The tiny town of Mammoth is in Arizona’s Pinal County, and at the time of the last census had less than 1,500 residents.
The town was founded in the 1870s, and was originally a camp that housed and fed the men who worked at the Mammoth Copper Mine that was the major economic driver of the day.
The mine remained open until 2003 when it was shuttered after more than 100 years.
Other mining towns that went bust much earlier than Mammoth lingered along on life support for a few years, but many finally succumbed and a few even became ghost towns for which the area is now so famous.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Mammoth, Arizona.
1. Arizona Zipline Adventures
Ziplining has become a popular pastime recently as more people are getting outdoors and doing things that require a bit of physical exertion.
It’s safe, fun, and reasonably inexpensive too.
There aren’t many better ways to get the adrenaline flowing and see some amazing views all at the same time.
The smart folks at Arizona Zipline Adventures have even added the area’s best burgers to their repertoire, making it a no-brainer when in the area.
There are zipline options for most ages and levels of physical ability, so check out the FAQ section of their website for restrictions, prices, and hours of operation.
2. Gaslight Music Hall
Located on North Oracle Road in Oro Valley, the Gaslight Music Hall features local performers, as well as those from other parts of the country.
Their schedule is packed with concerts, musicals, and dance parties too.
It’s also known as a place where the adult beverages tend to flow freely, and if all that exercise depletes your energy, they’ve got darn good pizza and wings.
Since they cover such a wide spectrum of musical tastes, it’s best to check online to see what’s on the calendar for when you’ll be in the area.
Parking can be tricky, so take a cab or go early and enjoy a pre-concert happy hour nearby.
3. Arizona ATV Adventure Tours
For a truly unique adventure, consider seeing the amazing Arizona backcountry on an ATV.
Whether you’re part of a group, or planning on going solo, you’ll have blast, and previous ATV riding experience isn’t necessary.
Your guide will be a knowledgeable and enthusiastic local who will know the desert better than just about anyone, and will take you to some remarkable gems that few people get to see.
You’ll be provided with crash-course in handling the ATV, all necessary equipment, and you’ll also be covered by insurance in the rare event that you get overly ambitious and plow into a cactus.
4. Biosphere 2
Located in nearby Oracle, Biosphere 2 is an experiment designed to demonstrate that humans could live in contained environments and be self-sufficient with little negative impact on the surrounding land.
The biosphere was managed by the University of Arizona and sat on 3 acres in the Sonoran Desert.
Though it’s the largest closed ecological system of its kind, it came under a lot of scrutiny for its cost, and the fact that according to many of its critics it wasn’t able to do what scientists claimed.
Whatever the case, it’s a fascinating structure and idea, and well worth checking out when you’re in the area.
5. Mount Lemmon
Considered the jewel of southern Arizona, Mount Lemmon’s towering peak reaches nearly 7,000 feet into the uniquely blue Arizona sky.
Due to its elevation it’s an attractive year-round oasis, but particularly so in the summer when it’s noticeably cooler than the surrounding desert.
Mount Lemmon is inside the Coronado National Forest and is full of drivable roads and hiking trails, so you’ll be able to get a great look no matter how much energy you’re willing to exert.
In winter and fall the both Mount Aspen’s and Mount Maple’s leaves turn magnificent colors, and are often covered with snow too: a real desert rarity.
6. Oro Valley Farmers Market
The Oro Valley Farmers Market is located on North Oracle Road at the Steam Pump Ranch.
The farmers market is open on Saturday mornings, and though it’s a great place to pick up local fruit, vegetables, prepared food, and arts and crafts, it’s also a social event where friends meet to gab, eat, and support the local economy.
At different times of the year the farmers market hosts entertainment and an artisan’s market, so you never know what’ll be in store.
Consider arriving hungry, as the market is known for its fresh baked goods and delicious, hot coffee, which can warm you up on a cool winter morning in the upper 60s.
7. Marshall Gulch Trail
Small towns like Mammoth, Oro Valley, and Casa Grande are magnets to nature lovers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts from all over the state and country.
With so many amazing things to see, and so many free and easily accessible trails, finding a great way to stretch those legs and enjoy Mother Nature won’t be a problem.
Located near the town of Summerhaven, Marshall Gulch Trail leads through tiny canyons and ravines and is shaded by trees which grow near the gulch’s intermittent water source.
The trail links up with other popular ones in the area like Aspen and Wilderness Rock Trail too.
8. Windy Point Vista
Located along southern Arizona’s scenic Catalina Highway, Windy Point Vista provides the most amazing views of Tucson as well as vast expanses of preserved wilderness areas nearby that span to the horizon.
There’s plenty of parking and even restrooms, so consider bringing a granola bar or sandwich and having a picnic.
Due to its proximity to Summerhaven, the area is usually pretty crowded, so consider an early morning or late afternoon visit.
The vista point is also a great place to do some star gazing if you’re an amateur astronomer, because the nearly unlit Sonoran Desert provides the perfect, black night sky.
9. Honey Bee Canyon Park
Located on North Rancho Vistoso Boulevard in Oro Valley, Honey Bee Canyon Park is full of trails that are open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.
There are trails that’ll fit the needs of you and your companions, regardless of age and level of fitness.
Like lots of canyon parks in Arizona, Honey Bee is full of amazingly beautiful washes and arroyos, and there are even Native American petroglyphs that were carved into the rock centuries ago.
If the sun gets to be too much, take a load off at the covered ramadas near the park’s entrance.
The morning and evenings are the best times to see the parks wild inhabitants, like javelinas and hummingbirds.
10. Casa Grande Valley Historical Society Museum
Historical Society Museums are great places to check out when you’re visiting a town for the first time.
They’re usually staffed with friendly volunteers who know all the ins-and-outs of the area’s history and culture, and are eager to share their knowledge with interested visitors.
The Casa Grande Valley Historical Society Museum provides tours, educational speakers, workshops, and even programs specifically designed with the little ones in mind.
The museum includes exhibits and paraphernalia from the area’s pioneers, Native American and mining histories, and a small reconstruction of what the town looked like when it was founded in the 1870s.
11. Oracle State Park for Environmental Education
Originally some of the land that’s now included in Oracle State Park was a 150-acre ranch that was bought by a local family in 1903.
The family prospered and the ranch ultimately grew to nearly 50,000 acres, and is now listed in the Register of National Historic Places.
When the family’s last member died in 1976, the land was bequeathed to an organization dedicated to the preservation of Arizona land, and they later deeded it to the state of Arizona to manage.
The 4,000 acre preserve is full of exhibits and natural areas that provide educational activities for adults and children alike.
12. Play a Round of Golf or Two
The Views Golf Club is one of the most popular courses in the Mammoth and Oro Valley areas.
It’s located on East Rancho Vistoso Boulevard in Oro Valley, and is an 18-hole course with one of the most dramatic and scenic desert layouts in the area.
Due to the weather, it’s not a good idea to play golf in the summer heat, though if you’re fit and healthy, rent a cart and drink plenty of fluids, and you should be fine.
The course is a par 72 and is nestled amongst the foothills of the iconic Catalina Mountains.
The clubhouse has good food and drinks, and is a great place to stop for a beer after a round and brag about all the great shots you didn’t really make.
13. Adventures in Stained Glass
Arizona is full of artists and artisans who find the amazing desert a place of inspiration that they just can’t seem to find elsewhere.
Located on North Florence Street in Casa Grande, Adventures in Stained Glass is an amazing gallery that’s worth a visit regardless if you’re a fan of stained glass or not.
You can stop by anytime they’re open, or it’s also a regular stop on many of the town’s art walks that explore the downtown area and its galleries.
The owner is a passionate artisan himself, and will enthusiastically explain all the gallery’s wonderful creations to you.
It’s a great place to pick up something special for your home, and support a local artisan in the process.
14. Casa Grande Ruins
Casa Grande’s ancient Hohokam structures are some of the best preserved of their kind in the southwest.
The Hohokam were ancient people who inhabited the areas around south and central Arizona’s Gila River Valley area.
They were very advanced for the time, and archaeologists have found evidence that that constructed irrigation canals to divert the river’s water to their crops, which largely consisted of maize, squash, gourds, and beans.
The area is thought to have been abandoned in the 15th century, though it’s not certain why they decided to leave.
The site is free to visit and just a short drive from Mammoth.