The 7 Best Picnic Areas In Southern Arizonaby Jim Gressinger on Oct. 10, 2012, under Uncategorized
What Makes A Great Picnic Area?
The ingredients for a reeeally good picnic are fairly simple: fresh, delicious, and easy-to-prepare food; good wine, and amiable companions.
But even these critical ingredients alone do not make a great picnic. A great picnic requires a great picnic site. By that we mean natural beauty and mostly the delightful sounds of nature: panoramic vistas, wildflowers, wind through the leaves, babbling brook, thunderous waterfall, birds singing, etc.
For our purposes here, we define “Picnic Area” as a space set aside with at least picnic tables and a trash bin, and maybe a grill or fire pit. Of course, you can hike into many of our beautiful canyons, such as Ramsey near Sierra Vista, and pack in a picnic lunch. But many are not that civilized … thankfully.
Here (in no particular order) are 7 of the best picnic spots in all of Southern Arizona.
- The picnic area at the Amerind Foundation Museum near Willcox in the Dragoon Mountains is spacious and offers big picnic tables under beautiful trees. A fine setting among the huge boulders of Texas Canyon. Give the rattlers their space, but the kids will love to climb on the rocks.
Another big advantage of this picnic area is its proximity to the Amerind Museum, a fine private collection of New World artifacts, and a small, but exquisite art museum.
- Roper Lake State Park is just south of Safford and offers camping, RV parking, cabin rentals, and a fine picnic area. There’s a small day-use fee to picnic on the peninsula where you are surround on three sides by water with a grand view of Mt. Graham to west.
- Colossal Cave Mountain Park about 25 miles east of Downtown Tucson. At the Ranch below the cave, you can ride horses, enjoy 2 small museums, and have your choice of several pleasant picnic areas in an Old West setting.
- Muleshoe Ranch Preserve north of Benson and west of Willcox is one of our picks for Best Birding Hotspots in Southern Arizona. There’s a picnic table by a creek next to the old building that serves as the visitor center.
- Sabino Canyon is a beautiful piece of Metropolitan Tucson. You can walk or take the tram (cash only). There are several pleasant picnic areas along the east side of Sabino Creek.
- Black Hills Country Bywaybetween Clifton and Soloman. There are several fine picnic areas long this wonderful back road. Some are high overlooking a vast expanse. Some are right along the Gila River.
- Slaughter Ranch & Museum was once the home of Texas John Slaughter, the sheriff who cleaned up Cochise County after the Earps left Tombstone. The former home, now museum, shows how the most prominent family in Southeastern Arizona lived in the 1880′s & ’90′s. By the pond down by the barn are a couple of picnic tables. Tour the ranch house first, then have a picnic there. You will be amazed how easy it is to imagine what your life back then would have been in this remotest corner of Arizona.
Bugs, No Bugs!
Of course, the choice of a really good picnic area depends on knowing what to avoid. A couple of thoughts. Bugs can ruin an otherwise delightful picnic. I love flying bugs. They serve a valuable purpose – a feast for our bats. And ants are important to our delicate ecosystem. But bugs at a picnic are in violation of my high moral standards, and of course, my highly-evolved sense of aesthetics.
I hate bugs that try to make me their picnic lunch. Ants. Bad. Flies. Even worse. And mosquitoes. The worst. A hot day near water or after a rain and I can guarantee mosquitoes. Solution: cover your entire body in protective clothing and use bug spray with Deet liberally. Thus, avoid Cochise Stronghold campground and Stronghold B&B under these conditions.
What to do? The cooler the temperature, the fewer the bugs. The higher the elevation, the cooler the temperature. The months of October – March are the coolest months. And the fewest bugs. So plan accordingly.
For example, DO NOT attempt to picnic in Reid Park (Central Tucson) in the summer. Probably a combination of the hot temperature and the close proximity of the zoo, but the flies are awful. Similarly, avoid Stronghold B&B in the hot months. Tons of mosquitoes because it’s so close to the stream. But in the cooler months this is paradise for birders and rock climbers.
Do you have a favorite Southern Arizona Picnic area that should be on this list? Let me know.