The road from the small town of San Manuel to Benson runs for 60 miles through the San Pedro River Valley. Of those 60 miles, at least half are unpaved, and at many points, very rough.
It is however a great drive, with impressive scenery along the way. The monsoon rains have left the entire valley very green.
The first 10 miles or so south of San Manuel is paved, and runs through an impressive area of saguaro cactus. The density of the saguaros here rival the official national park areas closer to Tucson.
The large cactus below is likely more than 150 years old, with an impressive collection of arms.
The Galiuro mountains are on the east side of the valley, rising more than 4000′ above the valley floor to the peak of the tallest, called Dził Nazaayú in Apache, or Bassett Peak in English.
Once you hit the gravel and dirt section, the road goes through the washes. On this large wash the residents have used the unique approach of old vehicles for an embankment to reduce erosion.
A driving tip on these roads – when you see a sign that says ‘watch for flooded road’, slow down even if there isn’t any water, as a large dip filled with deeper sand is likely in the path of travel.
The drive through the wilderness continued for another 25 miles, often offering up great photo ops along the way.
As we got a bit closer to Benson we started to see signs of civilization….
Arizona is a great place to get off the main road and see what adventures you can find.