Patagonia/Sonoita, AZ: “The Birds and The Bees” (well, really just Birds)

A rare long weekend without any commitments beckoned us to Patagonia Lake State Park in Southern Arizona, about 12 miles north of the Mexican border town of Nogales.  This is a beautiful, remote region with hilly grassland topography and scenery like nothing else in Arizona!

The 250-acre Patagonia Lake and accompanying recreational opportunities are popular with many Tucsonites, but neither Philip nor I had ever been.  In fact, most Phoenicians to whom we talked about this area said, “Patagonia?  Isn’t that in South America?” or something similar. We were eager to explore!  The Lucky Charm was loaded and off we went!

Lake Patagonia State Park has campgrounds (both drive-in and boat-in), day use picnic areas, a marina, visitor center, small store, and boat rentals, as well as this charming footbridge … much higher than it looks in the photo, to allow sailboats to access the lake from the marina.

Because of its lush riparian habitat, Patagonia Lake is well-known as a “birder’s paradise,” with literally hundreds of rare and hard-to-find species making their homes there.  We took a Twilight Discovery Boat Tour with the Visitors Center and did really learn a LOT about the history of the area, and well, a LOT about birds (the names of which we did learn, but have since forgotten, whoops!).  And the chorus of birds singing all day long throughout the campground is soooo enjoyable!

This was the first RV trip where we had towed a “adventuremobile,” our Jeep Wrangler, which enabled us to fully experience the area.  The nearby towns of Sonoita and Elgin are part of the Arizona Wine Trail, a consortium of local wineries that have tasting rooms just like those in Sonoma or Napa, so we picked three that looked interesting and spent a wonderful Sunday afternoon visiting them!  

Arizona Hops & Vines

Where they are known for wacky parties and events like the Drag Queen Races, and charming farm animals.

Wilhelm Family Vineyards 

A beautiful setting where we fell in LOVE with their “Fiesta Citrus Sangria” —- amazing!

Flying Leap Vineyards

By the third winery, we don’t really remember specifics … but it was fun!

We were SHOCKED at how many other people were doing the same thing (“Touring wine country?  In ARIZONA?”) and also by how DELICIOUS the wines were (again, “Delicious wine? In ARIZONA?”)  But it was really fun and really good!!

In the town of Patagonia, we had heard good things about Velvet Elvis Pizza Company, so named for the painting on the wall which made its way from Xenia, Ohio to little Patagonia, Arizona in 1998.  Highly recommend!

We also enjoyed hiking in the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area amongst gorgeous mesquite trees, which offered a little shade during Sprinkles’ and Bella’s frequent rest stops.  

We only saw one other hiker and one group of 3 horseback riders during 4+ hours, although they had us very curious because both had just seen a group of coatimundi, which are raccoon-like creatures with bushy tails which stand straight up!  We couldn’t decide whether we really WANTED to see them, or really DIDN’T, because Sprinkles probably looked like a good coatimundi snack!!!  The Sonoita Creek was running (surprisingly, because of the current Southwest drought) and the perfect place for a picnic!

As a side note for all you (crazy) athletes out there, the Lake Patagonia area has the perfect training ground for triathletes, including a lake for swimming, flat looping roads for running, and hilly, mostly-traffic-free roads for biking!  In fact, we saw multiple young healthy whippersnappers doing exactly that!  Philip rode his bike 50 miles one day and declared it to be one of the most challenging-yet-exhilaring rides he had ever done!  (I, on the other hand, found 50 pages of my book to be preferable to 50 miles on a bike.  But that’s just me.)

Our little hideaway in the trees!

Back at camp, we loved our site nestled in the mesquite trees …. took the doggies on many full-moonlit night walks … and of course enjoyed spectacular Arizona sunsets.  Lake Patagonia State Park was beautiful and all you Arizonans need to visit it at least once in your lifetime!  We loved it!

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