San Rafael Valley, Santa Cruz County, Arizona

Years ago, Patagonia was established as a supply center for local ranches and mines. Today, Patagonia has become a retirement community, arts and crafts colony and tourist destination. Part of what makes Patagonia popular (beyond the weather) is Patagonia Lake State Park and the adjacent Sonoita Creek Preserve (a cooperative arrangement between Arizona State Parks and the Nature Conservancy). These are internationally known birding destinations with more than 300 species either living here or passing through with the seasons. The scenery of the valley brings in lots of campers and, for hikers, the Arizona Trail passes right through town.

Patagonia offers several excellent restaurants, some very unique art galleries and shops, the Tin Shed Theatre (100 seats and live performances from all over the world) and a very active Creative Arts Association. Patagonia is one of those places where you can find out what's going on in the area just by hanging out at the post office for a while: sooner or later you'll meet everyone in town. Jim Harrison, an American poet, author and food critic, called Patagonia "preposterously beautiful."

East of Patagonia is the San Rafael Valley, a pristine, high desert grassland with huge views and almost no people. Once you get off State Route 82, most roads are gravel and well maintained. This is an area with several old mining ghost towns to explore. The movies Oklahoma and Tin Cup were filmed in the San Rafael Valley.