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Spotlight: Benson

Enter a gateway into Wild West history and rugged country

Tucked gently away in the sun-soaked desert valleys of scenic southeastern Arizona is the picturesque town of Benson. Home to fewer than 5,000 year-round residents, this bustling small community still sports a proud frontier history and bold Wild West flair that matches perfectly with the surrounding desert landscape.

Roughly 45 miles east of Tucson and 160 miles southeast of Phoenix, Benson is regarded as the gateway to Cochise County and the official home of Kartchner Caverns State Park. It’s also a stone’s throw from legendary towns like Tombstone, surreal museums like Gammons Gulch, and one-of-a-kind attractions like Cochise Stronghold. Add it all up and you have one of the most compelling small towns in the country.

Founded in 1880 as construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad made its way through southern Arizona, the current location of Benson replaced an earlier stagecoach outpost. The new Benson served as the main rail access and shipping point for the town of Tombstone 24 miles to the south.

Benson Tourism

Benson Tourism

A Trip to Tombstone

Today, visitors to Benson are still encouraged to make the half-hour drive south for a chance to walk Tombstone’s still-wooden sidewalks. The rugged town that’s been labeled “Too Tough To Die” features a preserved and restored 1880s-era street as well as reenactments of the O.K. Corral gunfight.

Rounding out the major historical sites is Cochise Stronghold, a protected woodland lying 33 miles east of Benson, and once the home of Apache Chief Cochise.

Going Underground

South of Benson, in the foothills of the Whetstone Mountains, is the crown jewel of Cochise County: Kartchner Caverns State Park. Home to a massive network of caves and luminous limestone caverns, this is one of Arizona’s most popular natural attractions. The highlights are the Throne Room and the Big Room, as well as the mud flats, Rotunda Room, Strawberry Room and Cul-de-sac Passage.

For More Information

Benson Visitor Center
Arizona Office of Tourism