Traveling West on The Old Spanish Trail Highway

Crossing Arizona


In Arizona, the Old Spanish Trail takes a large detour from Tucson north to Phoenix and then heads south again to Yuma and the California border.  The OST Association wanted to connect all of the major southwestern cities and saw commercial and political value in adding Phoenix to the route.

Heading south from Lordsburg, New Mexico, the OST (now Arizona 80) touched the border with Mexico at Douglas and

then headed northwest to Bisbee and its large copper mining pit.

From Bisbee, the highway moves farther north to Tombstone, a town that has become something of a tourist destination because of its "Boot Hill" and "O.K. Corral."  Much of the drive is mountainous and ruggedly beautiful.  This is the part of the highway that A. H. Gardner, Vice President of the Old Spanish Trails Association and one of the highway commissioners for Arizona described in Arizona Highways (1926):  "The desert, oddly, is perhaps Southern Arizona's greatest attraction--not the waste of sand so many expect, but plains whose cacti and greasewood, dust, mesquite and bright palo verde, are so utterly different from anything the tourist has seen before." Gardner waxes rhapsodic as he continues: "It lures one somehow, with its sense of pervading peace; the calm of solitude under the vast vault of azure, bejeweled with stars at night, that is the sky.  The sunset and the sunrise are more gorgeous in their colorings than any master's canvas...." Arizona 80 deadends into IH-10 and, into Tucson, the OST is pretty much underneath the interstate after leaving Benson, Arizona.

Getting through Tucson:  There is a road in Tucson called "Old Spanish Trail" but just as the "Old Spanish Trail" road in Houston is not a part of OST, so OST in Tucson is not a part of that transcontinental highway.  To get through Tucson on what is, probably, the OST requires a turn to the northwest on Granada Street and then turning north onto Oracle (Miracle Mile and Main).  The traveler is actually headed north to Phoenix on Arizona State Highway 77.  This is also known as the Tucson/Florence highway.  At Oracle Junction,. the traveler should veer left onto Arzona State Highway 79 (The Pimal Pioneer Highway) and follow that highway through Florence and on to Florence Junction.  At Florence Junction OST and U.S. 60 merge to move west into Tempe and Phoenix.  

Construction in Phoenix has made it impossible to follow the roadbed of the OST, but continue on U.S. 60/IH-10 to IH-17 and then turn north on 16th Street to Buckeye Boulevard and turn west there.  Take Buckeye past the airport (It becomes Main Street and then MC Highway 85 at around Liberty and then continues west as Monroe Ave and then Buckeye Canal.  Turn south on S. Wilson Street unto you reach Old U.S. 80 and then turn south and west on 80.  If you accidentally stay on Arizona 85 when it becomes Ogilvy, turn off to the west as soon as you can until you reach Old U.S. 80.

Drive south on U.S. 80 until the intersection with IH-8 and then join the Interstate route until just east of Yuma, Arizona. Approaching Yuma, the OST traveler will exit onto U.S. 80 again for a brief trip through the city on the far western edge of Arizona. Exit the interstate on 32nd Street and drive into the city.  Turn north on 4th Street to Winterhaven and then rejoin Interstate 8 for the very short drive into California.

The map above is taken from the April 1928 Arizona Highways and shows what a large proportion of Arizona's major highways were paved in that year.