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Naturalists are in for a rare treat.

Already a favorite among visitors is Nature’s Hideaway, a re-creation of what the Gila River Valley was nearly a century ago.


Indigenous plants and animals have been gathered to depict the desert river basin in its pristine and fertile condition of years past. Viewing areas and walking paths allow visitors to observe native wildlife in its natural environment. The area is especially popular with birdwatchers.

There are shorter trails for beginners and relaxation-minded hikers, and longer, more challenging routes for dedicated enthusiasts. Difficulty and temperature also vary by elevation. The lowest trails are at an elevation of 4,500 feet, and the highest are at more than 10,700 feet. Riggs Lake, which is small enough to jog around, is located 12 miles past the end of the pavement, near the top of Mount Graham.

In addition to being home to a world-famous observatory, Mount Graham is a favorite spot for year-round recreation in southeastern Arizona. As the highest peak in the Pinaleno range, Mount Graham offers a cool retreat from the summer heat as well as a snowy playground during the Arizona winter. Mount Graham is a hiker’s dream with more than twenty, maintained trails.

From July to November, Angle’s Orchard (a 20-minute drive up from the base of the Mount Graham) welcomes visitors to pick fresh peaches, plums and their specialty—apples. The orchard is an excellent, fun side-trip after visiting Mount Graham.

The Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness hiking area isn’t easily accessible (see photo above), but who wants to hike the interstate? Hiking permits are available through the Safford BLM office (928-348-4400). The area’s distance from civilization keeps it pristine. From the spot 13 miles west of Stafford where Klondyke road meets US 70, to the trailhead, is a drive of more than an hour.

As the road dips into the Aravaipa Canyon, down through the oak trees to the cottonwood-shaded creek bed, the 45-mile drive on the graded dirt road is worth it. The total length of the hike is 11 miles, a good length for an overnight or all-day trip. The trail follows the course of the creek through tight red rhyolite cliffs, crossing and re-crossing the waterway. Several side canyons, some with cascades, tributaries and pools offer hikers even more wilderness to explore.

Relaxing fishing. FISHING AND BOATING
Roper Lake State Park (928-428-6760) is comprised of two distinct sections: Roper Lake and Danksworth Ponds. Roper Lake has a boat ramp, natural stone hot tub (mineral springs), swimming, a day-use island, and beach. The lake is stocked, making it a great place for kids to catch their first fish. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to sailboard, then this is the place to do it.

Boats are limited to only small electric motors, creating ideal water surface conditions to bring a sailboard and hit the water. Five miles of trails throughout the park let you stretch your muscles and view the wildlife.

Three miles south of the lake is Danksworth Ponds, which was once a fish hatchery for rearing catfish. It has picnic armadas, an Indian Village, and a playground.