5 Things We Love About Yuma, AZ

Go ahead, take the 3:10. You'll find unexpected beauty and wonder in this tough town.

guard tower at Yuma Territorial Prison in Yuma, Arizona, picture
The Yuma Territorial Prison's restored guard tower offers big views.
Victor Wallner/Alamy

Hollywood plays up its rough reputation, but there's more to Yuma than cops and robbers. The city boasts lots of sunshine and wondrous backyard oddities. To the north, you'll find the Blythe Intaglios, figures etched into the desert; to the west lies Buttercup Valley, aka Tatooine of Star Wars fame.

1. At Castle Dome, a ghost town and museum an hour northeast of Yuma, the weathered wood and tin buildings testify to the hardscrabble existence of the area's early miners. Don't miss the Hull Mine, where a trip 600 feet underground puts you in front of a wall of crystals, which glow blue, green, and red beneath ultraviolet light.

2. From the air, the 45-mile-long Algodones Dunes—which stretch from Yuma into Southern California—resemble a colossal lizard fossil crumpled into the earth's surface. Head to the peaceful Osborne Overlook and you can wiggle your toes in the sand, feeling the grains shift and slide, just as they have for thousands of years.

3. Visions of the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison made many a frontier outlaw quake, until the complex closed in 1909. Today, the adobe buildings on the Colorado River are open as a museum where you can hear creepy tales of inmates past and peek into the dark cells that once held more than 3,000 prisoners.

4. In the midst of Yuma's picturesque downtown, George and Neely Tomkins display their platters, saucers, and other works at Tomkins Pottery. In the White on White series, they set off classic teapot and bowl shapes with glazes in pale shades inspired by the desert's moods and hues

5. Nearby, Prison Hill Brewing Company stuffs its Shank Burger with mozzarella and bacon, then tops it with avocado. Pair your grub with one of the brewery's seasonal beers, crafted with whichever local plant is currently captivating Chris Wheeler, the neurobiologist turned microbrewer behind the suds.


This article was first published in Winter 2019.