If you’re an Old West enthusiast, you’ve come to the right place. Not only did some of the Wild West’s most famous events occur in Arizona, but you’ll also find countless preserved towns and historic sites that tell the story of the Old West.
Across the state, the Old West lives on in Arizona. Start your trip in Southern Arizona, home to Tucson, Tubac, Tumacácori, Tombstone, Bisbee, and Douglas. Continue north to Wickenburg, as well as Jerome and Prescott—two towns connected by 30 miles of hair-raising bends and turns along Highway 89A. Wrap up your Wild West tour at Oatman and Chloride in Northwestern Arizona and two trading post in Northeastern Arizona—Hubbell and Goulding’s in Monument Valley.
Wherever you go, you’ll find an Old West that’s still very much alive. You’ll also discover numerous attractions from tours to re-enactments, and much more.
Anyone who has ever watched a Western movie or television show has heard of Tombstone. Tombstone has been called “The town too tough to die”—an apt characterization of this old West setting.
In the 1880s, Tombstone was a booming mining town that brought a rush of those looking to strike it rich. Gold and silver were the lures that also became magnets to thieves, card-sharks, murderers, rustlers, and an abundance of unsavory bad guys. The streets came alive with hundreds of saloons, gambling halls, and bawdy houses.
Tombstone is perhaps most famous for its Gunfight at OK Corral when the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, along with friend, Doc Holliday, shot it out with the Clanton and McLaury Gang. Don’t miss Boot Hill, a graveyard for those who were not too tough to die.
Hubbell Trading Post—part museum, part art gallery, and part grocery store—is a portal through time.
High counters and shelves in the main room are stocked with everything from blankets and baskets to clothing and kitchen utensils. A wood-burning stove sits in the middle of the clutter, while harnesses and an assortment of hardware hang from the wood beams that stretch across the ceiling. Wood floors in the 126-year-old building creak joyfully with every step.
With few exceptions, the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo Reservation looks just as it does in 100-year-old paintings and photographs. The post is as much a workplace as it is a museum. A couple of side rooms hold an assortment of Navajo rugs, cases of jewelry, paintings, kachinas, sculpture, and other works of art.
Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park gives visitors an idea of what life in prison was like in the Old West. Visitors enter through the original prison entrance. Beyond the displays, which depict some of the more infamous and interesting inmates, are cells that housed prisoners.
The prison opened officially on July 1, 1876, when seven convicts were led from the Yuma
County Jail into the new prison, which they had helped build. Over the decades, more than 3,000 prisoners served time in the “hellhole of the West.” Only a few escaped (none from the main cellblock); more than 100 died while serving their sentences. The prison, which closed in 1909.
Don’t miss the adjacent Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park, where the U.S. Army stored and distributed supplies for all the military posts forts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas. This beautiful 10-acre park includes five buildings dating back to the Depot’s earliest days.
Goldfield Ghost Town with the Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Mine Museum offers train rides and an Old West atmosphere. Shops and restaurants line the quaint streets. It was once a booming community of 5,000 with three saloons and a hotel. Most of the residents earned a living in 50-odd mines around the area in the 1890s. Tour the underground mines, ride a narrow gauge train, stroll down Main Street, view the old buildings, and pan for gold.
Don’t miss the nearby Superstition Mountain Museum. Nature trails crisscross the area surrounding the museum buildings that include a Wells Fargo office, stage coach stop, barber shop, assay office, and other displays of authentic relics of this era. Museums in their own right, the Elvis Memorial Chapel and the Audie Murphy Barn were moved to the site.
Fast is fine but accuracy is final. You must learn to be slow in a hurry.