The 8-mile de Anza Trail, which passes through forests and grasslands and follows the Santa Cruz River for much of its route, links Tubac with Tumacácori. This trail is part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, which stretches from Nogales to San Francisco and commemorates the overland journey of the Spanish captain who, in 1775 and 1776, led a small band of colonists overland to California. These settlers founded what is now the city of San Francisco. Today, bird-watching is the most popular activity along the trail. History buffs will also get to see an excavation of part of the Spanish colonial settlement of Tubac. The most convenient trail head is beside Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. Rex Ranch (tel. 520/398-2914; www.rexranch.com) offers horseback rides starting at $40 per hour.
If golf is more your speed, you can play a round at the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa (tel. 520/398-2021; www.tubacgolfresort.com), just north of Tubac off East Frontage Road. Greens fees range from $99 to $109 in the winter ($79-$89 after 12:30pm).
Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge
If you're a bird-watcher, you'll definitely want to make the trip to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge (tel. 520/823-4251; www.fws.gov/southwest/refuges/arizona/buenosaires/index.html), about 28 miles from Tubac. To get here, head north from Tubac on I-19 to Arivaca Junction, then drive west on a winding two-lane road. The refuge begins just outside the small community of Arivaca.
Your first stop should be Arivaca Cienega, a quarter of a mile east of Arivaca. Cienega is Spanish for "marsh," and that is exactly what you'll find here. A boardwalk leads across this marsh, which is fed by seven springs that provide year-round water and consequently attract a wide variety of bird life. Vermilion flycatchers are quite common here, and this is one of the few places in the United States where you can see a gray hawk. Other good birding spots within the refuge include Arivaca Creek, 2 miles west of Arivaca, and Aguirre Lake, a seasonal lake a half-mile north of the refuge headquarters and visitor center, which is off Ariz. 286 north of Sasabe.
The visitor center is a good place to spot one of the refuge's rarest birds, the masked bobwhite quail. These quail disappeared from Arizona in the late 19th century, but have been reintroduced in the refuge. Other birds you might spot outside the visitor center include Bendire's thrashers, Chihuahuan ravens, canyon towhees, and green-tailed towhees. The visitor center is open daily from 7:30am to 4pm (closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and summer weekends).
Other wildlife in the refuge includes pronghorn antelopes, javelinas, coatimundis, white-tailed deer, mule deer, and coyotes. Guided birding walks are offered Saturday mornings at 8am from November through April. During these same months, on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month, there are 5-mile guided hikes in Brown Canyon. Reservations are required for these latter hikes. There is primitive camping at nearly 100 designated spots along rough gravel roads. Look for the brown campsite signs along the road, and bring your own water.
These roads also offer good mountain biking. If you're looking for a strenuous hike, try the Mustang Trail, which has its trail head 2 miles west of Arivaca. The trail climbs from Arivaca Creek into the surrounding dry hills and makes for a 5-mile round-trip hike.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.