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Arivaca Creek Loop and Mustang Trail



4.4 mile 7.1 kilometer out and back
83% Runnable


Ascent: 935' 285 m
Descent: -935' -285 m
High: 4,447' 1,355 m
Low: 3,534' 1,077 m


Avg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 43% (23°)


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Trail shared by Matt Freeman


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This is an excellent quick dive into the woods to check out this riparian zone filled with life.

Matt Freeman

Features Birding · Views · Wildlife


The one-mile Arivaca Creek Trail is a well-maintained, smooth, gentle trail that can be done as a loop. This network of trails is within the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was established in 1985 to protect the masked bobwhite quail, an endangered species.

Since the creation of the refuge, pronghorn elk have been reintroduced and can usually be seen closer to the refuge headquarters. There is an abundance of plants and critters to see in this refuge. Check out the visitor center for more information. The staff is quite friendly and knowledgeable.

The trailhead has excellent signs that introduce visitors to the refuge. This particular trailhead is on the east side of the refuge.

Need to Know

Bring field glasses for some close-up visuals of the local colorful birds in the area.

Runner Notes

Be ready for some quick footwork to avoid all the loose and protruding rocks on Mustang Trail and dodge the stickers and prickers along the trail.


Begin your run by taking the trail to the right and running gently down the riparian drainage. As you get closer to the main channel, the number of birds fluttering through the trees is quite noticeable. Run through the immense cottonwood trees, smaller mesquite trees, and other brush growing in the wash. I’m not much of a bird person, but this place has many colorful birds. For once, I took field glasses and was delighted by seeing their radiant, colorful plumage up close.

Cross the drainage, and eventually you'll reach Mustang Trail. The trails are well marked, and there are several signs to define the trail. Pop out of the riparian vegetation if you choose Mustang Trail, and put the field glasses away. You'll quickly find a desert scene with tall grass among the smaller mesquite trees, cactus, and other desert vegetation. The trail surface is rocky. With quick feet—and hands—hop over the rocks and dodge the stickers that are constantly trying to poke, grab, and rip at your skin and clothes. The trail gently ascends a ridge, passes through a barbed-wire fence, pops over a saddle, and eventually goes to the back side of the mountain before steeply climbing to the summit for a great 360-degree view of the area.

Drop back down the mountain and unpack the field glasses before entering the riparian zone. You'll get a few more views of the colorful birds as you make your way back to the trailhead on the Arivaca Creek Trail.

Flora & Fauna

Lots and lots of birds and different species of deer can be found here.

History & Background

The original refuge boundary was the Buenos Aires Ranch, purchased by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.


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in Arizona


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626 Since Feb 14, 2018



A stroll through the riparian zone filled with life.
Feb 14, 2018 near Tubac, AZ
On top of El Cerro looking to the west.
Feb 14, 2018 near Tubac, AZ