Copper Horseshoe: 7 Arizona spots to visit when family arrives from out of state

PHOENIX - If you have family visiting from out of state during the holidays, these travel destinations in Arizona may be for you!

AAA Arizona goes over the appeal of the Copper Horseshoe,
a 206-mile loop through Cochise County in the Southeast corner of Arizona.

The loop trip takes about six hours, making for a long day trip. Or, make a weekend of it by staying in Bisbee.

You can enter the horseshoe loop via the Willcox or the Benson exits off Interstate 10, either beginning or ending with a tour of Kartchner Caverns.

--BISBEE became internationally renowned in the 1880s with the discovery of the Copper Queen Lode. By the early 1900s, Bisbee was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco. But by the early 1970s, most of the mines had closed and the miner's shacks had been replaced with artist studios. Today, over 100 resident artists with more than 25 galleries and studios, and a culture geared to encouraging art and history, make Bisbee a year round place to stop on a quick getaway.

--WILLCOX is located on the Interstate 10 at the eastern end of the "Copper Horseshoe," serving as the gateway to the Chiricahua Mountains, Cochise Stronghold and the deserts of southern Arizona. At one time, Willcox was considered the cattle capitol of the nation.

--BENSON: In the early 1900s, the community grew along with the demand for copper and silver, which were mined in the San Pedro Valley and shipped to Benson for smelting and distribution via the railroad. Today, Benson provides important services to travelers on Interstate 10 and is a gateway for tourists visiting southeastern Arizona and Kartchner Caverns.

--COCHISE STRONGHOLD is located west of Sunsites, Arizona in the Dragoon Mountains. This rugged natural fortress was, for some 15 years, the home and base of operations for the famed Chiricahua Apache Chief, Cochise.

--KARTCHNER CAVERNS: Discovered in 1974, the cave's existence became public knowledge in 1988 when it became an Arizona State Park. Extraordinary precautions have been taken to make the cave accessible to the public while conserving it as a "living" cave. See soda straw formations, a 58-foot-high column (Kubla Khan) said to be the state's tallest, and first occurrences of turnip shields and birds nest needle quartz formations. The skeleton of a Shasta ground sloth from the Pleistocene period is among the fossil finds. The 550-acre park features a discovery center, interpretive nature path and 5 miles of hiking trails. 

--CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL MONUMENT is located about 31 miles southeast of Willcox on State Route 186. The mountains rise above the surrounding grasslands to elevations ranging between 5,100 and 7,800 feet. Drive to the top for spectacular views of the surrounding valley and unique volcanic columns.

--TOMBSTONE: What exactly did happen at the OK Corral? See the Earps and Doc Holliday fight the McLaurys and Clantons in daily reenactments. "The Town Too Tough to Die" offers numerous tourist attractions, stores, historical sites and museums, including the Bird Cage Theatre, which remains virtually unchanged since 1881.

AAA can help plan your trip with hotel reservations, maps, and much more. For more information, call 1-877-934-6222 or visit AAA.com/travel .

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