The San Pedro Valley is a special place because it holds the state's last freeflowing desert river. The San Pedro River begins just south of the border and flows northward for a practically uninterrupted 140 miles to the Gila River. All other major rivers that flow through the mid- and lower elevations of Arizona have significant dam works, but the San Pedro does not. Therefore, it remains natural and crucial habitat for native plants and animals, especially birds. Hundreds of species, both local and migratory, can be seen in the river corridor. Forty miles of its reach near Sierra Vista is protected as the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area. The designation prevents development too close to the river's edge, preserving both the ecosystem and recreation for people. Trails along the river allow access to this unique and fragile oasis environment.
The San Pedro Trail is the name for the path that more or less follows the river for all of the 40 miles through the conservation area. Most people do not travel this whole distance, however. Parts of the trail are brushy and hard to follow for lack of traffic, but a few areas are more popular and have a small network of well established trails. The best place to find a variety of trails is at San Pedro House, a historic site and interpretive center run by the Bureau of Land Management. Access is free and trail maps are available. You can take a self-guided nature tour in a loop of less than a mile from the parking area, or simply ride off and explore as far as you want.
Beginners will love the interconnected trails near the Pedro House. These are also very popular with birders, so use caution and share the trail courteously with others. You will find a fun mix of easy terrain and trail types among the beautiful setting of cottonwood groves and babbling water. For a more adventurous ride, simply travel farther north or south on the trail system
A short distance north the trails link up with the Murray Clovis Site, an archealogical trove of relics from Ice Age inhabitants of Arizona. A little more than 8 miles to the south, the trail meets Hereford Road. A dirt road travels more or less the same route, albeit farther from the river; it is a quicker route, but it is also less interesting. Backcountry campsites are available in this corridor for backpackers and bikepackers traversing the corridor.
Note: There is no drinking water available, so bring plenty of your own as well as sun protection. Mosquitoes may be a bother during certain times of year, as well. The San Pedro House has a toilet, shade structures, and helpful volunteer staff inside during open hours as well as useful printed information.