Gates Pass is a popular destination for motorcycle riders local to Tucson, AZ. It’s relatively short distance from the city, moderate speeds, and handful of tight curves, make it a perfect compliment to the gorgeous views of Arizona’s southern valleys.
It was in 1883 that Thomas Gates, a local pioneer, saloon keeper and rancher was looking for a shorter route to his mine in the Avra Valley. While exploring these mountains, he found this canyon, marked by bubbling streams, hot springs, and lush growth. He paid $1,000.00 for a team of men to clear a path and grade a road that today bears his name. A few years later, Gates went on to become superintendent of Yuma Territorial Prison.
During the depression era, Gates Pass was improved by workers through the Works Projects Administration. Throughout the decades, Gates Pass Road would become one of the dangerous roads in Arizona due to a slope that occurs midway through the route. Despite safety improvements, cars continue to veer off road and careen down the side.
I rode through Gates Pass during the Spring, when plants reach their full green color and flowers splatter their yellow, purple, red, and orange hues across the mountains. Temperatures are ideal for a motorcycle ride.
Gate Pass Overlook offers restrooms and hiking trails. There are even a few stone-cabins with picnic tables inside if you’re willing to take a short hike or climb.
Gates Pass is also the destination for some of the most gorgeous sunsets in the United States. I didn’t get the opportunity to capture any of them on camera. But it’s said by locals that Gates Pass is the best place to your glimpse of an Arizona sunset.
If you ride out to Gates Pass, bring a six-pack of beer and a lunch, make the short hike into one of the stone cabins, and enjoy yourselves for an hour or two.