The historic Empire Ranch Headquarters is magnificently situated in the high Sonoran Desert and rolling grasslands of Arizona, surrounded by the Mustang, Whetstone, Empire, and Santa Rita mountain ranges. It includes a 22-room adobe and wood-frame building which dates to 1870 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The ranch headquarters sits at the heart of the 42,000-acre Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, on public lands acquired and administered since 1988 by the BLM.
The BLM has worked closely with the Empire Ranch Foundation to preserve the house and other structures, host educational programs, and provide literature to tell the story of this special place.
The Las Cienegas NCA can be enjoyed year-round since each season provides opportunities to enjoy the unique features of the NCA’s landscape, however fall and spring provide the most comfortable temperatures.
The ranch is located approximately 50 miles south of Tucson in the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area.
From Tucson, go east on I-10. Take Exit 281 toward Sonoita and drive south on State Road 83 for approximately 17 miles. Turn left (east) into the entrance of the NCA near mile post 40. Follow the dirt road three miles to the Empire Ranch Headquarters.
In addition to being open daily, the Empire Ranch Headquarters can be discovered by self-guided tours with interpretive information available for the public. Several special events and tours are hosted by the Empire Ranch Foundation, including a Fall Roundup Open House, educational Legacy Day and Hands on the Land day camp events for youngsters. More information on these activities can be found at http://www.empireranchfoundation.org/
As part of the Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, other activities include picnicking, hiking, photography, mountain biking, and wildlife viewing.
Phase 1 of the Heritage Discover Trail was completed in 2008. Walk the one-quarter mile trail through the Empire Gulch cottonwood grove and see historic buildings, riparian areas and frog ponds. The trailhead is located next to the restroom.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
Permits are not required.
A four-wheel drive or high access vehicle is not required to access the site. Motorized access on the designated route is allowed to reach the headquarters.
The restroom area includes compacted gravel parking and a restroom that is wheelchair accessible. The first 800 feet of the Heritage Discovery Trail is compacted gravel, with a slight grade towards the cottonwood grove.
Camping and Lodging
Dispersed camping is available on public lands in the NCA; campers should choose previously disturbed sites to reduce impacts. Several small hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are located in Sonoita and Patagonia. A listing of nearby lodging can be found at the Sonoita-Elgin Chamber of Commerce
. Larger lodging facilities are located in Sierra Vista, 35 miles away, and Tucson, approximately 50 miles away.
Food and Supplies
Several convenience stores and restaurants are seven miles south in Sonoita. Major grocery stores are in Sierra Vista and Tucson.
The nearest emergency care is available in Sierra Vista, at the Sierra Vista Regional Health Center. The nearest level 1 trauma care center is in Tucson, at the University Medical Center. Trauma injuries include bone fractures, internal bleeding and brain injuries.
Las Cienegas National Conservation Area
Manager: Vi Hillman
3201 E. Universal Way
Tucson, AZ 85756
Phone: (520) 258-7200