Distance: 66.2 miles • Elevation Change: Nogales 3845 ft.-Tucson 2460 ft.
The surviving sections of historic US Route 89 from Nogales to Tucson are parallel to Interstate 19 which was completed in 1978. The highway parallels the Santa Cruz River in a broad valley between high mountain ranges through the Sonoran Desert. This section of highway 89 is notable for several historic sites related to early Spanish exploration and settlement and is part of the Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Area.
Tumacacori Highlands Wilderness: Take the Ruby Road exit from I-19 and drive west to access this area of mountains, valleys and canyons. Fishing and camping is available at Pena Blanca Lake. Sycamore Canyon in the Pajarita Wilderness is a hidden gem of lush riparian habitat. For a panoramic view of the southern Arizona landscape, hike to the abandoned fire lookout on the summit of Atascosa Mountain.
Tumacácori National Historic Park: Tour the ruins of Mission San José de Tumacácori established in 1691 and learn about Spanish exploration and colonization in the Visitors Center. Artisans demonstrate traditional crafts including paper flower making, Mexican reverse-glass painting, O’odham basketry, pottery, and tortilla making.
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park: Home to the ruins of the oldest Spanish military fort in Arizona, San Ignacio de Tubac. Artifacts on display shed light on how the Native American and Spanish peoples may have lived. Explore a Commandant’s quarters, a Territorial Schoolhouse, and an adobe rowhouse while learning Spanish Colonial history.
San Xavier Mission: Inspired by European cathedrals built in the eighteenth century, visitors to the San Xavier mission will marvel at its ornate interior and can learn more about the oldest Spanish Colonial structure in Arizona at the Mission’s museum or on a free tour. Undergoing restoration. Daily mass is offered.
Towns, Cities & Reservations:
San Xavier Reservation
Pasqua Yaqui Reservation
Public Lands & Historic Places:
Santa Cruz Valley Heritage Area
Coronado National Forest
Tumacacori Highlands Proposed Wilderness
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Atascosa Lookout Trail
Tumacacori National Historic Park
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
Santa Rita Mountains-Mt. Wrightson Wilderness
San Xavior Mission
Santa Cruz River
San Cayetano Mountains
Santa Rita Mountains