Santa Cruz County, Arizona – February 2023 – A Ride up Box Canyon Road

The Santa Rita Mountains are located in the northern portion of Santa Cruz County and southern Pima County, Arizona. They rise as high as 9453′ Mt Wrightson, towering 6000′ above the nearby towns.

As with the other mountains in Southern Arizona, there is snow this time of year above 7000′-8000′ elevation.

While there are highways that circle the mountains, Box Canyon Road rises up and through the shoulder of the northern end of the mountains. This dirt road is fairly well maintained, and an easy drive down in the valley – tricky enough though that all photos for this posting was taken by my co-pilot in life while we bumped along the road.

As you rise up the western side of the pass you get great close ups of the 9300′ Mt Wrightson.

The mountains here have a variety of vegetation growing on them, heavily dependent on which way they face as well as their elevation. The higher up the mountain, the more precipitation, resulting in a much denser coverage of trees clearly seen in these two photos. The close ups were taken with a 400mm Canon lens.

The canyon narrows the further up you go.

A switchback provided a look back to where we had just come from, as well as the entire valley and the Sierrita Mountains in the background.

At it’s narrowest point the road is barely one lane, with one side going nearly vertical above you and the other a very steep drop into the wash – which is why someone other than the driver is taking the photos.

Once you reach the top you do not go back down – you come into the Sonoita Plains – a large grasslands at an elevation over 5000′, so there is none of the desert landscape seen in the lower elevations.

As we continued on east towards Arizona Highway 83 we get one last look at Mt Wrightson up close.

The final portion of the afternoon ride back north on Arizona 83 takes you past the Empire Mountains. We have dropped a bit in elevation so the desert landscaping is starting to return.

As I looked through the photos I found this one – alien? rouge balloon? or more likely a strange reflection?

No flash was used, but we have a perfect circle in the sky 🙂

Regardless of where you live, getting off the main roads can provide great scenery for photography, and sometimes maybe something more.

3 thoughts on “Santa Cruz County, Arizona – February 2023 – A Ride up Box Canyon Road

      1. I always enjoy seeing the mountain bikers out and about on all the dirt roads around Patagonia and elsewhere, making sure I don’t crest hills too fast and giving them plenty of room.


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