The Joe’s Canyon Trail is a beautifully scenic Sonoran Desert grasslands trek up through a relatively lush and wild canyon, climbing out into the southern foothills of the Huachuca Mountains, overlooking the expansive arid landscape descending into Mexico. The trail originates across the street from the Visitor Center, and joins the early miles of the Arizona Trail after gaining over 1,000 feet in elevation.
Joe’s Canyon Trail Description
The Joe’s Canyon Trail begins across the road and slightly west from the Visitor Center and wastes little time beginning it’s ascent. Through the desert oak forest, jagged and rocky peaks to the north consume the horizon.
A steady series of switchbacks soon begin to bring you deeper into the canyon, steadily climbing higher as closer peaks in Joe’s Canyon begin to block out the more distant scenery. Rocky outcroppings burst out from the thickening oak forest on the opposite side of the canyon, gradually growing closer with each switchback until the trail resumes its westerly course. High up in the top of the canyon, the oak trees thin out on the north side to only a sporadic few, while the south side becomes denser still, until they all clear on a few remaining switchbacks. Here, you’re exposed to a sprawling desert landscape dropping down far below you.
Only occasional oak trees now dot the rustling grasslands desert, sweeping over large hills that support the southern Huachuca Mountains. Here the trail veers northwest, the west, on a more steady course to intersect the Yaqui Ridge Trail, doubling as the Arizona Trail, as it winds down from Montezuma Pass.
Higher peaks of the mighty Huachuca Mountains rise up to the north now, more daunting and detailed than ever, while to the south, arching panoramic views gently roll down the foothills and into a wide and subtle desert.
From the end of the Joe’s Canyon Trail, you can take one of three options: hike down to the border with Mexico and then back up to Montezuma Pass; skip the border and go directly to Montezuma Pass; or hike back to the Visitor Center. If you don’t have a car or ride from the pass, hiking down to the border and then back to the Visitor Center would make for a great hike all around.
From Sierra Vista, follow Highway 92 south out of town for 11 miles. At South Coronado National Memorial Road, take a right and follow that for 5 miles where you’ll see the Visitor Center on your right.