While much of the country is battling snowstorms, Sierra Vista, Arizona, is enjoying mild winter weather with picture-perfect, snow-topped peaks as a reminder that winter is in full swing. But with valley temperatures in the low 60s, tire chains and wooly under things are as mysterious as Chupacabra*.
While “going south” is usually associated with rising temperatures, Sierra Vista, at 4,633 feet, enjoys a comfortable climate all year long. In winter months, visitors can still explore without bundling up. Spring starts in late February with mercury rising to the low 70s. Blazing summer heat is unusual; June’s high 90s are broken with seasonal rainstorms.
The Huachucas (say “Waa-CHOO-kuhs” to sound like a local) are the southern most range of the Sky Islands, fast-rising peaks surrounded by radically different low lands, that create an ecosystem that is among the most diverse in the world, with narrow valleys, steep canyons, and soaring peaks that invite biodiversity seen nowhere else in the United States. In fact, the area attracts myriad avian life, more than any other place in the United States, giving Sierra Vista the nickname of “Hummingbird Capital of the United States. ”Here, you can find up to 15 species of hummingbirds—one found nowhere else north of Mexico—and more than 300 different bird species during the year.
Whether you road cycle or mountain bike, Sierra Vista is surrounded by miles of rolling, two-lane roads, bike lanes, and single-track mountain trails. The Huachucas reach a soaring 9,465 feet with some pretty steep trails for hearty hikers, although plenty of gentler trails still rate high with mountain bikers and hikers alike. One of the easiest routes (and perhaps most peaceful trail) is the path along the San Pedro River. This 54-mile trail is relatively flat (just 100 feet of elevation change) and offers multiple access points along the river.
Sierra Vista is big enough for the best amenities, but small enough for a charming getaway. The city has earned a reputation for culinary diversity, thanks to the international restaurants tucked in plazas throughout the city. Offerings include flavors from around the world, attributed to nearby Fort Huachuca, whose soldiers returned from overseas with a hunger for world flavors. Drop into any of the eateries in jeans and hiking boots for a flavor-packed meal. Don’t let the unassuming (and sometimes kitschy) décor fool you into low expectations. The chefs won’t compromise when showcasing their homeland favorites. And luckily, reservations aren’t needed unless you have a big group.
Southeast Arizona grows about 80 percent of Arizona’s wine grapes at more than two dozen vineyards. Exploring nearby wine country and sampling the gold medal-winning wines produced there is a must. Along the way, the scenery will knock your socks off, especially if you are traveling at sunset: blasts of orange, pink, and purple light up the sky. Have your camera ready, the light changes quickly.
Find out more and start planning your getaway at SierraVistaAZ.com or download the interactive guide on your smart phone at your favorite app store. Just search“Sierra Vista Guide.”
*What is a Chupacabra you ask? An urban legend, a mythological question mark that roams the Southwest and Latin America attacking livestock under the cloak of darkness. Don’t worry, Chupacabraare as elusive as Big foot and you’re more likely to spot a coatimundi than this “goat sucker.