Ramsey Canyon Hike in Southern Arizona

Views from the hike in Ramsey Canyon Preserve

Ramsey Canyon Preserve was our hiking destination one day while we were staying in Cochise County down in southern Arizona. Ramsey Canyon abuts the Huachuca Mountains, just south of the town of Sierra Vista – way down near the Mexican border.

Ramsey Canyon has attracted people for centuries because it’s beautiful – boasting high canyon walls, monster-sized sycamore trees, diverse plant and animal life, including 12 types of hummingbirds, plus it’s moister and cooler than the nearby desert. In fact, Ramsey Canyon became the first site in 1963 to be designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

And then in 1974 the Nature Conservancy stepped in when they received a bequest of 280 acres. They now own 380 acres and are the stewards of the preserve.

It's an easy hike in from the Visitor Centre to see the sycamore trees
It’s an easy hike in from the Visitor Centre to see the sycamore trees

Ramsey Canyon Preserve

You can do any number of hikes from the parking lot adjacent to the visitor center. It’s an easy up and back hike along a well-maintained path if you only have time to marvel at the sycamore trees – and I mean marvel! It’s worth the hike just to gawk at these trees with their muscular looking limbs stretching skyward.

The benches below are normal sized – not miniature to give you some idea of the size of this sycamore.

The bench is dwarfed by the sycamore tree
The bench is dwarfed by the sycamore tree

Birding in Ramsey Canyon

Continuing to the end of the well maintained trail, you’ll find yourself looking up frequently trying to identify what bird is singing. It seemed to be that there were an unnaturally high number of LBJ’s – little brown job’s that flitted way too quickly for us to get a fix on just what they were.

We could have tagged along with a group of birders but we had plans for a longer hike.

Although there are times when you might see 8 – 10 hummingbird species in a day, I can tell you that it’s not in early February.

If you’re into hummingbirds then plan a trip from mid-July until late August, though the hiking would be bloody hot. If you’re a birder then you’re probably going to get very excited about maybe, if you’re very lucky seeing the berylline, white-eared, and Lucifer hummingbirds.

Animals to look out for in Ramsey Canyon

As you’re hiking look out for the white tailed deer (we saw three of them), black bears, mountain lions, bobcats, Arizona gray squirrels, assorted frogs and lizards, the ridge-nosed rattlesnake, the Sonoran mountain kingsnake and over 100 species of butterflies.

Lots of butterflies were around but there was no sign of any scary animal species.

Hilly landscape near Ramsey Canyon Reserve
The landscape is surprisingly hilly
Ramsey Canyon white-tailed deer
One of the three Ramsey Canyon white-tailed deer we saw

The Hamburg Trail hike

At the end of the easy hiking continue on the signed Hamburg Trail and start switch-backing up 500 feet over about half a mile. The reward is the view of the Coronado National forest in the photo below. At this point a lot of people turn around.

But if you don’t, then you can hook up with a number of trails in the Miller Creek Wilderness Area.

Buy a map in the gift shop before you head out – or you could easily get turned around. Also bring enough water for a full day of hiking.

View from the lookout in the Ramsey Canyon Preserve
View from the lookout in the Ramsey Canyon Preserve
Map of the hike outside of the Ramsey Preserve
Map of the hike outside of the Ramsey Preserve

We did a loop – and were fortunate to run into a couple with a map. I took a picture of their map so we had something to reference.

Otherwise we would have just done and out and back hike but it wouldn’t have been so interesting.

We continued on the Hamburg Trail to the junction with the Brown Canyon Trail. That took us back to the road we drove in on and a mile later to our car. Along the way we enjoyed birdsong, desert views, and some interesting flora.

All told it took us about four hours to hike 8.5 miles at a leisurely pace with lots of time spent stopping to try to identify birds and take photos.

Gorgeous texture to the grasses at the end of the hike
Gorgeous texture to the grasses at the end of the hike

Getting to the Ramsey Canyon Preserve in Arizona

Follow Highway 92 south from Sierra Vista approximately seven miles. Turn right onto Ramsey Canyon Road and follow it through until it dead ends, a few miles later.

Parking is free but entrance to the Preserve is $5 – good for several days which is useful if you’re a birder.

Dry, rough terrain outside of the Ramsey Canyon Reserve
Wear good hiking shoes as the terrain is rough if you continue outside of the reserve

Location map of the Ramsey Canyon hike


Where to stay

The Ramsey Canyon Inn is the place to stay. People literally come from all over the world to watch the birds here. The inn is immediately adjacent to the preserve and is bounded on two sides by the Coronado National Forest.

Further reading on things to do in Arizona

For more information on the Ramsey Canyon visit the Nature Conservancy website.

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest board.

A visit to Ramsey Canyon Preserve in Arizona for hiking and birding

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