Brilliant Bisbee Part I -> Cool Hikes & Funky Street Art

Free street art on the BIsbee 1000...I LOVE this kind of stuff!!
Free street art on the Bisbee 1000…AWESOME!

We’ve landed in Bisbee, AZ and I am in love!  Squeezed into a narrow gulch of the Mule Mountains in SE Arizona this ‘ol mining town has a European feel, a wild west flare and a hippy slant. Looking for a cute, artsy place with awesome food? Want to explore twisty, narrow roads that will challenge the width of your car mirrors? Like wandering around Victorian homes with a history of mining, local beer brewing and masses of surprising street-art? Well, this is your place honey! There ain’t nothing quite like it in Arizona and this is the authentic deal. If you’re just a wee bit bohemian you might never leave.

Funky town with a funky panorama shot
A funky town deserves a funky panorama shot
Hiking the narrow streets of Bisbee
Hiking the narrow streets of Bisbee

I probably would never even have considered coming here if it hadn’t been for Bayfield Bunch who’ve blogged about this place for years. Because of Al & Kelly we made it part of our tour this winter and I am overjoyed we did. We’ve squeezed into the local RV park and, despite the close quarters, we are having a total ball being right next to downtown. I don’t think words can completely describe how funky & cool this place is, but I’m going to give it the good ‘ol college try. Here’s my take in 2 clean parts…stay alert now…

1/ Cool DownTown Hikes

The unique geology of this little town makes it a naturally cool hiking spot. Bisbee winds it way through a narrow gulch and the city stretches precariously up the hillsides with an array of super-narrow streets, twisted curves and staircases. This makes for tons of interesting walks, two of which are “must do’s” if you’re in the area:

a) Bisbee 1000

Tackling staircase #9
Tackling staircase #9

One of the first things you’ll notice in Bisbee is that there are no end of staircases. This is a city of steps and if you want to do it like a local you’ll follow the pretty wall paintings and do the Bisbee 1000. It’s an official 5K run (step?) that’s held every Oct, but it doubles as an outstanding way to see the city.

We hooked up doggie and tackled the walk right from the RV park yesterday morning. The staircases are all marked by gorgeous paintings & if you follow the entire route you’ll take in the full gamut of interesting back-streets, stunning views and local sights….oh and a hard-core thigh burn too….wowzie! Since we started at the park and decided to throw in the “Iceman” our final tally was  actually 1,426 steps (or 1,234 uphill and a mere 192 down). Oh yeah, thighs of STEEL baby! Totally awesome hike!!

map_new
The official Bisbee 1000 Trail Map

b) Bisbee Hill & “The Shrine”

Paul poses at The Shrine
Paul poses at The Shrine

Everyone who comes to Bisbee will notice a white “B” and a rather interesting set of crosses that watch over town on a big red hill. Known as Bisbee Hill or Chihuahua Hill, the story goes that in 1980 Adolfo Vasquez promised God he’d build a shrine if God would save his eyesight. Apparently God did, and so Adolfo did too. Since that time the shrine has evolved and grown so not only are there now several crosses, but there are also smaller alcoves, lots of interesting statues & offerings and even a Buddhist corner. The hike is caught at the very end of OK street and scrambles around and up the mountain. It’s about 2 miles total to the top from the RV park and the best description of how to follow it is HERE. Once at the shrine you’ll get gorgeous views of Bisbee and if you’re feeling adventurous you can walk onwards to the “B” and down the other side…a fabulous walk & pooch-friendly too!

2/ Funky Street Art

Entrance to the "dog park"...yup, it's art!
Entrance to the “dog park”…yup, it’s art!
Just another gorgeous wall painting
Just another gorgeous wall painting

I LOVE street art. There’s a free expression and honesty to street art that you just don’t get in other forms. Street art is unique, crazy, wonderful and invites everyone in to participate. Whether you love it or hate it, street art is a free gift and Bisbee is simply bursting with the stuff! In this town there is not a corner, not a road, not a building that doesn’t reveal some kind of art-form….and this is not staged stuff…it’s the real deal. You could create a photo-gallery just of Bisbee doors, and even the “dog park” (a home-made deal just down Brewery Avenue) is an art installation!! People seem to revel in creativity here and decorate their walls, their cars, their houses and their doors with their own vision. The town holds an official downtown art walk the 2nd Saturday of every month from 5-8PM, but you’ll actually get a better feel of the real street stuff just walking around town. We discovered a ton of hidden gems during our Bisbee 1000 walk (yet another reason to do it), but we found even more on the side-streets and talking to locals. Even if you just come to Bisbee to gawk at the street art, it’s totally worth it!

But these two things are not the end of our adventures here. We’ve been joined in Bisbee by none other than the Big White Beluga and have extended our stay at the RV park by another day because of…chocolate (and this despite 4 days of already chock-filled gastronomical exploration)! The food here has us drooling like Great Danes and deserves it’s very own blog post so it can be properly worshipped. So don’t go away…part II is coming soon.

RV Street Art? SO many cool cars out here.
Street art extends to RV’s too…!
Yours truly poses for a pic at the top of Bisbee Hill
Yours truly poses for a pic at the top of Bisbee Hill
The beginning of the Bisbee 1000...
The beginning of the Bisbee 1000…
Early AM view from OK Road
Early AM view from OK Street
Glass wall installation
Glass wall installation
The Hilary Car...only in Bisbee!
The Hilary Car…only in Bisbee!
On the Shrine Hike
On the Shrine Hike
Another gorgeous wall art
Another gorgeous wall art
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do

    • libertatemamo says

      You two would definitely enjoy the hike. I’m glad it’s a little warmer than when you passed through though. Snow is pretty, but it’s sure easier to camp in warmer weather.
      Nina

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks so much! I didn’t know about the author and will definitely be adding this to my reading list.
      Nina

  1. says

    Wow, love…love….love this place. Am googling for more now, but nothing compares to your pictures. The wall art alone would be worth the trip. Definitely have to put on our wish list…..thank you!!!

  2. says

    Oh! Bisbee re-invented its self and became this special place, not all at once just a little bit at a time like going down the rabbit hole and ‘voila’ there you are :-) If it hadn’t it would have been a crumbling ghost town and disappeared instead it blossomed !

    • libertatemamo says

      I’m very impressed with how they’ve managed to thrive and yet still keep an authentic feel. This town has done well.
      Nina

  3. jenniferjohns says

    I can’t wait to visit. I am a big fan of the J.A Jance mysteries set in Bisbee but didn’t realize it was such a strong art community as well. Thanks for the extra info!

    • libertatemamo says

      I had no idea there was a set of murder mysteries set here. How very, very cool! I am definitely looking them up!
      Nina

  4. says

    We visited Bisbee several years ago specifically because I loved the J.A. Jance books set in this location. We enjoyed the town but didn’t do the climbing that you and Paul did!! Love your photos.

    • libertatemamo says

      I was actually amazed at how many stairs this town has. Even the Bisbee 1000 doesn’t cover them all! Lots and lots of hidden spots we didn’t explore.
      Nina

  5. says

    This is definitely my funky kind of place. Thanks for the introduction. Great pictures. The Great Stair Climb – I love it! Serious exercise for sure.

  6. says

    Bisbee is one of our all time favorite little towns in the southwest & we fell in love with it almost from the beginning. Almost….but that’s another story. Our Ranch sitting job for 4 years was only a twenty minute drive north east of Bisbee Loved every minute of being in that quaint & picturesque little town. You did a great job describing Bisbee & nailed it right on the head. Photos are great. We didn’t get to do those in-town step hikes but we did do the hike up to the Shrine. And we made sure to drive all those hard to drive twisty little streets stretching up the hillsides. Enjoy, enjoy, & enjoy. And, thanks for the mention….:))

    • libertatemamo says

      You know I’ve SO enjoyed all your blog posts of this area over the years. They were definitely the inspiration to us coming here. We’re very close to your old ranch spot today at Whitewater Draw. Excellent spot!
      Nina

  7. says

    Hope you had a chance to eat &browse the Market/restaurant at the top of the town. Just up from the chocolate shop. LOVE the food at that market. I bought my African shopping baskets there. So glad you went to Bisbee ! I have been saving bottles and hope to make a bottle wall next fall….Kelly

    • libertatemamo says

      Just went there yesterday, and stopped at the chocolate store on the way for a hot chocolate…OMG! It was to die for!!
      Nina

  8. says

    Now you’ve done it! Now EVERYBODY is going to be flocking to southeast Arizona to see what you’ve seen and do what you’ve done! And what are they going to do? They’re going to bring money, spend it at RV parks, local shops and restaurants, and just make our economy grow! We’ll have to get out of here for the summer, but that’s OK. Where to next?

  9. Allen says

    Your excitement and enthusiasm is contagious. I look forward to visiting the desert southwest and following your footsteps. The joy you express makes me happy.

    • libertatemamo says

      Thanks for the lovely words! Travel gives me joy so I’m glad I can pass some of that onto others through the blog.
      Nina

  10. Brenda says

    Bisbee has always been on my place to visit when we finally start Full timing. I see the pictures of Paul and Polly on the streets. Are there any places that you can take your furry best friend to eat while you are out for the day? As a side note…Love that you include so many places that you can go without spending mucho $$$ and being able to take Polly.

    • libertatemamo says

      YES! Bisbee is actually very dog-friendly. There are several restaurants that have outdoor patio areas and allow dogs (e.g. High Desert Market Cafe, Poco). And of course ALL the hiking around town is dog-friendly.
      Nina

  11. Sheila says

    Have you found the killer bee honey store yet? How about ghost encounters? Bisbee is said to be very haunted, particularly at the Copper Queen Hotel.

    • libertatemamo says

      YES! My nose sniffed out the Killer Bee on our 2nd day. WONDERFUL honey’s! No ghost encounters sadly although we did our best by having an evening drink at the Copper Queen Hotel.
      Nina

  12. Dan says

    Thanks for the great article on Bisbee. This is a place I will try to visit next time through Az. It sounds like Jerome, Az, a town I have seen and would suggest you check out. It is also perched on a side of a hill with lots of small shops and restaurants. It is also close to Sadona, which is a real pretty spot as well. I look forward to more reports from the road! .

    • libertatemamo says

      I’ve heard alot of people compare Bisbee & Jerome so I’ll be interested to see what I think when we get up there early next month.
      NIna

  13. connie says

    Oh, Nina, your blog has so spoiled me! I compare your blog to every RV blog I get on and you always win handsdown. I always go to your site when we’re planning our next stop and am disappointed when you guys haven’t gone to where we’re going because your research is always so thorough! At any rate, thanks for all the time you put into your blog.

  14. says

    Sounds like a cool little town. I especially like the idea of the1000 stair climb hike. Sounds like quite a work out. We’ll have to put it on the list for a future visit.

  15. says

    Totally off topic here…. but are you still planning to do Cape Blanco this summer? There’s a photographer I follow (not on WordPress) who does mostly sunsets around the Port Orford area, but he just posted a really neat shot of the Lighthouse. Thought you might like to take a peek:
    http://tinyurl.com/aokadag

  16. says

    I checked your blog and see that we overlapped in Bisbee at the same time!… in the same RV park!? (we were in the brown Lazy Daze) Oh well, maybe down the road.
    We are over in Chiricahau hiking amongst unbelievable boulders. The campground is generally tight, but two spaces are sizable FYI. Might want to do a drive through with the Toad first tho if you ever decide to come this way. Otherwise there is boon docking on forest service roads outside the park and you could commute in and out with toad. Again FYI.
    Your Bisbee post was terrific! We always love to go there. Don’t miss the street on the other side of the pit… a step back in time.
    Off to the Boulders…
    Box Canyon Mark

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh what a total bummer we missed meeting! Enjoy your time in the Chirachaus. We’re headed to White Water Draw today.
      Nina

  17. Tom & Patricia says

    If close by do not miss the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas. It’s a jewel of a find: Many employees and guests of the Gadsden have had encounters with the Gadsden Ghost. The ghost has been reported mostly in the basement and is said to be a tall man in black clothing and often with no head. Some believe this ghost is the ghost of Pancho Villa himself. At the time of his death in 1923, Pancho Villa was reported to have a hidden treasure somewhere in the mountains of Northern Mexico. The only map to this location was tattooed on Villa’s head. It is said that upon his death, Villa’s loyal followers cut off his head and buried it under the ashes of the recently burned Gadsden Hotel in order to forever keep the secret location of the treasure concealed. Unknowingly, the Gadsden Hotel was re-built over the top of the skull and Pancho Villa remains wandering the dark damp halls of the Gadsden basement searching for his head and the map to his treasure. Note: I copied and pasted most of this…

  18. Marla Croy says

    Hi, I was wondering if you remember where the picture of the giant rose was taken? I think it is off of High Road, and is in my grandmother’s back yard (or side yard). She lived there until 1983/4. Thanks

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