The Best of the Southwest

As the seat of Arizona's least populous county, Clifton, Arizona, offers an unbeatable combination of thrilling history, a remarkably well-preserved turn-of-the-century downtown and opportunities for outdoor adventure — real adventure — that have all but disappeared from most of southern Arizona.

Clifton is an up-and-coming off-the-beaten path mecca for hikers, backpackers, birders, bikers and refugees from the heat of the valley looking for a cool place to explore a historic, culturally diverse Arizona mountain town.

Clifton is celebrating birthday #150 this year, and what a past it has accumulated! From the Irish orphan abduction to the Strike of 1983, followed closely by a catastrophic flood that nearly destroyed the town. Many famous people had Clifton connections, including the Mexican curandera and spiritual leader Santa Teresa de Cabora, Cesar Chavez and the American rabvble rouser Agnes Smedley. Clifton has been featured in countless books, including Barbara Kingsolver's first non-fiction book, and the mesmerizing biography of Teresita by her nephew, Luis Alberto Urrea.

Founder's Day Celebration
November 4, 2023

The accepted year for the "founding" or establishment of the Town of Clifton is 1873. This year, 2023, marks our town's 150 years of existence - its "sesquicentennial"! In honor of this benchmark anniversary, the Town of Clifton has designated November 4, 2023 to hold community events and celebrate our 150th Founder's Day! The celebration will take place from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm at Fernandez Park with the Town and will include free hot dogs, sodas, water, popcorn, entertainment, and speakers/guests of honor.

Colors of Copper Art and Wine Festival
November 4-5, 2023

The 10th annual Colors of Copper Art Competition and Wine Tasting will be held at the Art Depot at the Greenlee Train Station on Nov. 4 noon-8 p.m. The juried competition will award cash prizes to the three highest-scoring entries in the categories of painting, water media, sculpture, crafts and photography. The event will include a wine tasting featuring the products of Sonoita Winery of Elgin, and Pearce-based Sonoran Winery. Sip and browse at your leisure! There is no charge for admission.

Colors of Copper Art and Wine Festival
"The Most Haunted Community You've Never Heard Of"

Investigators from A&E's "Ghost Hunters" series visited Clifton in November, 2019, and dove into reports of paranormal activity at historic spots like the Clifton Hotel, Chase Creek Boarding House and old Clifton Jail. They reveal what they found in "Terror Town", their Season 2 premier episodes.

Terror Town

Watch "Terror Town"

Rivers Run Through It

In the water-starved Southwest, Clifton, Arizona, enjoys an enviable location on the San Francisco River, close to three other major waterways including the the Gila and Blue Rivers and Eagle Creek.

Getting There

Just three hours from Tucson and four hours from Phoenix, Clifton is a great destination for an unforgettable weekend getaway. From Tucson it's an easy drive via I-10 through scenic Texas Canyon. Just east of Willcox, turn north on US 191 and wander through the cotton fields and bucolic Safford, Arizona. From Phoenix, it's US 60 through the Superstition Mountains and then pick up US 70 just east of Glibe. At Three-Way — no, not that kind of three-way — turn north and begin climbing into the jagged remains of a chain of volcanos including iconic Thumb Butte and Guthrie Mountain. In the spring, this stretch of road is known for the best display of wildflowers anywhere in Arizona. When the Morenci copper mine comes into view, you'll drop down into the Gila River Valley and find Clifton tucked into a narrow canyon astride the San Francisco River.

Where to Stay and Play in Clifton

You won't find a lot of four-star French restaurants in Clifton, but you can find a room in your choice of delightfully converted historic buildings and enjoy a hearty helping of classic Mexican-American road food. And Chase Creek Street will delight you with some fantastic antique shops and craft markets.

Exploring Clifton's Great Outdoors
Where is Clifton
  • Clifton Tucson Weekly article Clifton's comeback was the cover story for the June 28 issue of the Tucson Weekly.

    "Sleepy Clifton is on the brink of a renaissance, led by locals and transplants who love the town's overflowing history and are putting their backs into its revival."

Read the Article
The "Devil's Highway"

Clifton, Arizona, is the gateway to the Coronado Trail, a National Scenic Byway that provides access to hundreds of miles of hiking trails in the lightly traveled Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. With most of the Coronado Trail soaring between 6000 and 9000 feet in elevation, the hiking trails and campgrounds in this area are typically 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the valleys below, and an ideal destination for outdoor recreation even in the depths of the summer.

Unlike the straightforward, gentle passage of retired Route 66 ... U.S. 666, its descendant, is tortuous, wild, and as strange as its name. In little more than 100 miles, the surrounding altitude ranges from twenty-nine hundred feet to more than eleven thousand feet. With some four hundred twisting curves in one sixty-mile stretch, the road has sent more than its share of travelers crashing off cliffs. If, as Nat King Cole sang, drivers get their kicks on Route 66, they take their risks on 666.

The Wildest of the Wild West Towns

With its fate tied to the mining industry, Clifton's history has been marked by dramatic cycles of boom and bust. So many fortunes won and lost gave the town its unique character and its dynamic multiethnic work force. And while the nearby communities of Old Morenci and Metcalf were erased by the expansion of the Morenci copper mine, Clifton was preserved, leaving a remarkable testimony to its heyday as a Victorian-era mining boomtown.

Begin with a visit to one of the state's best small historical museums, take a walking tour of historic Chase Creek Street, spend a night at a national historic landmark and learn about the Clifton area's many opportunities for outdoor adventure and thrilling road trips.


Of all the reasons to come to Clifton, perhaps the most compelling is the presence of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. They are backyard wildlife in this former mining town. Don't be surprised to encounter them grazing at the city park, peering down at you from the cliff behind Chase Creek Street, or crossing Route 191. The sheep are believed to have migrated from the Mogollon Rim to the Clifton area in the 1960s, following the San Francisco River. Today there are so many sheep in the area that Arizona Game and Fish has been capturing and relocating some of them to establish new herds in historic habitat in eastern and central Arizona.

bighorn sheep