Graham County is an under-discovered region of Arizona situated to the east of Tucson, just north of Interstate 10. Graham County is all about small-town friendliness and amazing public lands. There are more than four million acres of National Forest and protected wilderness lands, plus pristine high-desert beauty, the lush Gila Valley and the towering pines on Mount Graham.
Graham County is filled with so many things to do in its terrific little communities and has some of the most scenic terrain in the entire Southwest. It’s no wonder first-time visitors frequently come back for more…naturally!
Come to Graham County and discover “Life the Way It Ought to Be.” Nestled in the shadow of 10,720-foot Mount Graham in the Pinaleno Mountain Range are the communities of Safford, Thatcher and Pima, which house some of the richest treasures in the Southwestern United States. Graham County has an amazing 4,500 square miles of expansive public lands for you to roam and explore.
Arizona’s Salsa Trail
Graham County is famous for being home to terrific Mexican food along Arizona’s Salsa Trail. Sprinkled throughout Graham County’s small communities, and expanding into the corners of Greenlee and Cochise counties, are one country store and a dozen Mexican restaurants that serve some of the best homemade Mexican fare on the planet!
The scenic Old West Highway connects these communities and businesses, which are within a 45-mile radius of Safford – about an hour and a half east and slightly north of Tucson. In a world where change seems constant, the constant on the Salsa Trail is good food and good service that has spanned for decades. Discover all there is to know about Arizona’s Salsa Trail.
SalsaFest, held every September, is the “hottest” event in Southern Arizona. Hot air balloons line Safford’s historic Main Street on Friday evening to kick off the festivities, then live entertainment, delicious food, Chihuahua races, a doggie costume contest and samples of the greatest salsas in the Southwest take place throughout the weekend.
SalsaFest is a celebration of everything salsa, including the opportunity to win prizes and bragging rights in the annual Salsa Challenge, where amateurs and professionals show off their salsa-making skills and unbeatable recipes.
All salsas are prepared on-site, right inside the Salsa Challenge tent. Festival attendees purchase chips, and then go to each salsa challenge contestant to sample their awesome and unique salsas. Afterward, they vote for their favorite in the People’s Choice competition.
Activities Abound, Both Indoors and Out
Graham County’s public lands will inspire you to discover the unique and high-quality lifestyle they offer, from hiking, cycling, birding, rockhounding, fishing and floating on the Gila River to attending annual events and investigating the history of the area’s pioneers.
After you’re done exploring, savor local cuisine from the internationally known Arizona’s Salsa Trail. Then attend a seasonal performance at the David M. Player Center for the Arts or by the Gila Valley Arts Council at Eastern Arizona College and complete your day with world-class productions in music or theater.
Discovery Park Campus serves as the visitors center for Mount Graham International Observatory (MGIO), where you will find an interpretive journey of space exploration activities, interactive exhibits and stargazing opportunities. The main attractions, available to the public, are found in the Gov Aker Observatory building and are free of charge, except for special events, and include a series of galleries in which visitors can ponder the origins of the universe.
Roper Lake State Park
Roper Lake State Park offers many outdoor activities, including camping, fishing, hiking, birding, swimming and a natural hot mineral spring. Visitors can receive massages and additional treatment services at other hot mineral springs in the valley.
Outdoor enthusiasts can relish world-class birdwatching while hiking the Gila Box Riparian Area, where the common black hawk or the winter wren can be seen. Or trek along the mountain canyons to spot a painted red start warbler.
Enjoy the trails of the Pinaleno Mountains, which take you through aspen and Douglas fir forests. The trails showcase regional wildflowers and species uncommon to the region, such as the white shooting star.
Resting on the edge of the biologically rich Sonoran Desert, the treasure of Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness awaits with saguaro cacti, bighorn sheep and geological sightseeing.
Cycle Rides and 4-Wheel Drives
Graham County has something for every bike enthusiast. Expert hill climbers test their skills against the ride up Mount Graham’s Swift Trail. For an intermediate ride try the road to Fort Grant. Cross-country riders often travel through Graham County riding on the Adventure Cycling Association’s Southern Tier route.
Back-road adventurers should not miss a drive on the Black Hills Back Country Byway. A part of a national system of scenic roads, the byway is suggested for high-profile vehicles, mountain bikes, rockhounding or simply absorbing the sweeping vistas of valleys, canyons and mountain ranges.
Discover the beauty of Southeastern Arizona’s scenic landscapes and unique terrain. By partaking in everyday outdoor activities or coming to enjoy Arizona’s Salsa Trail and SalsaFest, you will truly experience “Life the Way It Ought to Be.” Come visit Graham County and build new memories to last a lifetime.
Brought to you by the Graham County Chamber of Commerce, (928) 428-2511, www.visitgrahamcounty.com.