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Southern Arizona: The West is still wild in this slice of the Grand Canyon State

Walk in the moccasins of Native Americans and in the boots of the cowboys who inhabited the Arizona wilderness.

Drive 294.8 miles, 4 hours, 5 minutes

1. Yuma    

Starting Point

For centuries, all roads led to Yuma, which once served as a key crossing point of the Colorado River. Today the city celebrates a multicultural heritage that encompasses the Cocopah—an indigenous people—along with miners, military personnel and the intrepid pioneers who settled here. This once-busy river port is the perfect winter retreat for snowbirds, offering excellent golf courses, birding expeditions, fishing opportunities, hiking trails and plenty of museums to visit.

Getty Images

Getty Images

2. Gila Bend    

116.2 miles, 1 hour, 30 minutes

Gila Bend is the home of the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and gateway to the Sonoran Desert National Monument. There are hundreds of petroglyphs that were etched on the rocks by prehistoric people centuries ago; the site is breathtaking in its scope and history. The rocks also are adorned by writings left by settlers passing through. The nearby Sonoran Desert is made up of three mountain ranges and an extensive saguaro cactus forest; outfitters in the area provide hiking and equestrian trails. Take a horseback tour of the area with Corral West Horse Adventures, which also offers fun-filled wagon rides.

3. Casa Grande

63.8 miles, 55 minutes

Casa Grande (Great House) is home to one of the largest prehistoric ruins in North America. The region’s early inhabitants, the Hohokams, constructed an elaborate system of irrigation canals and developed widespread trading networks throughout the region. However, the purpose of this ancient walled compound and four-story house-like structure remains a mystery. The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument features paved walkways and trails that lead to the site’s most important areas, along with ranger-guided tours of the ruins.


Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort
Casa Grande, AZ
(800) 421-7004


Getty Images/Purestock

Getty Images/Purestock

4. Tucson

67.9 miles, 57 minutes

Tucson is still home to a Wild West shootout, but this one doesn’t involve cowboys or guns—it’s all about the cars. Each January, the USA Raceway hosts drivers from around the country for a six-race series that kicks off with an open practice, followed by daily events for late models, modifieds and X-mods. Race into the past at Old Tucson, a filming location that served as the backdrop for up to 300 Western-themed shows and movies, including the 1956 film, “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” You can take a tour, ride on a stagecoach and witness a simulated gunfight at high noon.

5. Benson

46.9 miles, 43 minutes

Benson was a hub in the development of southwestern transportation and connection on the Butterfield Overland Trail, the first overland transcontinental mail by stagecoach route. At 2,800 miles, it was the world’s longest stagecoach line. Also making a stop in the town was the Pony Express, which provided unprecedented speed in delivering the mail. Locals pay tribute to this dashing chapter in history each October with the Butterfield Overland Stage Days and Rodeo. Kartchner Caverns State Park is another attraction.