The San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area protects 56,000 acres of public land along the San Pedro River and provides public access to a myriad of recreational opportunities. There are great places to hike, ride your horse or bicycle, birdwatch, picnic, camp, tour historic sites and pretty much anything else you can do outdoors. Here are locations and what you might do there. Let’s go from north to south.
Presidio of Santa Cruz de Terrenate. A 3-mile round-trip trail takes you to the ruins of a Spanish Presidio. Interpretive signs guide you around the ruins of the fort. GPS coordinates for the trailhead: 31.74666803295779, -110.2182901873951
Fairbank. The ghost town of Fairbank is another historic site where you can take a self-guided tour, including the town cemetery. Fairbank is also a major nexus of trails. The 4-mile Fairbank Loop takes you north from town on the San Pedro Trail past the cemetery, a silver mill, and back along the river. This is a popular trail for hikers and horseback riders. GPS coordinates for the Fairbank parking area: 31.722104304540387, -110.18843199589392
Little Boquillas Ranch. This historic site, once the headquarters of the huge ranch that is now the SPRNCA, is not developed but is open to visitors. You reach it by hiking, biking, or horseback riding 5 miles roundtrip south from Fairbank on the San Pedro Trail. GPS coordinates for the trailhead: 31.722477532792357, -110.18600646614794
Millville and Rock Art Discovery Trail. Located just east of the River on Charleston road, this 2.5-mile roundtrip trail takes you past the ruins of two silver mills that once operated here and also Native American petroglyphs. Interpretive signs guide you. Millville also provides access to the San Pedro Trail and unofficial paths along the river. GPS coordinates for the entrance to the parking area/trailhead: 31.63002398132326, -110.17266853671788
Escapule Road — Clanton Ranch. The Escapule Wash trailhead provides access to the San Pedro Trail. A 2-miles roundtrip hike to the south is the site of the Clanton Ranch, operated by the famous Clanton family of OK Corral fame. The trail to the ranch site is marked, but the site is undeveloped. GPS coordinates for the parking area: 31.59681350823077, -110.1579428132874
Murray Springs. Thirteen thousand years ago the Clovis Culture hunted mammoths and other animals in the marshlands along the river. In the 1970s the U of A excavated a kill site here. A .5-mile loop trail with interpretive signs guides you around the site. There is access to the San Pedro Trail. GPS coordinates for the parking area: 31.56950715480063, -110.18970951047018
The San Pedro House. Located here is a garden, interpretive displays, a trailhead for the San Pedro Trail, and numerous paths leading to the River and two ponds. People do fish in the river and ponds here. Bike riders like to ride on the San Pedro Trail. This is a birdwatching mecca. GPS coordinates for the entrance: 31.5504322162194, -110.14260439430102
Miller Backcountry Camp. Four miles (8 roundtrip) south of the San Pedro House on the San Pedro Trail is a tent campground. You must hike/bike/ride to the site and there is a nightly camping fee. There are tent pads, fire rings, tables, and a pit toilet on-site. GPS coordinates for the trailhead: 31.548152587336002, -110.14179438542882
Hereford Bridge Trailhead. This trailhead provides access to lovely trails along the river and connection to the San Pedro Trail. This is a birdwatching hotspot. GPS coordinates for the trailhead: 31.436417337958904, -110.11030869151347
Waters Road Trailhead. Another access point to the river and San Pedro Trail. This is a lovely stretch of the River, open and parklike. It is a great place to relax and walk along the river. There are numerous birds to be seen here. GPS coordinates for the trailhead: 31.40908303216395, -110.107608676923
Palominas Trailhead. And we reach the southern end. This trailhead features a picnic area and pit toilet. It provides access to the San Pedro Trail that parallels the River. Most visitors hike cross country to the River, an isolated stretch that is usually dry yet has a lot of wildlife. GPS coordinates for the trailhead: 31.376549284152944, -110.10398727510591
You will need to do some research with a map to find and visit these sites; we have provided GPS coordinates. They are open during daylight hours. Motorized vehicles are not allowed. Hunting and fishing are allowed under Arizona State Game and Fish rules. Historic sites and artifacts are protected — metal detectors are not allowed. The San Pedro Trail connects all of these. The San Pedro Trail is a great place for bicycle and horseback riding. You can plan a hike that starts at one trailhead and finishes at another.
There are numerous ways to enjoy the SPRNCA. See our Friends of the San Pedro River website and Facebook page for more information. You can take a short stroll or a long hike. You can sit and eat lunch at a picnic table. You can explore historic sites. You can hike and spend the night at a backcountry campground. They all start with coming for a visit. See you there!
Ron Stewart is a long-time resident of Sierra Vista. He is the Friends docent for Fairbank and the vice president of the organization. He is an amateur photographer and historian.