Facilities available at Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. No wheeled vehicles in the natural area.
The Visitor Center is located within Patagonia Lake State Park. Fees for Patagonia Lake State Park include use of Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. Visitor Center is open Saturday and Sunday from 8 am - 4:30 pm.
Note: Sonoita Creek State Natural Area is always open, but the Visitor Center is closed during summer. Permits for hiking, hunting and horseback riding in the Natural Area can be obtained from the Patagonia Lake State Park gatehouse or by calling (520) 287-6965.
The Visitor Center has two modern, handicap accessible restrooms.
Permanent exhibits include a large three-dimensional model of the Natural Area with topographical contours, trails and campsites; an herbarium; a list of recently seen birds; several reptiles (including a Gila Monster); and a childrens’ table with books, crayons and activities.
Also available for free are natural history brochures, articles, publications, posters, bird lists, Jr. Ranger activity booklets for children, and local tourist information.
A library with hundreds of references is available for guests to use on site. Binoculars are loaned to guests participating in a guided activity. A self-guided plant walk around the Visitor Center provides an introduction to local plants.
The Visitor Center patio with picnic tables overlooks Patagonia Lake. It's a great lunch and meeting spot for up to 60 people. Call for reservations.
Three private back-country hike-in camping sites are available. The closest site is about 4 miles from the trailhead. Six people maximum per site. Two night maximum stay in Sonoita Creek State Natural Area. No horses overnight. $12 per night. There are three tent pads and a steel fire ring at each site. Campfires allowed in desginated fire rings. Dead and down wood may be gathered for fires, but there may be fire restrictions in effect. Campers, please secure your food as there are nimble-fingered ringtails about.
Obtain Day Use permit and Camp Site Reservation at the Visitor Center or Patagonia Lake State Park gatehouse, depending on the season.
There is a picnic table at the parking lot at the Overlook and Sonoita Creek trailheads, and several benches at scenic views along the trails. Check with staff for locations.
Twenty miles of trails are available for hiking and eight miles of trails are shared with equestrians. A 1.5 mile hike of moderate difficulty called the “Overlook Trail” is close to Patagonia Lake State Park and is a great way to see 360 degrees of spectacular scenery. Most of the trails are more remote and the shortest round trip hike to the creek is three miles on the Sonoita Creek Trail.
At all times of the year boots with good traction, sun protection, food and water are recommended. The minimum elevation change on any route is 300'.
Bring your own horse; no horses are for rent at the park. The Horse Corral Trail leads from a large parking area near Patagonia Lake and joins the Sonoita Creek trail which meets the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad Trail after the first creek crossing. Horses must stay on these designated sections. Other trails are not built to horse specifications and can be easily damaged by horse use. The Railroad Trail is a favorite of riders because it follows Sonoita Creek for almost five miles and is in shade in the summer months. Depending on the water level, there are three creek crossings. The Railroad Trail can also be accessed from Coatimundi Drive in Rio Rico. Check with staff for high water warnings and closures.
Sonoita Creek State Natural Area and Patagonia Lake State Park are designated as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. If you are a bird watcher you may hit the jackpot here. During spring migration, late January through early April, a guided bird walk of a few hours could bring over 60 species to your attention. The complete bird list is over 300 species.
One of the most sought after birds is the Elegant Trogon which may be seen from November to March. Ducks, rails, raptors, and flycatchers are commonly sighted. Summer is the time to see Gray Hawks, Common Black Hawks, Zone-tailed Hawks and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo.
In the Natural Area along the creek squirrels, coatis, raccoons, skunks, and Coues deer can be seen. Sightings in the upland areas include snakes, javelina, jackrabbits with gigantic ears, and an occasional bobcat or mountain lion. Nimble-fingered ringtails are also about.
Sonoita Creek supports numerous species of wildlife that are listed as endangered, threatened, sensitive, or of special concern in Arizona, including the following: Gila Topminnow, Desert Sucker, Longfin Dace, Canyon Tree Frog, Cave Myotis Bat, Ringtail Cat, Common Black-Hawk, Gray Hawk, and Bald Eagle.
- Alamo Lake
- Buckskin Mountain
- Cattail Cove
- Lake Havasu
- River Island
- Yuma Quartermaster Depot
- Yuma Territorial Prison
- Dead Horse Ranch
- Fort Verde
- Red Rock
- Riordan Mansion
- Slide Rock
- Verde River Greenway
- Boyce Thompson Arboretum
- Fool Hollow Lake
- Lost Dutchman
- Lyman Lake
- Tonto Natural Bridge