Fun and Free in Tucson: Ciénega Train Bridge

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Originally part of U.S. Route 80, a highway that once spanned Arizona’s length before the construction of Interstate 10, Ciénega Bridge is an open-spandrel train crossing erected in 1921.

The oldest surviving bridge of its kind in Arizona, today it’s tucked behind I-10 on Marsh Station Road just east of Tucson. This area features views of the nearby Rincón Mountains and, of course, trains!

cienega train bridge crossed tracks drone photo

A 10-car parking lot provides a viewing area of the bridge, the lower train tracks, and Ciénega Creek. Viewing the bridge and tracks are encouraged, but they are the property of Union Pacific Railroad, and access to them is restricted. Signs in the area clearly mark where trespassing is not permitted for safety reasons.

As far as I’ve been able to gauge, trains go across either track roughly every 15 to 30 minutes. And sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to see trains on the upper and lower tracks simultaneously.

Marsh Station Road, upper and lower tracks, Ciénega Creek, and the  Gabe Zimmerman Davidson Canyon Trailhead parking lot 

Nearby, Ciénega Creek Natural Preserve offers hiking, birding, and wildlife viewing in around 4,000 acres. Entrance to the preserve requires a free hiking permit from Pima County, as it’s a protected riparian area.

The Arizona Trail, a scenic path that’s part of an 800-mile trail that stretches across Arizona and neighboring states, runs through the area and can be accessed via the parking lot. No permit is needed to use the Arizona Trail.

I’m told Marsh Station Road and the surrounding area are great for road cycling, though I’m more of a mountain biker myself and can’t vouch for that.

Whether you spend a day hiking, visit the natural preserve, or just hang out and peep some trains and mountains, Ciénega Bridge is a free and fun stop we highly recommend.

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I’m a Tucson, Arizona-based artist and illustrator. I live in a motorhome with my significant other and in my spare time I enjoy photography, blogging, hiking, drawing, and playing video games.

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