The Sky Island Tour can be taken at any time during the day, from 10 a.m. on, but we also offer a later tour, starting about an hour before sunset (which varies, of course) to take advantage of the spectacular views from the top of the mountain. While we guarantee that the sun will set, we can’t know what that time of day will look like. Call to schedule the Sunset Tour and get a time.
Southeastern Arizona is the trailing end of America’s basin-and-range country: Discrete mountain ranges separated by valleys of alluvial fill. In this part of the world, these mountains are known as the “Sky Islands.”
Like islands, each has its own unique habitat, different in some ways from the mountain range 20 miles west and the one that’s 20 miles east. The plant life is a bit different, perhaps because of an elevation difference or the mountain’s location in local rain patterns. The wildlife is different as well, perhaps because of the plant life or because of the size of the range or because of the microclimate.
Bisbee is situated in the Mule Mountains, one of the Sky Islands of southern Arizona. The Mules have a bit less elevation than the Chiricahuas to the east or the Huachucas to the west, peaking at less than 8,000 feet, but they’re higher than the Dragoons to the north or the Cananea Mountains across the border to the south.
Bisbee is at 5,000 to 6,000 feet, but just above the town, it’s possible to take a primitive road to an elevation well over 7,000 feet, moving you out of the Sonoran Desert landscape into Apache pines and alligator juniper, a setting that is surprisingly remote, which is perfect for mule and white-tailed deer and the animals that typically accompany them in this habitat.
From the top of Juniper Flats, as this part of the Mule Mountains is known, it’s possible to see well into Mexico and to see about a dozen other Sky Island ranges of southern Arizona and northern Mexico. (To get an idea of the elevation, at one point you’re looking almost straight out at two astronomical observatories, one in Mexico about 40 miles away and other, one of the largest in the world, about 100 miles to the north in Arizona.)
Near the top of the tour, it’s possible to walk just a few feet away from the Lavender Jeep and imagine you’re totally away from civilization, with nothing to remind you that a city exists so close.
The road up to the top is maintained (sort of) because of two sites that are telecommunication centers for southern Cochise County. The area also has a few residences that are built on the sites of former mining claims. In the 19-teens, there was a gold rush on the mountain that created quite a bit of excitement in Bisbee, but only a small amount of wealth.