Gardner Canyon Road

Sonoita, Arizona (Pima County)

Last Updated: 08/03/2019
3.3 / 5 ( 3 reviews )
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Highlight: Gardner Canyon Road
Cleaving a sea of grass in two, the spectacular Gardner Canyon spills out from the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains. If you are looking for stunning scenery, shady places to picnic or camp, and the possibility of spotting wildlife or even a rarer fleck of gold in the stream beds, Gardner Canyon is for you. This is an ideal trail to try out your off-road vehicle for the first time. About an hour south of Tucson and stone's throw from quaint restaurants wineries and inn's in Sonoita, AZ, Gardner Canyon is an oak studded gem that is becoming more and more popular. Solitude is rare here due to Gardner Canyon's easy accessibility, but there are plenty of places to get away from it all back there. Open all year, Gardner Canyon plays host to a variety of wildlife, hunters, gold panners, hikers and OHV enthusiasts of all types. Get there while it's still relatively pristine.


Route Information

Technical Rating

( EASY )

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1. Trailhead (AZ 83) (0 mi)
Wide and easy to find, the trail is well marked on Highway 83. There is a cattle guard which begins the dirt road portion of this trail. All 9 miles are dirt, most well groomed, some a little rockier. There is a wide staging area immediately to the right to gather/air down if you choose, but most will find this unnecessary on this smooth trail. A sign with "AZR" and an arrow point the way!

Directions to Trailhead

Starting Point: AZ 83 Mile marker 41

About 40 miles from Tucson. From Interstate 10, head east to mile marker 281, Arizona Highway 83. Head 29 miles south, down the very scenic AZ83, pass the Greaterville road and the sometimes active Border Patrol checkpoint, and you will see Gardner Canyon as an obvious depression between two ridges as you head south. Continue to mile marker 41 and the trail will be on your right, across a cattle guard. It is well marked. From the South, At the intersection of HWY 82 and HWY 83 in Sonoita, AZ, head north for 9 miles until you reach mile marker 41. The turn off is well marked and will be on your left.



Land Use Issues

Some of the dispersed camping spots between the trailhead and the National Forest are on AZ state land and requires a State Land recreational permit. Vehicles must be licensed for highway use to travel on the Gardner Canyon Rd.

Trail Reviews (3)

Questions & Answers (0)

Writer Information

Jim Long

Mapping Crew - Arizona

I moved to Arizona in 1984 and bought my first offroad vehicle the next year. I had lots of adventures, seeking out the Old West on paper topo maps in my Toyota FJ40 and can say, fortunately, that I never had to walk home. In 2005 I saw the prototype for the FJ Cruiser, and in the middle of my FJ40 resto project, someone came into my garage with cash and bought it out from under me. (Some regrets) In 2008, I flew out to LA to pick up my FJ Cruiser, special ordered with the Offroad Package (Locker) and MT6. My area of operations has been Southern Arizona, from the New Mexico to California borders. Unfortunately, the FJ Cruiser burned in a fire in August 2020. Now I'm building up from the ashes, literally, salvaged parts from the FJ are going on my Lexus GX470. SO, that's what's coming out next. I have been an active member of where I'm the top post contributor, and have many trail reviews posted there that I plan on enhancing, revisiting and documenting for this authoritative source. I have a login to Ih8Mud and fjcruiserforums but don't lurk there very much. in my career, I've had the pleasure of traveling in Canada, the Caribbean, and Australia but never had the opportunity to wheel there. (bucket list). But, I hope my 30 years of Southern Arizona discovery, teaching and leading people into the backcountry will finally benefit a wider audience here on Trailsoffroad. There's nothing I enjoy more than finding a historic site, a little-used trail that had significance or the opportunity to take that one photo that defines what we do. (I stink but I'm willing to learn). Oh..Added benefit...I'm the GIS analyst for a fire dept and as such have some skills in ArcGIS.
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