rolling hills outside of Sonoita, then to low scrub, then through the San Pedro Riparian area. The foothills return as you approach Tombstone.

Park Here to go to the Fairbank Ghost Town

It is about 20 miles from Sonoita to the junction with Route 90. The community of Whetsone, previously know as Sulger City, is located around that junction. At his point you are about 7 miles north of Sierra Vista. Continuing east, you’ll pass through about 10 miles of tall scrub then you descend into the San Pedro Riparian Conservation Area.

The San Pedro River flows from the Sierra Manzanal Mountains in northern Sonora to it confluence with the Gila River near Winkleman, AZ. As you cross the bridge over the San Pedro, you’ll see most of what is left of the town of Fairbank (not Fairbanks like the place in Alaska.) There are a number of buildings left here and there are some well marked, well maintained trails from the parking area where you can walk to the town cemetery and other remains of this ghost town.

Beautiful Downtown Fairbank

It is only about 5 more miles before Route 82 ends at the junction with Route 80 2 or 3 miles north of Tombstone. 82 has been a great road for us in this series. It has taken us more than 80 miles from Nogales to Tombstone:  from mountains to plains, to a lake, through wine country, past a ghost town and through tiny, colorful, friendly communities. I return to 82 again and again and I hope you do the same.

Route 90

If you are planning a day trip to Sierra Vista or Fort Huachuca, then Route 90 is likely to be in your future. It northern terminus is at Interstate-10. The approximately 30 miles from I-10 to Sierra Vista is well maintained divided highway.

Less than 10 miles from I-10 is Arizona’s most recently discovered natural wonder, Kartchner Caverns. I haven’t been there, yet, but I have heard nothing but super reviews of it. Unlike many cave systems, Karcthner is still “living” and forming. As I understand it, you enter the cave through an airlock of sorts, in an effort to maintain its environment as close to natural as possible.

Continuing south, you pass Whetstone and the Route 82 junstion. A few miles later, you arrive at Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca. As mentioned in my last segment, if you plan on riding a 2-wheeled vehicle on the fort, you will have to have completed the MSF course and be fully dressed in safety gear, to include over-the-ankle boots.

Route 90 breaks to the east just as you are entering Sierra Vista, so if you are following 90 to get to Tombstone or Bisbee, look for it.. Route 90 is also called Hatfield Street at this point. If you are looking for a back way to Tombstone (I get tired of taking Route 80) the make a left turn at Martin Luther King/Charleston Road, just after the Wal-Mart. This takes you along a 2-lane blacktop that takes you through the San Pedro Riparian area again, past the ghost town of Charleston and then into the southwest corner of Tombstone near the county courthouse.

If you are wanting, instead, to go to Bisbee, then continue on Route 90. You’ll cross the San Pedro again then intersect Route 80 about halfway between Tombstone and Bisbee.

Route 92

Route 92 exist for less than 50 miles between Sierra Vista and Bisbee, but like many of those “roads less traveled” it is worth the trip. Route 92 starts at the Route 90/Fry Blvd intersection in Sierra Vista. Where Route 90 turns almost due east at that intersection, Route 92 continues almost due south.

If you liked the idea of going to Montezuma Pass, mentioned in Part XI, but not the idea of going on 15 miles of dirt roads, Route 92 is the way to go. Just outside of Sierra Vista, 92 turns to the east. Look for the Coronado National Memorial sign at Montezuma Canyon Road then follow it around to the pass.

After passing Montezuma Canyon Rd, you’ll pass through the little towns of Miracle Valley and Palominas. There is an interesting domed building there. I don’t know what it used to be, but it is a cool looking structure. It’s closed now, but very picturesque. If you know what it was originally, please leave a comment. So far, I haven’t been able to find out anything about it.

Here's that domed building in Palominas

After passing through Palominas, you, again, cross the San Pedro River. From there it is less than 15 miles to Bisbee. When you go to Bisbee via this route, you enter town by “New Bisbee.” It is not the part of town where most tourists go. There are some nice eateries here. Additionally, if you’re interested in going to Mexico, you can go to Naco.

As promised in another segment, we are covering parts of the state rich in history. Ghost towns are near you almost anywhere you stop, especially in the triangle formed by Sierra Vista, Tombstone and Bisbee. Grab your map and do some exploring.

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