2012 AH Classic Wall CalendarShop the AH Store >>

Our 2015 calendars are now available!

Classic Wall Calendar

CL15 $10.99

Our classic 13-month spiral-bound calendar features 30 full-color photographs and a handy map of Arizona on the back.

Order Now >>
Purchase Camping GuideShop the AH Store >>

Featured Book

Arizona Highways
Camping Guide

AGCS3 $22.95

Our newest book, which includes Arizona Highways iconic photography and maps, is sorted by region and is written for car-campers and families. Detailed information about accessibilty, amenities and fees is included for each campground.

Order Now >>
2011 AH Wildlife CalendarSee Selection of Images >>

Featured Prints

Poster Prints
Special Edition Prints

Many of the extraordinary images found in our award-winning magazine, scenic coffee-table books and exquisite calendars can be purchased as fine posters and prints.

Order Now >>
Shop the AH Store >>

Featured Gift Item

Centennial Issue Reprint

SPCENN2 $4.99

If you missed our February 100-page Centennial Issue on newsstands earlier this year, here's your second chance to get a copy of this special collector's edition of Arizona Highways magazine..

Order Now >>

  • print page
  • Tell a Friend
  • Post to Facebook
  • YouTube
  • past to del.icio.us
BULLETscenic drives archive
Scenic Drives Photo
High ridgelines of the Pinaleño Mountains make up the rich scenery along State Route 266, south of Safford.

© Randy Prentice


>> Click on image to view
it larger in a separate window.

Editor's Note click to expand
The Back Roads BookFor more scenic drives, pick up a copy of our book, The Back Roads. Now in its fifth edition, the book ($19.95) features 40 of the state's most
scenic drives.

To order a copy, call 800-543-5432 or click here.

Stockton Pass Road
It's not the longest drive we've ever featured — it's less than 20 miles one way — but mile for mile, this scenic route through the Pinaleño Mountains is one of the most dramatic.

By Roger Naylor

Sometimes, big things really do come in small packages. And big scenery often comes on little roads. State Route 266 is one of the shortest state highways in Arizona — with just under 20 miles of pavement cutting across the rugged rangeland south of Safford — but every mile dishes up dramatic vistas as the road rambles westward along the fringe of the Pinaleño Mountains, making this quick journey a big one for memories.

The Pinaleños are sudden mountains, an abrupt and brutish thrust. They rise in a cloud-piercing hulk from the desert floor with more than 7,000 feet of vertical relief — more than any other mountain range in the state. Yet SR 266 doesn't venture into the higher reaches like some tortuous switchbacking mountain roads in Arizona. Instead, it rambles across the broad flanks of the hills in a relaxed and easy drive of swooping curves and gentle terrain.

About halfway in, the road climbs over Stockton Pass at 5,600 feet and drops into the Sulphur Springs Valley. It then passes through a jumbled cluster of boulders and enters the Coronado National Forest. Ocotillos march up the slopes, limbs raised in a sort of spindly celebration. After crossing Gillespie Wash, you'll begin seeing the scars of a lightning-sparked fire that burned in 2012. The blaze turned out to be a fortuitous one, as it struck an area slated for a prescribed burn. Overgrown chaparral was cleaned out, and the big cottonwoods and sycamores canopying the wash were spared. Good monsoon rains rolled in on the heels of the fire, and the restoration of native grasslands is well underway.

The views at this point include the Galiuro Mountains as the road descends through the grassy savanna and past the turnoff to Fort Grant State Prison. As you approach the small ranching outpost of Bonita, a few cottonwoods crowd in. The pavement ends at Bonita, in front of the shell of the old country store, which was built in 1882.

It's the end of the pavement, and the end of SR 266, but a dirt road continues, stretching across the valley. Those with a real taste for adventure can keep driving to the eastern entrance to Aravaipa Canyon, a perennial stream that's carved out a trough up to 1,000 feet deep in the Galiuro Mountains. Be sure to check road conditions before attempting. Otherwise, it's a short but scenic drive back to the main highway.

Tour Guideclick to expand

Map of AreaNote: Mileages are approximate.

Length: 20 miles, one way

Directions: From Safford, drive 17 miles south on U.S. Route 191 to State Route 266 and turn right.

Vehicle Requirements: None

Travel Advisory: A permit is required to hike or camp in Aravaipa Canyon. Only a limited number are issued each day, so plan ahead. For more information, contact the Bureau of Land Management at 928-348-4400.  

Warning: Back-road travel can be hazardous, so be aware of weather and road conditions. Carry plenty of water. Don't travel alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Information: Safford Ranger District, 928-428-4150 or www.fs.usda.gov/coronado

Travelers in Arizona can visit www.az511.gov or dial 511 to get information on road closures, construction, delays, weather and more.

>> Back to Scenic Drives Archive


Story ArchivesFind previously published stories online... [more]

Global SnapshotsSend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

Photo of the DaySend us a photo of you or someone you know posing with Arizona Highways. We'll post it on our website. It's that simple... [more]

 

Social MediaJoin our Facebook, Twitter and Flickr communities for behind-the-scenes glimpses at Arizona Highways... [more]

Events & PromotionsEscape, experience and explore Arizona, one event at a time... [more]

Travel GuidesThere's so much to see and do in Arizona. Let our online travel guide be your one-stop resource for planning your next Arizona adventure... [more]

site map  |  terms of use  |  privacy policy  |  corporate sales  |  about us  |  contact us

Arizona Highways Television AZ Dept. of Transportation AZ Dept. of Public Safety Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

© Copyright 2014 Arizona Department of Transportation, State of Arizona. All rights reserved. Reproduction in part or whole without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. The images on this Web site are copyrighted, digitally watermarked and registered with the Digimarc tracking system. All rights reserved. Copying and downloading images from this site are strictly prohibited.