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Unique Things To Do In Ajo, Arizona

by Pankaj Upreti
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Things To Do In Ajo, Arizona

Ajo Arizona | Photo Credit – Dan Eckert

Ajo in the Sonoran desert of Arizona Upland Subdivision is a small town. It is a gateway to Mexico from Arizona and provides an entry into the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. One can not talk about Ajo without talking about its famous colonial Spanish architecture, historic railway station, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, relaxing ambiance, breathtaking scenery, and colorful sunsets. Not only this, Ajo also has an ethnically diverse community. This town is the birthplace of copper mining in Arizona.

With its rich history, tradition, and culture as a former copper mining site, Ajo is a place where one can have a relaxing vacation surrounded by beautiful vistas. Its mild climate with respect to other cities of Arizona, low humidity, and clear unpolluted skies are an added bonus for a visitor. For visitors with a sporty soul, adventure awaits in Ajo as it provides many opportunities for outdoor recreational activities year-round including hiking, bicycling,  festivals, etc. Nature lovers and expeditionists can observe and explore more than 1,000 species of plants and animals, many of which are unique to the area.

If you are planning to visit the city anytime soon, this article has the perfect itinerary for you. Let’s read the list of best things to do in Ajo, Arizona, that might just surprise you-

Splendor abounds in breathtaking vistas and vibrant sunsets. The unpolluted skies have attracted countless astronomy buffs and stargazers. Peer through massive telescopes and enjoy educational programs and Native American exhibits at nearby Kitt Peak National Observatory.

New Cornelia Open Pit Mining Lookout-

New Cornelia mine is a closed open-pit copper mine in Ajo, Arizona.
New Cornelia mine | Photo Credit – brewbooks

The New Cornelia Open Pit Mining Pit Lookout is a unique attraction of Ajo that makes the best base for exploring Ajo if you don’t know what to do in Ajo. Located ahead of La Mina road, this premier attraction of Ajo provides a panoramic view of old mining. It is dotted with abandoned equipment. The visitor center runs an interesting 30-minute film about mining. Visitors said that the lookout points overlook how huge the mining pit is. Bob and Dee are the volunteers who worked in the mine for over 40 years and keep this place running. 

After two miles of the tour of the sporadic view, visitors can explore the mine museum.

The Mine Lookout on Indian Village Road is a premier lookout point. From here, you can even notice different colors of the soil. Additional information about the site is available here.

Cross on ‘A’ Mountain-

This attraction of the Mining Pit has emotional importance. Isabella Greenway planted a floral cross (encased in concrete) made by the employees of the New Cornelia Mining Company for her husband’s funeral on the top of the highest mountain in Ajo. The cross is visible for miles. It pays homage to the workers of the pit and their lives.

Address: Indian Village Road, Ajo, AZ – 85321

Price: Free

Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm from Wednesday to Saturday

Contact: 520-387–7742

Puerto Blanco Drive

It is one of the most and best activities on the list of things to do in Ajo. Skirting around the New Cornelia mine, Puerto Blanco Drive is about 37 miles long. Its length curves around the mountain-covered pristine desert of Ajo. On this loop, one can enjoy gorgeous views of washes, primitive campsites, and a web of intersecting endless BLM roads. Visitors who are feeling adventurous can also go hiking, biking, etc. from here. 

Give the nature enthusiast in you a treat by taking in the sights of plenty of cacti, watching numerous species of birds and volcanic rock formations. Binoculars are recommended as a must here. Since Puerto Blanco Drive is 37 miles long, a visitor may end up finding many other scenic drives, and opportunities for hiking or biking.

From Puerto Balco Drive, other attractions of Ajo like Pinkley Peak Picnic Area, head of Red Tanks trail, Quitobaquito Springs, Dripping Springs, etc. can also be accessed. Make sure that you stop at several points along the way to take in the wonderful views and information on the ecology and culture of the Sonoran Desert. This drive is almost a 4-5 hours long trip. Vehicles in proper conditions are recommended for this.

Download a printable map of the loop here.

Address: Scenic Loop Road

Length: 37 miles

Season: All year

Start Point: Hwy 85, near the visitor center

Ajo Historical Museum-

Ajo Historical Museum, Arizona
Ajo Historical Museum | Photo Credit – brewbooks

The Museum is located in an abandoned old church of St. Catherine’s Indian Mission church. The museum exhibits artifacts from Ajo’s history, including Native American pottery, jewelry, and historical copper mining artifacts. Other popular exhibits here include the dentist’s office,  blacksmith shop, and early print shop. If you’re curious about the history of the birthplace of coal mining in Arizona, this place will be a treat for you.

The unpaved roads give access to this site. So, treading with caution is recommended while visiting the museum. Additional information about the museum is available here.

Address: 160 Mission Rd, Ajo, AZ – 85321

Opening Hours: 12:00pm – 4:00pm daily. Closed on public holidays.

Contact: 520-387-7105

Ajo Country Club Golf Course-

Visitors who are also golfers can satisfy their thirst for golfing in a real desert golf course in Ajo Country Club Golf Course. Surrounded by plenty of greenery, this attraction of Ajo is an oasis in the desert mountains. Take in the breathtaking views of the Ajo Mountains in the south and Childs Mountain in the west. Keep an open eye for spotting coyotes, roadrunners, or even a deer while golfing. Ajo Country Club Golf Course has nine regulation holes. According to reviewers on TripAdvisor, the food at the restaurant of the course is quite tasteful. 

Address: 77 W Mead Rd, Ajo, AZ – 85321

Price: Call for fees and rentals

Opening Hours: Open to the public year-round

Contact: 520-387-5011

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge-

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge | Photo Credit – U.S. Fish and Wildlife S

Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge was originally established to conserve the desert bighorn sheep. It is located in the Yuma Desert and has a lower elevation point than the Sonoran Desert. The refuge is now home to more than 275 different species of fauna and 400 species of flora.

It is one of the largest national wildlife refuges with an area of 860,010 acres. Cabeza Prieta literally means “dark head” in Spanish. A granite peak of a remote mountain range in the western corner of the refuge is known as Cabeza Prieta. Visitors can indulge themselves in educational programs about the Sonoran Desert, wildlife observation, photography, biking, primitive camping, horseback riding if they get a special use permit. Additional information about the services available at the fuge is available here

Address: 1611 North Second Street, Ajo, AZ – 85321

Price: Free

Opening Hours: 9 am – 6 pm. Closed on public holidays.

Contact: (520) 387-6483

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument-

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument | Photo Credit – Jeff Hollett

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument of Pima County in extreme southern Arizona has something to offer for everyone. From driving, hiking, or biking, this national park is rich with opportunities for recreational activities. Designated as an International UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the park has special ranger programs, horseback rides, and camping sites.

Numerous rare species of cacti and rare plants are present here. Moreover, senita and organ pipe cactus grow in the wild only here. The fauna of this park include coyotes, mountain lions, bighorns, deer, bats, jackrabbits, birds, etc. TripAdvisors’ reviewers recommend visiting the official website of the park before visiting to learn more about the programs and services offered here at the time of your visit.

Quitobaquito Springs-

Quitobaquito Springs | Photo Credit –Corey Taratuta

The Quitobaquito Springs are springs in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument of Arizona. Quitobaquito has roots of Tohono O’odham origin and it means ‘house ring spring’. It is a significant attraction of the United States National Park Service. The atmosphere here is extreme so the habitat is very tough to maintain. The artifacts found here date back to almost 1600 years ago.

Moreover, endangered species like Sonoyta mud turtle, spring snail, caper butterfly, and desert caper plant is also found here. This is the only site in the US where these species are found naturally in the wild. So, this place is an ultimate treat for all the lovers of the wild out there. Additional information is available here.

Address: 10 Organ Pipe Drive, Ajo, AZ – 85321

Price: Entrance fee of 4 USD for individuals or 12 USD per vehicle

Opening Hours: 8:00am – 5:00pm daily

Contact: 520-387-6849, 520-387-7302

Ajo Plaza-

Ajo is famous for its beautiful and incredible Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture
Ajo Plaza | Photo Credit – Corey Taratuta

Even though it is a small town, Ajo is famous for its beautiful and incredible Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture. Attractions like the Plaza, Old Train Depot, the Federated Church, the Curley School, the Greenway Mansion, etc. are popular among people who appreciate a city by its architecture. Situated at the heart of the community, the Plaza was built in1917 as a Spanish Colonial Revival style town square. There is a visitor’s center, two mission-style churches, the Oasis Cafe, an art gallery, and some unique shops in the Plaza. This place makes up for a lazy afternoon strolling in Ajo.

Since it is Ajo’s town center, the central part of this plaza hosts festivals and celebrations, people can be seen here having morning walks, and meeting friends, family, and dates for coffee. Additional information is available here.

Address: 15 Plaza, Ajo, AZ 85321

Opening Hours: 9:00am – 5:00pm daily

Contact: 520-387-3229

Curley School-

Located at the walking distance from the town plaza, Curley School is an architectural magnum opus of Spanish Colonial Revival style. It adds beauty to the street by blending effortlessly in the historic downtown. It has a seven-acre campus. The main building was built in 1919. It is the best place to be in Ajo if you want to interact with architecture and artists. Additional information is available here.

Address- 201 W Esperanza Ave, Ajo, AZ – 85321

Opening Hours: 8 am – 12 pm on weekdays

Contact- 520-387-8988

Train Depot-

The historic Ajo Train Depot near the town plaza was established to welcome visitors to view the historic downtown of Ajo. It was built in 1915. Now, it is home to the beautiful Ajo District Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and Gift Shop.

Kitt Peak-

View of the ridge – Kitt Peak | Photo Credit – Daniel Ramirez

The clear unpolluted skies of Ajo attract many astronomy enthusiasts for a night of stargazing. Splendour awaits you here at Kitt Peak from where you can peer through large telescopes and explore astronomical phenomena. Moreover, Native Americans display their local art in various exhibits here.

Daily telescope tours are also provided here. One can even make a reservation for their nightly observing program with the visitor center of this mountain top observatory to catch spellbinding views of the night sky. Click here for more information.

Tohono O’Odham Nation-

Tohono O’odham Nation is home to nearly three million acres of wild and beautiful desert. It is located to the southeast of Ajo. Native skilled artisans who are experts in native basketry can be found here. Plan a day trip from here to the Cultural Center and Museum in Topawa to have an immersive experience. The Desert Rain Café on the way in Sells is famous for its food. Click here for more information.

Places to eat-

Downtown Ajo’s lovely, Spanish-style plaza has many dining places, restaurants, and bars. It makes for an ideal stopping point to and from Tucson. Many lovely, cozy, and quaint restaurants can be found here. 100 Estrella Restaurant is famous for its grass-fed beef and pork burgers.

They also have a decent selection of craft beers. If you’re craving some sweets, Roadrunner Java has some best donuts for you. For munchies like ice cream, burgers, and fries, visit the beautiful Olsen’s Patio Cafe

Also read about bet things to do in Arizona.

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