Hike a mile down Hot Springs Creek, to its confluence with Bass Canyon, and you’ll skirt deep pools, picnic under shady cottonwoods, and undoubtedly see at least a few of the 180 bird species that inhabit the area. Then backtrack to the 6.5-mile Vista Trail to hike a well-marked path that climbs saguaro-dotted hills to sweeping views of the Galiuro Mountains. Then pinch yourself and ask: Where are all the other people?
Three things keep this Nature Conservancy paradise from being overrun: 1) Except for birders, few know about it; 2) a long dirt-road approach keeps casual visitors away; 3) it’s day-use only—unless you’re staying at one of the rustic-comfortable casitas. Right outside your door: hot springs (available for overnight guests only), and a 22-mile network of trails that winds through the desert.
The kitchen-equipped casitas are strictly DIY (bring your groceries). But you’ll feel pampered after a few days of hike-soak-hike-soak-repeat. (From $125/night; nature.org)
From Willcox, take Airport Rd. north 15 miles. Bear right at the fork with mailboxes and continue 14 miles to the headquarters.