In September we decided to take a motorcycle ride on the Coronado Trail, so we based ourselves in the small town of Clifton. Clifton, Arizona is in southeast Arizona about 50 miles from Safford or just under a four hour drive from Phoenix. If you’re looking to explore some of Arizona’s old west mining towns, Clifton is a cool piece of Arizona boom and bust history.
It was once a lively copper mining town, but visiting Clifton now is like taking a step back in time. Chase Street was once a happening place, now the downtown looks all but abandoned.
If you like old buildings you will enjoy walking down this narrow street. Many of the doors on Chase Street are locked. I love old doors, especially colorful ones.
Things to See in Clifton
Just south of Chase Street is the town’s first jail, Clifton Cliff Jail. The jail was built in 1881 into the side of a solid granite cliff.
The jail is part of the town’s National Historic Register. You can walk inside to see the jail and while you are there you should just to see what it is like. There are a few stairs to walk down to the dirt jail cells below. Ironically, the man credited for building the jail was also the first person to spend the night there.
Next to the jail is a narrow gauge steam engine. This engine is part of Arizona’s first steam powered railroad. It was built in 1897 and used at the mines until the early 1920’s.
Mining copper is still a big deal here. If you drive a few miles north to Morenci you can see the Freeport-McMoRan Copper Mine. The mine runs 24/7. There is an area you can pull over to get a better view of the open-pit mine and take photos if you like.
Coronado Trail Scenic Byway
If you are in this area take a drive on the Coronado Trail Scenic Byway, also known as Hwy 191, from Clifton to Alpine. The Coronado Trail is one of the curviest roads in the United States. The road has many tight turns and no guard rails. This scenic road is one of the best motorcycle roads in Arizona.