Located in southwest Arizona’s Pinal County, the town of Kearny was named after a U.S. Army General named Stephen Watts Kearny, who passed through the area in the 1840s, leading a troop of soldiers to California.
With a population of less than 2,000, the area is surrounded by wide open spaces and majestic desert vistas. The town’s economy is largely driven by the copper mining and smelting industry, with most of the facilities operated by mining giant ASARCO.
From golfing and bird watching to rodeos and world-class museums, there’s more than enough to keep you busy in and around Kearny.
Below are 14 things to do in Kearny you won’t want to pass up.
1. Kearny Pioneer Days
Held in Kearny’s aptly named Pioneer Park, Kearny Pioneer Days has been going strong for 50 years and is held in March when the desert climate is at its absolute best.
Pioneer Days is a tribute to the town’s pioneer heritage. It is full of rodeo-style events, live music and more food than you’ll know what to do with – most of which is locally grown, prepared and served with a southwestern twist.
There are plenty of activities to keep adults and kids busy and interested and the reasonable entrance fee won’t break the bank, especially considering that you’ll probably end up staying for hours.
2. Hubbard Park
Parks are great places to stretch your legs, relax with a good book, and get a feel for the town you’re visiting.
Conveniently located in the middle of Kearny, Hubbard Park has a playground, shade trees, and picnic tables with ramadas that were donated by ASARCO, the town’s largest employer.
The Kearny Public Library and Town Hall are at either end of the park; both are great places to check out. They’re free and helpful resources, so don’t be shy about asking the employees what places and events they’d suggest for out of town visitors.
There’s also a swimming pool and restrooms.
3. Goldfield Ghost Town
Located in Apache Junction between Phoenix and Kearny, Goldfield Ghost Town is one of those cool and quirky Arizona attractions you won’t want to miss.
The town consists of historic buildings left over from a bygone era and resembles the set of a western movie.
You’re free to give yourself a tour of the abandoned mine and there’s even a reptile exhibit – one of the largest and most extensive of its kind in the state.
If you’re into trains, there’s a line that runs around the town that’ll take 20 minutes or so and will give you a great view of the majestic Superstition Mountains in the background.
4. Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area
At nearly 20,000 acres, Aravaipa Canyon Wilderness Area is located on the northwest edge of the Galiuro Mountains, which spans Arizona’s Graham and Pinal counties.
Aravaipa Canyon is nearly 12 miles long and surrounded by mesas and steep cliff walls.
Within the park, there’s a separate nature conservancy which is on private land. This portion of the park is among the most pristine and full of wildlife but is only accessible if you have written authorization from the park office.
It’s conveniently located about an hour northeast of Tucson and is a great place for wildlife viewing.
Inexpensive campsites are available too.
5. Apache Trail Scenic Byway
Located on Route 88 between the town of Apache Junction and Roosevelt Dam, Apache Trail National Scenic Byway is a little more than 48 miles of the most scenic desert landscape that you’re ever likely to see.
Winding through the Salt River Canyon and flanked by the amazing Superstition Mountains, the paved and gravel road has quite a change in elevation, giving you a number of varied viewpoints to snap some breathtaking photos.
You’ll also pass Apache Lake, which is worth a stop as well – especially if you’re interested in doing a little desert fishing, or just seeing the beautiful lake.
6. Tube the Salt River
Tubing the Salt River is an Arizona tradition going back to the advent of the inner-tube.
The Salt River flows through some rough and beautiful terrain, much of which lies in Tonto National Forest near East Mesa, Arizona.
You’ll be surprised at just how cool and clear the refreshing water is too.
You can choose the length of the trip you’d like, but all trips include transportation to and from the drop-off and pick-up areas.
The cost is reasonable but tours are seasonal. The river can be positively packed during peak times, so book before you go if possible.
7. Sabino Canyon
One of southern Arizona’s most popular spots for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and horseback riding, Sabino Canyon is located in the Coronado National Forest just north of Tucson.
Sabino Creek – which runs through the canyon – even sports waterfalls; though due to the area’s dryness, they don’t flow year-round.
The canyon is home to lots of amazing desert creatures including rattlesnakes, tarantulas, and even mountain lions.
Trails are well marked and the best time to see the animals is in the morning and evenings.
Stop into the visitor’s center for some hiking tips before heading out.
8. Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
One of Arizona’s premier museums and botanical gardens, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum was founded in the ‘50s and includes exhibits on natural history, botany, and art.
The museum and grounds include more than 90 acres of land, with plenty of easy paths that’ll take you to everything you’ll want to see.
With its convenient location just west of Tucson and its relatively inexpensive admission, it’s one of southern Arizona’s most popular attractions and includes hundreds of animal species and thousands of plant species.
It’s open every day except major holidays and welcomes nearly a half million yearly visitors.
9. Tohono Chul Park
Located northwest of Tucson, Tohono Chul Park traces its roots back to the ‘60s, when a local couple starting buying up patches of desert with the idea of one day transforming them into a unique park.
They acquired nearly 40 acres and an old ranch house that’s now a bistro and tea room.
The park includes gardens, art exhibits and even a retail nursery full of desert plants and cacti.
There are plenty of interactive activities for kids and even guided tours for adult groups and schools.
Customers rave about the bistro, so consider sticking around for lunch or an afternoon coffee.
10. Heirloom Farmers Market
Farmers markets are great places to pick-up unique food and products that are made locally and help support local families and businesses.
Heirloom Farmers Market in Oro Valley has been going strong for nearly 15 years and is as much a social event as it is a market.
The market is open year-round, which means you never know what you’ll find.
Whether you’re looking for some fresh fruit to snack on or some uniquely Arizona products like cactus jelly, tequila and scorpion flavored lollipops or wild honey, you’ll probably find them here.
The market is known for its chocolate and baked goods too.
11. Catalina State Park
One inexpensive day pass fee to Catalina State Park will give you access to lots of fun things to do, whether you’re a hiker, rock hound or amateur archaeologist.
The state park is full of hiking trails and amazing scenery. The Romero Ruins are a great place to get a first-hand insight into the Native Americans, who called this harsh landscape home for thousands of years before it was officially settled.
Stop by the visitor’s center for a free trail map before heading out, and remember, Arizona can be hot and unforgiving, so bring plenty of water, decent shoes and a good hat.
12. Mount Lemmon
Due to its elevation, Mount Lemmon’s climate is noticeably more pleasant than it’s sea-level neighbor Tucson, which resembles a pizza oven much of the year.
Nestled in the Santa Catalina Mountains near Coronado National Forest, Mount Lemmon is full of some of the most amazing scenery in Arizona – much of which can be easily viewed from your car when driving along the scenic Sky Island Parkway, which reaches nearly 6,000 feet.
Especially popular when the Arizona weather is unbearably hot, Mount Lemmon is also home to a surprising number of winter sports due to its uncharacteristically cold and wintery weather.
13. Saguaro National Park
Though Arizona is full of state and national parks, Saguaro National Park near Tucson and Marana is absolutely unique, in that it features one of the most concentrated areas of Saguaros in the southwest.
Saguaro cactus can reach 50 feet tall, live for hundreds of years, and weigh thousands of pounds.
They’re considered the stalwart grandfathers of the desert and have amazingly large and beautiful white flowers during the spring, which are favorite subjects of Arizona artists.
Guided tours are available if booked in advance, or you’re welcome to show yourself around the park.
Dress accordingly and bring plenty to drink.
14. Disruptive Paintballing
If you’ve had all you can take of museums, cacti, and historical sites from bygone eras, a little adrenaline-filled action shooting high-velocity globs of paint at loved ones and unsuspecting strangers might be just the thing.
Open since 2004, Disruptive Paintball is a family-owned business that has entertained thousands of visitors – from beginners to diehards.
If you’ve never tried it before, don’t worry, they’ve got all the equipment you’ll need and will give you a crash course in the finer points of paintballing before setting you loose.
Paintballing has become popular in recent years, and after a day at Disruptive, you may realize why. It’s just a lot of fun.