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Black Hills Back Country Byway
Scenic Drives > Black Hills Back Country Byway (AZ) 
18 miles east of Safford, Arizona (south end).
4 miles south of Clifton, Arizona (north end).
The Black Hills Back Country Byway offers 21 miles of scenic driving adventure through the northern end of the Peloncillo Mountains in south-eastern Arizona. Along the byway are sweeping views of the Black Hills, Gila Mountains, Mount Graham, and Gila River Valley. Major attractions visible from the byway include the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area along the Gila River, the Phelps Dodge Copper Mine at Morenci, a Civilian Conservation Corps work camp, over 100 erosion-control structures, and a historic prison labor camp. Side trips off the byway provide four-wheel-drive and mountain bike access to the Gila River and spectacular overlooks of the Gila River canyon.
To reach the south end from Safford, travel 10 miles east on U.S. Highway 70 to its junction with U.S. Highway 191. Turn left onto U.S. Highway 191 and continue 8 miles to the southern end of the byway (Milepost 139). The northern end of the byway is accessed from U.S. Highway 191 by turning west at Milepost 160, 4 miles south of Clifton.
Visitor Activities
Scenic drives, picnicking, hiking, environmental education, mountain biking, all-terrain driving, wildlife and wildflower viewing, birdwatching, historic site, horseback riding, big- and small-game hunting, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, archaeological site, geologic sightseeing, and interpreted site.
Special Features
Many primitive side roads beckon off-highway-vehicle enthusiasts and provide challenging rides for experienced mountain bicyclists. There are intensely-colored fire agates for rock collectors at the nearby Black Hills Rockhound Area, while volcanic rock formations of multicolored lava flows intermixed with ash falls along the road can be studied and photographed. Hiking along roads and trails or cross-country rewards visitors with scenic vistas of the Gila Box and views of the area’s plentiful wildlife, which includes whip-tailed lizards, roadrunners, and coyotes. The historic Old Safford Bridge is a popular launch site for those floating through the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area. Boating is popular along the Gila River near the historic Old Safford Bridge (between Mileposts 16 and 17). This is a popular launch site for trips through the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area.
Permits, Fees, Limitations
No fees are charged for driving the byway.
The following areas are wheelchair-accessible: Owl Creek Campground (10 miles south of Safford on U.S. Highway 191), Canyon Overlook Picnic Area (midway along the byway, about 10 miles in from either entrance), and the Phelps Dodge interpretive exhibit (13.1 miles in from the south end).
Camping and Lodging
Owl Creek, perched on a cliff overlooking the historic Old Safford Bridge, is a developed campground with seven units that include tables, grills, and a restroom. Camping fees are charged. Potable water is not available. Primitive camping is permitted on adjacent public lands except in riparian areas such as the picnic sites below the bridge. Camping is limited to 14 consecutive days in any one location. Lodging is available in Clifton and Morenci, 4 miles north of the north end, and Safford, 18 miles west of the south end.
Food and Supplies
Food and supplies are available in Clifton, Morenci, and Safford.
First Aid
No first aid is available on-site. The nearest hospitals are in Morenci and Safford.
Additional Information
The byway is narrow and winding, with occasional steep grades and tight turns. Much of the road is maintained, but a high-clearance or four-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended. A 1-mile section near the middle of the byway can be rough and impassible following heavy rains or snow. A brochure (free) and an interpretive travel tape (for sale) are available from BLM’s Safford Field Office. Numerous interpretive signs and kiosks are located along the byway. Elevation ranges from 3,800–5,500 feet.
Contact Information
BLM - Safford Field Office
711 14th Avenue
Safford, AZ 85546
Tel: (928) 348-4400              

Photo of the Old Safford Bridge

Owl Creek Campground along the back country byway provides a scenic view of the route as it traverses the Gila Box Riparian National Conservation Area via the Old Safford Bridge. (Diane Drobka, BLM Safford Field Office)

Black Hills Back Country Byway Map

Last updated: 10-23-2009