Go back in time to the Wild West in Arizona, when cowboys roamed the land, the local sheriff engaged in a shootout with bandits and countless hours were spent at the local saloon.
The legendary history of famous outlaws, rough-and-tumble saloons, rugged cowboys and the lawmen that protected the people is found in towns across Arizona. Visit towns built during the mining rush, see historical reenactments and take part in hands-on experiences. It’s time to grab your cowboy boots and head to these Wild West destinations.
Visit Mining Towns
Mining towns were communities where miners built homes during the copper and silver booms of the 1850s until the early 1900s. Stop off in Bisbee to visit the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum and the Bisbee Restoration Museum to learn about the copper mine that put this city on the map in 1880. You can also take a tour of the Queen Mine to walk in the footpaths of the past while learning about the daily life of the miners, how the mine was prospected and the history of mining.
Next up: a town called Jerome, a booming copper-mining town from the 1880s. Be sure to visit Jerome State Historic Park where you can tour the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 and operated as a hotel for investors and big names in mining. Also visit Audrey Headframe Park, where you can look down a 1918 mining shaft through a glass viewing platform.
Lastly, pay homage to Prescott, once the capital of the Arizona Territory. This is where Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp’s older brother, lived. Visit Whisky Row to see many historical buildings that were once saloons and brothels frequented by the miners of the Bradshaw Mountains.
The mining town of Bisbee, located in the Mule Mountains
Historical Reenactments and Shows
To get a taste of what the Wild West was all about, be sure to take enjoy Arizona’s live reenactments and shows. The O.K. Corral in Tombstone is the site of the famous showdown between Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the Clanton-McLaury gang. The site has daily reenactments of the famous gun fight and the surrounding town has more than 25 historic saloons and buildings. Then stop off at Goldfield Ghost Town, located in the Apache Junction, where you can visit a mining museum, saloons, a boarding house, blacksmith shop, brewery, meat market, general store and a school house. There’s even an Old West gunfight performed by the Goldfield Gunfighters (free shows take place every hour on weekends from November through April). Be sure to attend one of Arizona’s many rodeos hosted throughout the state. These are popular events that honor both the Old West and modern-day cowboys with events in bull riding, barrel racing, roping, parades, bareback riding and other activities.
Cowgirls lined up for the Grand Entry of the World’s Oldest Rodeo in Prescott
Hands-on Wild West Experiences
If you’d like to be an active participant in a Wild West experience, you have several options. Take a horseback riding tour with a guide through Wild West sites such as Monument Valley, frequently seen in Western films; Saguaro National Park, where you’ll view ancient petroglyphs made by the Hohokam people; and the Sonoran Desert, where you’ll see magnificent desert landscapes. For an unforgettable experience, stay at a working dude ranch: You’ll get a taste of what it’s like to be a real cowboy, with horseback riding, bird watching, fishing, wagon rides and roasting s’mores by the campfire. Interested in finding gold? Sign up for a panning experience to search for gold in spots where some early settlers struck it rich in the 1800s.
A man on horseback in Monument Valley
More experiences nearby