The part of Bisbee most visitors see is the Downtown Plaza of what is now called “Old Bisbee.” That’s the original part of town: It was the only major flat area to be found in the 1880s and 1890s and it’s where most of the commercial district was constructed. It’s on the confluence of Tombstone Canyon (originally Mule Gulch and then Bisbee Canyon) and Brewery Gulch.
This plaza is a great place to walk around and find many of Bisbee’s shops, restaurants and other businesses, but it’s far from all of Bisbee. It isn’t even that much of “Old Bisbee.” The city grew slowly from the first collection of cabins and tents adjacent to the first mining claims, which were staked in 1877.
As it grew, it spread up both canyons and then up the sides of the mountains. The mines spread to the southeast, so housing and businesses grew in the opposite direction, yet close enough to the mines for men to walk to work. Because so many men were miners and knew how to use explosives, they were able to blast out terraces for their homes from the bedrock of the steep canyon walls, as well as creating yards, stairways, streets and walkways.
Me, drive there!?
Those haphazard routes were to evolve into the streets and walkways of today, and they run in switchbacks up the steep canyon walls. Many “two-lane” roads are wide enough for just one car at a time. The Fire Department still has a 1940s vintage fire engine, because anything later is too wide to make it up some of the streets.
The typical visitor to Bisbee stays away from these so-called streets — they’d be no more than trails in most towns — and leaves them to the locals to navigate. But in doing so, they miss much of the charm and most of the history and scenery of Bisbee.
This is probably why the Historic Old Bisbee Tour is the most popular of the Lavender Jeep Tours. You get to go places which – even if you knew they existed – you wouldn’t dare go yourself: Will I have to back down a mile of twisting, narrow road that has a rock wall on one side and a precipice on the other?
Your driver is the narrator, too
And because it’s a driver-narrated trip (as all of our tours are), you’ll drink deeply of the lore and culture of what once was the wealthiest city in Arizona. You’ll see all of historic Bisbee, which stretches far above and beyond the downtown business district. You’ll get to know parts of Bisbee that many people raised in other parts of Bisbee rely on Lavender Jeep Tours to introduce to their own visitors.
See Quality Hill, where the business and professional class lived before they could move to the “suburbs.” See the Gulch, where the last vestiges of the “cribs” remain, literally cast in concrete. See School Hill, where the old High School is built on a hill so steep that each of its four stories has a ground-level entrance. Twist to the top of High Road, where you can see out over the far reaches of the community and into Mexico.
Learn about the time when more than 14,000 people were packed into an area that now seems crowded with fewer than 2,000 residents. See all of Historic Bisbee.
This is our signature tour, perfect as an introduction to Bisbee. On your future trips, we have further adventures in store for you. If you were here 10 years ago, you might recall that it was called “the Backroads of Bisbee.”