Sky Island Hikes: Banámichi to Río Sonora

The following is part of a series of recommended Sky Island hikes. Be safe, have fun, and leave no trace.

Earlier last year, Sky Island Alliance’s entire staff met up in the pueblo of Banámichi for a retreat. The town is located in the heart of the Río Sonora Valley of Mexico, 135 miles south of Bisbee, Arizona. The name comes from the Opata word Banamitzi, which means “where the water turns.” The Opata people have lived in this area for thousands of years, and when the Spanish arrived in 1639 to build a mission, they found a thriving community in this river valley with an economy based in irrigated agriculture. We invite you to learn more about the Opata Nation.

While our weekend activities were mainly held in the beautiful Hotel La Posada del Río Sonora across from the main plaza, we went on several excursions to explore.

One afternoon we took a walk from the hotel toward the Río Sonora. Exiting the hotel, we headed west across Plaza Hidalgo past the mission on the right. We took a turn northward on the Periférico, which heads down a little hill and then turns west on the first country road. This is a lovely flat walk past farmlands — about a mile or so to the river and back. So take your time and enjoy the countryside. Also, keep an eye out for the delicate white flowers on tree morning glories (Ipomoea arborescens), which have leaves only during the brief summer rainy season. They shed soon after the rain stops in September and then flower from November to March. This area is nestled in beautiful mountains, such as the Jucaral just northwest of Banámichi, reaching elevations 6,500 feet above sea level.

Bring binoculars — over the course of the weekend, our staff collectively spotted an astonishing number of birds along this path and in the area: crested caracara, merlin, elegant quail, white-tipped dove, northern cardinal, pyrrhuloxia, Gambel’s quail, mourning dove, Inca dove, European starling, house sparrow, house finch, lesser goldfinch, yellow-rumped warbler, Wilson’s warbler, orange-crowned warbler, common yellowthroat, McGillivaray’s warbler, house wren, canyon wren, Bewick’s wren, American kestrel, brown-headed cowbird, ruby-crowned kinglet, broad-billed hummingbird, Anna’s hummingbird, great blue heron, turkey vulture, black vulture, Say’s phoebe, vermillion flycatcher, northern mockingbird, canyon towhee, green-tailed towhee, Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, white-crowned sparrow, lark sparrow, black-throated sparrow, chipping sparrow, great-tailed grackle, phainopepla, hermit thrush, western bluebird, curve-billed thrasher, common raven, ladder-backed woodpecker, northern flicker, Cooper’s hawk, and red-tailed hawk.

Bonus trip: If you’re interested in hot springs and possibly seeing a streak-backed oriole, we recommend checking out the Aconchi hot springs, which is a short drive from the hotel.

Ready to Hike?

From Tucson, take I-19 south to Nogales and into Mexico. Continue south on Mexico 15 to Magdalena de Kino. Exit and head southeast toward Sinoquipe for 66 miles. Turn south on Sonora 89 for 11 miles until you arrive in Banámichi at the plaza in front of Hotel La Posada del Río Sonora (see map.)