Sky Islands of Patagonia, Sonoita, and Elgin
Nestled in the rolling hills of southern Arizona, the Sky Islands may be Arizona’s best-kept secret. This unique area is named for its rugged mountain ranges, which are "islands" of forest surrounded by a sea of desert. The high elevation makes this a perfect year-round getaway.
Start your journey in Southern Arizona’s wine country and explore the many wineries and tasting rooms that dot the landscape throughout Sonoita and Elgin, sampling a variety of award-winning wines produced from locally grown grapes.
The Sky Islands provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation. Take on a hiking adventure with trails ranging from easy nature walks at the Sonoita Creek Preserve to multi-day treks through the historic Arizona Trail. For those seeking a relaxed outdoor experience, the region is a bird-watcher's paradise while Patagonia Lake State Park is an angler’s playground.
Explore a region with diverse ecosystems, where you’ll find a showcase of local art, award-winning wine, and rich Western history.
How To Use
Use this interactive itinerary to build your trip! Each category recommends a number of stops to help you get the fullest experience during your visit. Simply hover over any photo for a brief description then click the circle to add a listing to your itinerary (click again to remove it). Once you've completed your itinerary, enter your email address and click submit to have it delivered straight to your inbox. Happy traveling!
Arts & Culture (Recommended up to 2)
The arts and culture scene is thriving in the Sky Islands. An artisan hub, this region offers a space to build community through art and bring home pieces you won’t find anywhere else. The Sky Islands are also a great winter holiday season getaway with many art markets and festive events that help visitors know ‘tis the season to celebrate.
Whether you like to wear art or have it on display in your home, a trip to the Global Arts Gallery is a must for “worldly” pieces and one-of-a-kind treasures. This spot features all mediums of art handcrafted by regional and global artisans.
The Santa Cruz Foundation for the Performing Arts hosts concert events at least once a month! Enjoy world-class live performances that feature talented musicians and a unique blend of genres!
Katherine Cudney is a nature artist and portrait painter who finds inspiration in ranching, birds, humans, and the outdoors. Find her pieces on display at Colibri Art Studio & Gallery.
‘Tis the season for shopping with a purpose! If you’re planning a trip around the holiday season, this arts and crafts festival is a must if you want to be the most popular gift-giver with your friends and family. The festive music and beautiful decorations are a bonus!
Art enthusiasts looking for a more hands-on experience should check out this spot for classes and workshops. Whether you’re bringing children or looking to get in touch with your creative side, you’ll channel your inner artist!
Calling all bookworms! This library is located in a historic building and goes beyond books. This spot is where communities gather, and events happen.
A yearly event held in October, this event is reason enough to plan a Sky Islands visit! The Sky Islands Artisan Market offers free admission and over 100 artisans. Grab a bite to eat, enjoy live music, and browse the vast range of art pieces on display.
Craving a small-town holiday? Look no further than the Sky Islands! This small town goes big during the holidays. Pair this event with the Fine Arts and Crafts Festival to get in the holiday spirit.
Stop by the Tin Shed Theater after your trip to Patagonia Creative Arts! In operation for over 20 years, this community staple was built to entertain. Make sure to plan ahead to catch a performance!
History, Heritage, & Tradition (Recommended up to 4)
History enthusiasts will relish in the many historical buildings that the Sky Islands have to offer. With adobe buildings representing the hallmark of architecture during their era, buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and ranches of yesteryear, there’s no shortage of history to take in through sights and experiences!
Open from sunrise to sunset and just 10 miles north of Sonoita, the Empire Ranch features 22 rooms and dates back to 1870. History buffs should plan to stop by this adobe and wood frame building on the National Register of Historic Places.
Kentucky Camp has five central-old buildings on the property, and the main building is the last surviving adobe structure of its era. With its setting on the Arizona Trail, this is a great stop to pair with hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking.
The fairgrounds feature events year-round, including fairs, rodeos, horse races, and more! Be sure to check ahead of time what will be happening during your visit to the Sky Islands!
All aboard! With so much to see in the Sky Islands, stopping by this train car-turned-welcome center is highly recommended! The friendly staff here can let you know more history of the area, answer your questions and help you get the most out of your visit.
Preserving history is what they do best - for a glimpse into the past, visit the Patagonia Museum. They offer walking tours, special events, and free admission!
Wine & Dine (Recommended up to 4)
The Sky Islands put the ‘wine’ in wine & dine! The landscape and weather in this region make it the perfect place to grow different varieties and produce high-quality wine. Known as Southern Arizona’s wine country, the Sky Islands have plenty of local vineyards specializing in a range of varieties. Not into wine? No worries! They also have local breweries, meaderies, and eateries! No matter where you wine, or dine, in the Sky Islands, you’re in for a special treat!
A vineyard in the heart of Southern Arizona Wine Country, Autumn Sage is a great spot to relax after your day’s adventures and enjoy a glass of locally sourced wine. Be sure to check in advance to catch their live music events!
Add this spot to your list of wineries to visit! From private tastings to events, their WineWorkers will surely help you find your new favorite wine. Don’t forget to take a bite of their delicious pizza during your visit!
Gathering Grounds is the perfect place to stop before your morning hike. Grab a breakfast sandwich to go and a hot or cold gourmet cup of coffee to start your day right.
Located in Elgin, this small winery specializes in Italian wine varieties. Wine isn’t the only thing they specialize in — Lightning Ridge also grows their own olives and produces olive oil you should be sure to try.
This is a great place to stop for regional wine and yummy, homemade food. For a special treat, order a glass of local wine and pair it with a meat and cheese board. Stop in for dinner or a late-night snack before heading to karaoke at the Wagon Wheel Saloon.
Head off the grid to Rune Wines! This location aims to “shape the story” of wine in Arizona. The name itself sparks curiosity and wonder, and you’re in for a beautiful wine-tasting experience under a shaded canopy and surrounded by breathtaking mountain views. Credit: Kayla Lewis
For award-winning wines and views you’ll have to see to believe, visit Sonoita Vineyards. They offer an array of wines sweet & light or dry & bold, from the Sky Islands and beyond.
If it’s your first time trying mead, or if it’s your drink of choice, you must stop by the Meading Room. With great views and a beautiful outdoor space, it’s no wonder this is a popular venue for weddings and other events!
With the self-proclaimed best steaks in the state, this restaurant has been serving quality cuisine for 60 years. Enjoy a full bar and the Southwestern atmosphere. Be sure to check ahead to catch a live music performance!
Tia Nita’s features delicious pizza, sandwiches, and a full bar! This is the place to choose for a casual dinner after a long day of exploring. Check their schedule to catch karaoke night or live music.
Twisted Union Wine Company features premium quality wines and also hosts an annual wine festival in the spring. Plan your trip to include their Twisted Union Wine Communion and sample wines from around the state, all in one place!
You ain’t nothin’ but satisfied here. From tamales to ratatouille and, of course, pizza, Velvet Elvis has a robust menu of food and beverages. They often have live music performances, and it’s a fit for gluten-free options.
Since 1937, the Wagon Wheel Saloon is Patagonia’s original cowboy bar. For those looking for Southwestern charm, a delicious bite to eat, and a drink or two, this is a must-see!
While this is wine country, brews get their due, too at this women-owned brewery. With 13 beers on tap and a delicious menu of bites to choose from, there’s something for everyone!
Unique Shopping (Recommended up to )
With the heavy focus on art in the region, you’ll immediately feel the need to bring some of it home as both an investment and a keepsake from your visit. Whether you like to wear art, hang it up on your wall, or display it on a shelf, you’ll find plenty of one-of-a-kind pieces in the Sky Islands.
Family-owned and Western-inspired, this boutique is a must-stop for those looking for souvenirs and fashion-forward items. From jewelry, clothing, and even designer yoga mats, you’ll find something for every collection!
The name of this special spot is an acronym for Frankie Lorraine Yourgules-Buhrer, who has been creating silver jewelry for over 45 years. She uses Southwestern and Native American techniques to create her exclusive designs.
This charming convenience store is staffed by friendly faces looking to be a resource for you on your journey through the Sky Islands. Stop here for directions, pantry staples, or some snacks to fuel you on your journey!
Looking for fair-trade gifts and artwork? This trading post embodies the spirit of the Southwest with locally made jewelry, books, and art pieces that will help you commemorate your Sky Islands adventure!
Is all this exploring making you hungry? Get your fuel on with fresh produce and natural foods to replenish your energy for all your remaining adventures.
Find vintage items, tableware, jewelry, gifts, and more at the Patagonia Community Church Thrift Store!
Martha Kelley has been a potter at Shooting Star since the ‘80s. Browse the wide selection of handmade pottery that showcases the talent this art form requires.
Outdoor Sports & Recreation (Recommended up to 2)
Birdwatchers and hikers will find no shortage of places to explore in the Sky Islands! With its incredible biodiversity and breathtaking landscape, this area is home to plenty of rare and endangered species. Those who like to relax by the water or take a boat ride can also find solace in this outdoor haven. Whether you like rolling green hills, a serene lake, or a sandy beach, you’ll find it all in the Sky Islands!
Hiking enthusiasts must hike a portion of the Arizona Trail at least once in their life! Your trip to the Sky Islands region is the perfect opportunity. Only 3 miles outside of Patagonia, you’ll find access to the historic Arizona Trail. Take Harshaw Road east of Patagonia about 3 miles, until you see the Arizona Trail sign.
Whether you want a guided nature walk or to explore on your own, this wildlife preserve is a globally significant biodiversity hotspot and a must-see during your trip. You might even get a glimpse of deer, foxes, or javelinas!
After a closure due to erosion and overgrown brush, the Geoffrey Platts Trail has been brought back to life and welcomes hiking enthusiasts, bird watchers, and anyone who likes to spend time in a bio-diverse wilderness!
Geoffrey Platts Trail
Enjoy listening to the soft babble of the Cienega Creek and the rustle of the lush vegetation in this Southern Arizona nature experience. Get your walking shoes on and your camera ready!
As a well-known birding spot, Sonoita Creek Preserve is the perfect place to stop and enjoy nature. You’ll find many unique and rarely-seen bird species here and can enjoy 3 miles of beginner trails.
From boating, to birding, to a day at the beach - there’s something for everyone! Patagonia Lake State Park is also a haven for endangered species, so you’re sure to see plenty of birds and plants specific to the area. Credit: Ravens-Way Wild Journeys
Only 2.5 miles roundtrip, this trail is perfect for beginners and those looking for a peaceful stroll in nature. Bring your friend, dog, or horse, and enjoy the great outdoors!
As the name suggests, this center has recorded various species of hummingbirds and 247 other bird species in the area. Take a seat as various birds fly around you. Can’t wait? You can also catch a glimpse of rare bird sightings on their website!
With rolling green hills, you’ll forget that you’re in the desert! Stop here to enjoy the scenery and journey through the wilderness. You may see some of the area’s wildlife, such as butterflies, antelope jackrabbits, or the rare Gray Hawk.
Sonoita Creek is another favorite for enjoying laid-back hikes and gazing at local bird species. Enjoy the babbling sounds of the creek and the wildlife sights as you connect with nature through all your senses. Credit: Ravens-Way Wild Journeys
Local Lodging (Recommended up to 2)
The sights and experiences don’t stop outdoors or at the other stops on your Sky Islands itinerary. The local lodging options also offer the Southwestern feel and serenity that is the whole vibe of the Sky Islands. From a cozy cottage to a 1950s trailer, where you choose to stay is an adventure in and of itself!
Right in the heart of Patagonia, you’ll find a charming 1958 trailer waiting for you. Stay in this unique lodging option to step back in time to mid-century America.
Craving a serene cabin getaway? If you found yourself most excited about the outdoor section, this is the spot for you! With its signature cabin feel and stunning views, it’s the perfect place to relax on a hammock after a day of hiking.
There’s nothing that warms the heart more than a cozy bed & breakfast. No matter which Southwestern room you choose, Rancho Milagro boasts spa-style baths, a serene courtyard, and a breakfast common room to mingle with fellow travelers.
Coming on your trip with a big group of friends or family? The Roadrunner Retreat hosts 8 guests and has plenty of room with its 2,000 sq ft.
In the very heart of Sonoita sits this 18-room boutique hotel. Each charming room offers a view of Southern Arizona’s unique landscape.
Find your home away from home at Stage Stop Inn! With the ground floor offering a kitchenette and homey decor, you’ll almost forget you’re visiting. Don’t feel like cooking? They’ve got a restaurant on site!
Whisper’s is named appropriately; with their memory foam mattresses, calming atmosphere, and comfort breakfast food, you’ll soak in the peace and quiet here.
Rune Wines owns these two lodging options in downtown Sonoita, which makes it the perfect stay for wine tasters and outdoor enthusiasts exploring the area.
Xanadu is the spot for your ranch-style getaway. The variety of charming rooms and great views is sure to get you in the Sky Islands spirit.