Black Hills Back Country Byway

Quick Facts

Black Hills Back Country Byway

Arizona

(928) 348-4400

Map Directions

Things To Do

Overview

The Black Hills Back Country Byway offers 21 miles of back country driving adventure through the northern end of the Peloncillo Mountains in southeastern Arizona. Along the Byway are sweeping views of the Black Hills, Gila Mountains, Mount Graham, and the Gila River Valley. Major attractions seen from the Byway include the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area (NCA) along the Gila River, the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine at Morenci, a Civilian Conservation Corps work camp, over 100 erosion-control structures, and a historic prison labor camp. Side trips off the Byway provide access to the Gila River and spectacular overlooks of the Gila River Canyon within the NCA.

Map of Black Hills Back Country Byway

Latitude, Longitude: 32.977828, -109.299457

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Activities

  • Bicycling

    Recreational pursuits along the byway are limited only by your imagination and abilities. Many primitive side roads provide opportunities for off-highway vehicle driving, and a challenging ride for the experienced mountain bicycler. Rock collectors can visit the nearby Black Hills Rockhound Area, while interesting rock formations along the road can be studied and photographed. Hiking along side roads, trails, or cross-country can be rewarded with scenic vistas of the Gila Box or close-up views of the area's plentiful wildlife. Camping and picnicking are permitted on public lands along the road, with several developed sites available. Midway on the byway, the Canyon Overlook Picnic Area provides shaded ramadas with a scenic vista of the Gila River canyon. Closer to the east end of the byway is the Owl Creek Campground with seven units perched on a cliff overlooking the historic Old Safford Bridge. The south end of the bridge is a popular launch site for those floating the Gila River and for fishing for catfish. The north end of the bridge has a small picnic area. Mule deer, javelina, and quail can be hunted on public lands along the byway.

  • Auto/Motorcycle

    The Black Hills Back Country Byway is unpaved, but is accessible to high clearance vehicles during dry weather. Portions of the byway have narrow drop-offs or are confined by steep cliffs. Do not attempt the byway if you have a travel trailer or any vehicle more than 20 feet long. Motor homes and trailers can be left at parking areas provided near kiosks at each end. Please take extra care to drive defensively on this route. Always expect a vehicle around the next bend and remember: mountain courtesy gives uphill traffic the right of way.

    Allow at least two hours driving time one way to travel the byway, not including stops. If you plan to stop and enjoy the scenery or explore some of the side routes, your travel can be extended. Have enough gas, water, and other provisions for your trip since no services are provided along the byway. If you choose to be more adventurous and travel some of the side routes, remember all of these single lane roads require a four-wheel-drive vehicle. These roads are not maintained and portions can be steep, rough, and rocky. Washes crossing these routes tend to make it difficult to tell where the road is at all times. Please be sure you are properly prepared. Notify someone of your travel schedule. A topographic map and compass are helpful when exploring more remote areas.

  • Fishing

    Fishing is permitted. The Old Safford Bridge is a popular place for fishing Catfish.

  • Hiking

    Hiking can be done alongside roads, trails, and cross country while veiwing the areas vast array of wildlife.

  • Historic Sites

    Recreational pursuits along the byway are limited only by your imagination and abilities. Many primitive side roads provide opportunities for off-highway vehicle driving, and a challenging ride for the experienced mountain bicycler. Rock collectors can visit the nearby Black Hills Rockhound Area, while interesting rock formations along the road can be studied and photographed. Hiking along side roads, trails, or cross-country can be rewarded with scenic vistas of the Gila Box or close-up views of the area's plentiful wildlife. Camping and picnicking are permitted on public lands along the road, with several developed sites available. Midway on the byway, the Canyon Overlook Picnic Area provides shaded ramadas with a scenic vista of the Gila River canyon. Closer to the east end of the byway is the Owl Creek Campground with seven units perched on a cliff overlooking the historic Old Safford Bridge. The south end of the bridge is a popular launch site for those floating the Gila River and for fishing for catfish. The north end of the bridge has a small picnic area. Mule deer, javelina, and quail can be hunted on public lands along the byway.

  • Hunting

    Near public lands on the Byway, hunting of mule deer, javelina, and quail is permitted.

  • Picnicking

    The Black Hills area includes parts of the Gila River. Take a picnic to the old Safford Bridge, or join the rafters floating down the river. About a quarter of a mile hike up an old abandoned road along the river leads to the hottest natural hot springs in Arizona. The waters are only accessible during low river flow but they stay a constant 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Seasonality/Weather

Climatic conditions in the area are similar to those throughout the desert Southwest, with mild to warm temperatures throughout the year. Summer highs typically reach between 85 to 100 degrees, with lows around 60. Mild winter days average around 60 degrees; nights about 30. Precipitation, mostly rain, averages 12 inches, and occurs primarily in summer and winter. Summertime thunderstorms can be very intense. An occasional winter snow is not uncommon, but it usually doesn't take long to melt.

Arizona weather can change quickly. Be prepared. Dress in layers, wear a hat, and pack sunscreen. Always carry plenty of water.

Directions

Driving

To reach to the south end; From Safford, travel 10 miles on State Highway 70 to its junction with State Highway 191. Turn left onto Highway 191 and continue 8 miles to the southern end of the Byway (milepost 160) and turn right.

Flying

Flying into either Pheonix or Tucson will result in approximately a two hour drive. Request a map and advice at the airport, and be careful about relying on a GPS system, as the route is not mapped on most services.

Phone Numbers

Primary

(928) 348-4400

Links