Hereford, Arizona 85615Ramsey Canyon Official Website
Before you get started, you’ll have to obtain a permit from The Nature Conservancy’s visitors center — the first part of the hike crosses its preserve. The fee is minimal, and it’s well worth the expense, especially if you appreciate wildlife.
In particular, Ramsey Canyon Preserve is considered one of the best bird-watching sites in the world. In the winter, if you know what you’re looking for, there’s a good chance of seeing dark-eyed juncos, yellow-rumped warblers, red-naped sapsuckers, and ruby-crowned kinglets. And even if you can’t tell one of those birds from a pterodactyl, there’s something appealing about knowing that they’re out there. The same goes for the Coues white-tailed deer, which wander in and out of the creek without any apparent fear. No doubt they’ve been conditioned by the benign nature of the resident bird watchers.
The trail begins at the back door (literally) of the visitors center, and the first thing you’ll see is Ramsey Creek, a key tributary of the San Pedro River. About 10 minutes later you’ll come to the James Cabin. It was built in 1902, and as you stand there looking around, you’ll agree that few cabins in the history of westward expansion could have had a better view. It’s impressive, and so is the Arizona sycamore nearby. It might not be the oldest tree in the canyon, but it dates back to 1760, which makes it old. Very old. Even older than Cochise, by a long shot.
From the big tree, the trail moves uphill and includes some minor switchbacks before crossing into the Coronado National Forest and the Miller Peak Wilderness. Your reward for climbing this far is a good overlook of lower Ramsey Canyon and the San Pedro River Valley. Above the switchbacks, the trail drops back down to the creek and follows it through a riparian zone as lush and beautiful as any you’ll find in the Southwest. Imagine having Oak Creek Canyon all to yourself. It’s that remarkable.
Along this stretch, small waterfalls tumble past gnarly sycamores and lacy-limbed firs, and the trail crosses the creek five or six times as it climbs toward the upper elevations of the Huachuca Mountains. Eventually, after an hour and a half and 2.5 miles, you’ll come to a point where the Hamburg Trail intersects the Wisconsin Trail, which leads into Wisconsin Canyon. This is the turnaround point for this hike, but before you head back, make a perimeter check. Along with the scenic beauty, this area includes the remains of some leveled homesites that were part of Henry Hamburg’s mining camp. There’s not much left, but the area makes a great place to stretch your legs and grab a snack. Strudel would be good if you have it.
Ramsey Canyon, once known as Dunton Canyon, has a long and colorful history and was the vacation spot of the county for several decades. It is believed to be named after Gardner Ramsay, who lived here at least as early as 1878. There was also a W.H. Ramsey and a Frank Ramsey here about the same time. Much of the activity took place on what is now The Nature Conservancy’s Mile Hi/Ramsey Canyon Preserve, located at about the middle of the canyon. The apple trees here were custom-grafted, and have been in production since the 1920s. Prehistoric Indians settled along the mouth of the canyon, and their acorn grinding holes can still be seen in the bedrock along a wash.
The trail in Ramsey is called the Hamburg Trail, in honor of the mining town that existed at the upper end of the canyon at the start of this century. Just for the record, there never was a Hamburg Mine; that was the name of the town, which was named after Henry Hamburg, the general manager of the Hartford-Arizona Mining Company.
The original claim was staked in 1878 by M. Burns and Peter Tompkins. The area developed quickly, and many locally prominent people had their hand in it, among them Richard Gird, of Tombstone fame. One claim, the Wisconsin, was located by a man named Patrick Scott, and for some reason, those names were applied to the two canyons that begin where Ramsey ends.
There was a post office here from 1906 to 1916, then again from 1925 to 1928. The town met an explosive end when an angry young man, thought to be Lionel Hamburg, blew up everything in sight, including most of the tunnels, about 1928. Then in the 40’s the remaining mining equipment was removed, to be recycled for the war effort. Little remains today, but Hamburg still makes for an interesting hike.
See all hotspots at Ramsey Canyon
Ramsey Canyon, located in the Huachuca Mountains within the Upper San Pedro River Basin in southeastern Arizona, is renowned for its outstanding scenic beauty and the diversity of its plant and animal life. This diversity is the result of the interplay of geology, biogeography, topography, and climate.
Southeastern Arizona is an ecological crossroads, where the Sierra Madre of Mexico, the Rocky Mountains, and the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts all come together. The abrupt rise of mountains like the Huachucas from the surrounding arid grasslands creates “sky islands” that harbor tremendous habitat diversity and form stepping stones to the tropics. This combination of factors gives Ramsey Canyon Preserve its notable variety of plant and animal life, including such southwestern specialties as Apache and Chihuahua pines, ridge-nosed rattlesnake, lesser long-nosed bat, elegant trogon, and berylline and violet-crowned hummingbirds.