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U.S. Forest Service

Southwestern Region Viewing Area


A typical view along Ruby Road. A typical view along Ruby Road. Photo source: U.S. Forest Service.

the Santa Cruz beehive cactus. The Santa Cruz beehive cactus (Coryphantha recurvata) has a very narrow range, but is fairly common where found. Photo source: U.S. Forest Service.

Ruby Road

Forest: Coronado National Forest

District: Nogales Ranger District

Description: Ruby Road got its name from a once thriving mining camp located a short distance south of the road on the edge of the Pajarito Mountains. Ruby, the ghost town, reputedly was named for a pioneer resident who lived in the town when it opened its first post office. What is left of the old mining camp is now private property.

The landscape along Ruby Road is covered with grassy savannas and dotted with various species of oak, while an occasional clump of desert spoon, yucca, or prickly pear cactus add to the high desert ambience. You can stop anywhere something catches your eye. Try looking for desert succulents and even ferns in rocky cliffs and boulder fields. One worthwhile stop is Sycamore Canyon, where there is a Civil War-era ranch site (Hank and Yank Ruin). A streamside trail goes south from the ruin and soon enters the Pajarita Wilderness. This riparian area is home to an astonishingly diverse vegetative community; over 600 species of plants, some of which are extremely rare, have been identified in this productive habitat.

Late fall, winter, and early spring are the best times to visit this area. Temperatures can exceed 100 degrees anytime from April through October. Many of the interesting desert plants are succulent perennials that can be observed during any season. If you make a summer visit, try getting out in the early morning before the intense heat of the day.

Safety First: Desert heat and low humidity are real hazards for people unfamiliar with hot climates. A person can loose up to 5 quarts of fluid a day and it is easy to become seriously dehydrated without realizing it, so drink plenty of fluids even if you do not feel very thirsty. Always carry extra water in your car. When going on a hike, even if a short one, take a day pack with water, snack foods, protective clothing, flashlight, first aid kit, compass, and map. To avoid sun injury, wear light loose clothing, use sunscreen on exposed areas, wear a hat, and have sunglasses.

Directions: Leave Interstate 19 about 8 miles north of Nogales at the Ruby interchange (Arizona Highway 289). Drive west on pavement to Peña Blanca Lake where the route number changes to Forest Road 39 and the road surface changes to graded dirt suitable for passenger vehicles for the next 25 miles to the town of Arivaca. Slow speeds are recommended on this winding foothills road. Also, note that unpaved portions of Ruby Road can be slippery and rutted when wet. From Arivaca, follow Arivaca Road, a paved route, back to Interstate 19. Total round trip mileage from Nogales is about 55 miles.

Contact: Coronado National Forest, Nogales Ranger District, 303 Old Tucson Road, Nogales, Arizona 85621. Phone: (520) 281-2296.

Closest Town: Nogales, Arizona.