Southern Arizona Paradise 11

Sierra Vista by Day and Night

To many, Sierra Vista is best known as a global leader in military intelligence as well as a bustling hub for cybersecurity research, workforce development, testing and certification. But, beyond serving a hub that protects us—not to mention our computers and smart phones—from everything that goes bump in the night, Sierra Vista is one of Arizona’s best-kept tourism secrets. At the base of the 9,400-foot Huachuca Mountains, Sierra Vista enjoys bright, sunny days and star-studded nights. Sierra Vista’s 4,600-foot elevation makes it a cool respite from the hot summer climate and a delightful escape from the winter chill. In fact, its diversity offers something for everyone. Here are some best bets for a weekend—or longer—trip this fall.


Once one of the largest cities in the West, today Fairbank in greater-Sierra Vista is among the best-preserved ghost towns in the country. There is a daily self-guided tour available and the fully restored one-room schoolhouse serves as a museum and gift shop on weekends.

Fort Huachuca’s National Historic District

If you dig history, you’re in luck! You’ll find two major museums nearby for an opportunity to steep yourself in Arizona’s colorful past, including the Fort Huachuca Military Intelligence Soldier Heritage Learning Center, which gives tribute to military intelligence beginning with our nation’s birth.


Sierra Vista marks the starting point of the Arizona National Scenic Trail, an 800-mile route across Arizona that traverses mountains, deserts, canyons, forests and communities from Mexico to Utah. Along the way, you’ll experience some of the most breathtaking landscapes in North America. The trail is free and open every day with easy on and off points for day hikes or longer treks. Ash Canyon is also a popular option and easily accessible by car. It offers three separate habitats: Chihuahua Desert grassland, riparian woodland and oak forest.

San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area

With nearly 40 miles of riparian vegetation, this 56,000-acre area is teeming with plant and animal life. Highly popular with bird watchers (more than half of the known breeding bird species in the United States have been spotted here), visitors can hike solo or choose from regularly scheduled bird, interpretive and river walks led by docents from the San Pedro House.

Parker Canyon Lake

Tucked between gently rolling hills of the Sonoita wine country and surrounded by the Western Huachuca Mountains, this 132-acre lake and recreation site offers fully ADA-accessible fishing opportunities (fishing license required).


Amateur astronomers can find a host of stargazing opportunities in Southern Arizona because of Sierra Vista’s dark sky ordinances and vast, unlit county lands, which help reduce astronomy photo light pollution, making the stars shine even brighter. In total, there are 16 observatories in the area. San Pedro Valley Observatory is a favorite as it specializes in individualized experiences. Guests can book a two-hour session for up to four people with one of the observatory’s professional astronomers.


Have a hankering for spicy kimchi, authentic German cuisine or down-home American eats? You’ll find it in Sierra Vista’s foodie scene with dozens of locally owned restaurants serving American and international fare. Chefs from around the globe have brought their culinary heritage and set up shop in Sierra Vista. Some locally recommended favorites include the German Café, Tanuki, Sunna’s and Indochine.


In the heart of Arizona’s premier wine regions, Sierra Vista is ideally situated near Sonoita and Patagonia to the west and Willcox to the east. Rich soil, high elevation, cool nights and warm days are a vintner’s dream. If planning a weekend or longer stay in the area, take advantage of the more than two dozen tasting rooms within a an hour or so practically in any direction of the heart of the city, including Dos Cabezas WineWorks, Flying Leap Vineyards, Hannah’s Hill Vineyard, Keeling-Schaefer Vineyards Tasting Room, Kief-Joshua Vineyards, Lawrence Dunham Vineyards, Lightning Ridge Cellars and more.

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