The Bisbee 1000

Naco AZ

Unique to Bisbee is a system of old and deteriorating stairways that meander through its steep hills, with great views of the town’s quaint houses and colorful gardens.  The stairways originally followed the mule paths worn into the terrain during the heyday of Bisbee’s copper mining past.  During the Depression the Work Projects Administration (WPA) built the concrete stairs over those same pathways.

Beginning in 1990 the town began a yearly event they call The Bisbee 1000 Stair Climb.  Held the third Saturday in October, the event is a five-kilometer run through the city that traverses 1,034 stairs.  Billed as “the most unique physical fitness challenge in the USA!” by the organizers, the Climb includes runners being serenaded by musicians at various locations among the stairs.

We began our exploration of the Bisbee 1000 next to the High Desert Market on Tombstone Canyon Road across the street from the starting line.  The race itself takes runners on a figure eight loop through the town.  We skipped the long running segments and focused on climbing the stairways.

Whew, we made it!

Going up and down the many stairways is a great way to see some of the funky decorations near houses on the hillsides above the main streets of the town.

They keep the window down

Two beautiful flowers on a hillside


A town built in a canyon has to have many retaining walls to reinforce the houses built up on the steep hillsides.  In Bisbee many retaining walls are covered with colorful murals.

The black lines on this mural are shadows from nearby utility lines

We ended our trek right where we started.  After climbing up and down well over a thousand stairs we enjoyed lunch at the High Desert Market and Cafe.

A climb up and down some of the many staircases is a great way to see some of the many interesting (and sometimes strange) sites in Bisbee.  You don’t have to do the thousand stairs to do this, just pick a staircase or two and you’re sure to see something that catches your eye!

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24 Responses to The Bisbee 1000

  1. Jim and Barb says:

    That is quite the unique town isn’t it? I think it is amazing how they developed the town right into the hillside. Not to mention the interesting houses and murals.

  2. Sue says:

    Loved our time in Bisbee, its fun roaming the funky streets and seeing one of a kind artwork at every turn. Pretty decent food too! Oh, and that stunningly blue Arizona sky is something to dream about. Sigh.

  3. Sue says:

    I forgot to say how much we like your new header picture. Reminds us of fun times together.

  4. explorvistas says:

    What a fun place! Thank you for posting this.

  5. What a fun way to see such a unique town! Obviously we have to do that next time we visit Bisbee!!!

    Gosh I love that cloud photo!

  6. There’s a nice easy Jeep drive close by that takes you up high with great views. There’s a big stack of communication towers just north of Bisbee & this road leads to those towers plus beyond to another set of towers with more great views. I have directions for this drive in my post dated January 11th 2012.

  7. heyduke50 says:

    we are strongly considering stopping at Bisbee on our way back east… Thanks for the preview…

  8. Sherry says:

    I’d love to see Bisbee after your great reports and fabulous photographs. You give me the sense that it is a happy place. They have sure made their town interesting. Love your pictures of the murals and I would definitely like my chance at those 1000 steps. Are all the people living there employed in the restaurants and funky shops? Love the car door gate and the giant rose too. I just smiled all through this post.

    • placestheygo says:

      It does seem to be a happy, relaxed place, Sherry. You can find at least few people playing music somewhere along the streets.

      John and I said the same thing about employment. With so many eateries and small shops and no other means of employment, we figure that one must work in the food service business or one of the shops.

  9. Janna says:

    Quirky little town. Friends of Michael’s parents lived near Bisbee for most of their retirement years, they tired of being snowbirds and bought a house on the golf course where you have been playing, living in AZ full time.

    • placestheygo says:

      So they live here in Naco? I don’t recall seeing any houses anywhere around the golf course but they might be near by. It’s not the prettiest very little town but the golf course is great.

  10. Gay says:

    What fun…love the car door gate! And what a unique sky picture and silhouette of John!

  11. Jodee Gravel says:

    I would love all the quirky touches, although not sure my burning quads would get me to all of them! Wonder how many people try to roll up the window just to see if it works…….. John almost blends in to that peace wall 🙂 Great pics, thanks so much for sharing. We can’t wait to check out this little town.

  12. pmbweaver says:

    Congratulations! We did most of the walk but not all. I just love all the neat ways they paint the walls and love that car door gate. We missed that one. The two flowers are very lovely!

    Oh my gosh….how the heck did you get that photo of the sky. Magnificent!

    • placestheygo says:

      Marsha, it was the strangest cloud that stayed right over the sun for the longest time creating a rainbow in the tail (which didn’t come out in the photos). It was kind of creepy in a way. Glad you enjoyed the photo:)

  13. I would love to go back to Bisbee and do the 1000 and see the quirky and interesting artwork. If I can’t convince my honey then your great pics will just keep me droll and happy.

  14. Laurel says:

    So much fun seeing Bisbee through your eyes! We always have a great time exploring the stairways, winding streets, and street art — and get in a good workout at the same time. Can you imagine living in one of those houses where every bag of groceries has to be hauled up 200+ crumbling stairs?

  15. Pam Leonard says:

    I’ve seen pics of the stairs in Bisbee before but didn’t know they were made by the WPA! So much to look at while climbing, bet it made the climbing more fun.

  16. LuAnn says:

    There have been so many murals added to the town since we were last there. I definitely want to go back and do the 1000 steps. Thanks for showing us this funky town through your eyes. 🙂

    • placestheygo says:

      Following the 1000 steps is such a great way to get deep into the town. The murals at the start of each step series is so well done. It was a fun adventure and quite the workout, especially the 100+ staircases:)

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