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The Canelo Hills Loop is southeast of Tucson and goes from Sonoita to Patagonia through grasslands and canyons. Historic ranching and mining country with broad grasslands and distant buttes provide the setting for this medium length loop drive.

The route starts out in the small ranching community of Sonoita and winds south through a series of grassy, oak-dotted canyons along AZ Route 83 to the intersection of Forest Road 799. This junction actually marks the beginning of this scenic drive. At this point the drive turns west and begins climbing into the Canelo Hills. Canelo means cinnamon-colored in Spanish, so we're fairly sure that name refers to the color of these rolling hills when seen from a distance.

After topping Canelo Pass, as quickly as you got into the hills, you're out of them, and the scenery changes dramatically. The road turns, the trees open up, and an extensive rolling grassland stretches to the south into Mexico and well to the north, towards the Santa Rita Mountains and the Santa Catalinas near Tucson. In the distance, landmarks such as Indian Head Butte and Saddle Mountain slide in front of one another as you move across the vast grassy plateau.

Enjoy these views while you can because totally without warning the road drops into a series of oak-filled canyons cut into these southern Arizona slopes. Suddenly the views can be measured in hundreds of feet instead of scores of miles. The route then continues its way through these canyons toward the old mining settlements along Harshaw Creek and drive's end in the picturesque mining, ranching and tourist town of Patagonia.

Road Conditions: Dirt, two-wheel drive accessible.

Distance: 52 Miles

Directions: From Tucson, Drive 21 miles east on I-10 to AZ Highway 83 then 17 miles south through Sonoita to FR 799. Take FR 799 to FR 58. Follow FR 58 west to FR 49, then continue north on this road to Patagonia and back to Sonoita on AZ Highway 82.

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Coronado National Forest

Visitor Information

Telephone Number: (520) 388-8300
The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

Review by Wildernet Copyright © 2010 all rights reserved.