By Phil Scudella
The Sierra Vista Recreational Area incorporates several mountain ranges which are separated by rolling hills and some of the Southwest’s most extensive grasslands. The area includes the Huachuca, Patagonia and Whetstone Mountains. These areas were once the focus of extensive mining activity and their canyons and ridges are rich in the history of those colorful days. An extensive network of trails provides access to the Huachuca Mountains and to the 20,190 acre Miller Peak Wilderness.
In nearby Ramsey Canyon, where miners once sluiced, blasted and tunneled for gold and silver, birdwatchers have found a gentler bonanza. A number of scenic drives cross the area’s broad grasslands, and anglers find their reward in Parker Canyon Lake where stocked trout, as well as other species, challenge fishermen
Named for the highest peak in the Huachuca Mountains, and is the highest and southernmost peak in the United States. This Wilderness encompasses 20,190 acres and was established in 1984.
The Miller Peak Wilderness lies between the city of Sierra Vista and the Mexican border in the southern half of the Huachuca Mountains. The Miller Peak Wilderness is a land of sheer cliffs, soaring summits and deep canyons. In these diverse life-zones lives an amazing variety of wildlife including over 170 species of birds (14 species of hummingbirds). Seventy-eight species of mammals have been observed in the Huachuca’s including coatimundi, javelina, black bear and mountain lion.
Over 60 species of reptiles also can be found here. Seventeenth-century Spanish Captain Juan Mateo Manje referred to these mountains in his expedition journal as Sierra de Huachuca, or Huachuca Mountains.
Many sheer cliffs rise hundreds of feet above the canyon floors. At least 21 trails lead through the Wilderness from its eastern, western, and southern boundaries.
The Arizona Trail traverses this wilderness before reaching its southern terminus at the U.S./Mexican border. From the Crest Trail (11 miles) one can reach the top of Miller Peak. Throughout the area, visitors may encounter evidence of the region’s bygone mining and ranching days. Trails here climb from 5,200 feet to as high as 9,466 feet at the apex of Miller Peak, and offer some of the most dramatic views in the Southwest.
The Huachuca’s are rich in history. These canyons, cliffs, and forests are littered with the remains of various late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century mining booms that all eventually went bust. Today, the gold rush has been replaced by a recreation rush that’s adding a new chapter to the history of the Miller Peak Wilderness.
This area is an exciting adventure where you could spend weeks and not come close to seeing all that you would like to that would include; Historic Fort Huachuca, Bisbee, Tombstone, the Kartcher Caverns, Arizona’s famous wineries in Elgin and Sonoita. You’ll find terrific Bed and Breakfast places to stay, Hotels everywhere including a couple that are said to be haunted.
Enjoy great food throughout entire Southern Arizona including “Papa’s 50’s Diner” in Sierra Vista. Now let me mention this, in all of the years of including articles of out of the way unique places to grab a meal while you were traveling, I have never once mentioned my brother Richard’s authentic 50’s diner in Sierra Vista that he built nearly 20 years ago. I should have – since you will find a great menu covering breakfast, lunch and dinners including his wife Marie Christine’s family recipes for some terrific Italian dishes. Their motto: “Breakfast is served around the clock till the doors are locked” You could spend an hour looking at the memorabilia that he has collected that will transport you back to the 50’s & 60’s While you’re there you might even see a regular customer that looks very much like rock and roll’s original icon. Encourage him and he may sing to you as he does on the outdoor patio every Sunday mid-day!
ADD PHOTOS – including an outdoor shot of the Diner entrance and one of Richie & Elvis
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